Saturday, October 15, 2011

Denigrating the Extended Family and Tribalism

Some who try to capture the mean and be the voice of "moderation" or of "reason" warn about the dangers of tribalism or of putting too much emphasis on the importance of the extended family. I think they are being contrarian out of pride. (Again, a criticism that could be leveled against myself?)

Do they really expect the central government to produce cohesiveness among a fragmented populace, or to force people to stay together when they lack a common identity and solidarity? With what do they have to compare tribalism? The atomistic individualism of contemporary American society, in which there is little solidarity and most relations are based primarily on contractual justice? Even the word "society" needs to be used loosely when referring to many population centers in the United States. How is this state of affairs supposed to be an improvement over tribalism?

Some may believe that this represents the impartiality lauded by liberalism. But the lack of significant connections or a network grounded first of all on blood ties is not the same as having the virtue of being just towards everyone. One can be "tribal" and nonetheless do what justice (and the order of charity) require towards others, unless one holds to a liberal conception of justice, which equates preference (based upon natural inclination and reason) with (immoral) bias.

Having preferences for one's own group, based upon family and one's connections to a community, is right and proper. How can North American critics have any idea of what this actually entails when they do not truly live in community in the first place. Some think their associations, taken together in their mind as a form of an intentional community, is the proper substitute for a local community. They are wrong, especially when they expand the notion of community to encompass the relationships with near-strangers on the Internet.

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