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Jamie Susskind @jamiesusskind
, 17 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
When I was a teenager, I met a politician who had been a very senior member of the Blair government. I was starstruck: though not yet "political" in any real sense, I was increasingly interested in politics and starting to find my way
He was urbane and self-deprecating, with an attractive sense of irony. And he wasn't an ideological leftwinger. Which is I remember being surprised when (I can't remember the context) he turned to me with a serious face and said: "I am completely tribal. Completely. Labour."
Tribal. It wasn't a word that I would have associated with someone like him, but I remember being impressed. It gave me the sense that politics was about loyalty to something bigger - a tribe - and that to align one's life with the hopes and ambitions of that tribe was meaningful
I carried that conversation with me for a long time for the next fifteen or so years. During that time I joined Labour, held various positions within my university Labour club (including chairing it), and went to work for Ed Miliband when I graduated. I had joined a tribe.
This year I resigned my membership of the Labour party. I honestly believed then (and do so now) that several senior figures within the party have a problem with Jews - that in one way or another, they are racist toward them - and that their racism has infected the Labour tribe
So I left the tribe. Which, of course, is not what you're meant to do, according to the logic of tribalism. You're meant to "stay and fight", to "improve things from within". I left because I felt those words would be empty in my case - I didn't believe I could do any more.
But I've also come to believe that tribalism - the doctrine of that Labour politician - has become a cancer at the heart of our politics and society. A lot of our current problems can be traced back to it.
First, it diminishes us intellectually: Issues are split into red and blue, massively simplifying them, and then opposing sides shut their eyes to the merits of the other side's position, simplifying the issues even further. We are left with no kind of debate worth having.
And our language is debased: it is not a substitute for an argument to call a spending cut "a Tory cut". The word "Tory" is not a substitute for the word "wrong", still less for a reasoned explanation for why it is wrong.
Second, it diminishes us morally. Tribes shut their eyes to the horrors that take within. In Labour, it's anti-semitism, sexism, bullying. And the tribal response is either to ignore the problem, deny it, trivialise it, or pay lip-service to it (and no more).
The implicit logic is that of tribalism: the Greater Good of the Tribe comes first.

Tribalism also leads us into moral hypocrisy. Like Tories who piously condemn Labour anti-Semitism while turning a blind eye to the racism festering in their own ranks.
Thirdly, tribalism harms us socially. Most people aren't tribal, at least not politically. But the country is run by those who are - who seek (in Obama's words) to slice and dice us into red and blue. But the real world is so much more complicated.
So what about loyalty? I think there is a higher kind of loyalty than loyalty to tribe - higher, perhaps, even than loyalty to country. As JFK once said, it's loyalty to your conscience. That's what politics is all about.
But what's staggered me is how few politicians have placed loyalty to their conscience above loyalty to their tribe in the last year or so. Right down to last week. leftwingers saying that their leader literally didn't say something that we all (and crucially, THEY) knew he said
And when tribalism is prized above our consciences, and then even above the truth, that's when democracy really comes under threat. And there's nothing ironic or urbane about that. It's frightening and dark - and dangerous.
So in 2018 I realised that politics really *is* about something bigger than us - but it's bigger than tribes too. Initially because my own political tribe made me feel unwelcome on the grounds of my race and religion - but latterly because I saw the tribal problem everywhere.
Freed from the moral and intellectual (and social) constraints of my tribe, I'm, going to spend 2019 revisiting my own political conscience, and seeing what truths, if any, I can find in there.
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