When Tribal Moral Communities Collide
When I hit the publish button for my last post Cognitive Conservatism, Moral Relativism, Bias, and Human Flourishing I felt a tinge of angst. It took a few days for my rational brain to figure out (or perhaps confabulate) a reason; but, I think I may have. Perhaps it should have been immediately obvious, but my outrage likely clouded my judgment. Anyways, that angst wasn’t due to the potential controversy of the article’s content – I had previously posted more provocative pieces. What I have come to conclude is that the nature of the controversy could be construed as being more personal.
It is not hard to imagine that there is a very real possibility that people I love may have been hurt by what I wrote. This left me feeling like a hypocrite because what I have continually aspired to communicate is that “true morality” should promote human flourishing for everyone. Although the overarching message was consistent with my goal, the tone and tenor was not.
I was inspired by a blog post written by a family member that touched the nerves of my liberal sensitivities. Further, and more importantly, I believe that what he wrote was likely hurtful to others in my family. A couple of my tribal communities (moral and kin) were assaulted, and I responded assertively.
The whole purpose of my blog “How Do You Think?“ has been driven toward understanding such diverse and mutually incompatible beliefs that do in fact transcend my family and the world in general. In this particular situation, however, I placed several family members in the crux of just such a moral juxtaposition.
I am certain that much of what I have written over the last year may be construed as offensive to some from a variety of different tribal moral communities. But one thing I am equally certain of, is that attacking one’s core moral holdings is not an effective means of facilitating enlightenment.
I responded to my relative’s pontifications with moral outrage and indignation. I was offended and mad. That is what happens when core beliefs are challenged. We circle the wagons and lash back. But this does nothing to further the discussion. I should have known better. And, that error of judgment may have lasting familial consequences. This saddens me, and I am sorry.
So then, how are we to cope with such diametrically opposed perspectives?
If you have consistently read my posts you are likely to have come away with an understanding of the workings of the human brain, and as such, realize that it is an incredible but highly flawed organ. What is more important to recognize, is that these flaws leave us prone to a variety errors that are both universal and systematic. The consequences of these errors include Confirmation Bias, Spinoza’s Conjecture, Attribution Error, Pareidolia, Superstition, Essentialism, Cognitive Conservatism, and Illusions of all sorts (e.g., Attention, Cause, Confidence, Memory, Efficacy, Willpower, and Narrative). The down stream consequences of these errors, paired with our tribal nature, and our innate moral inclinations lead us to form tribal moral communities. These communities unite around ideologies and sacred items, beliefs, or shared history’s. Our genetically conferred Moral Instincts which are a part of our Human Nature lay the ground work for us to seek out others who share our beliefs and separate ourselves from others who do not. This is how the divide occurs. And our brain is instrumental in this division and the subsequent acrimony between groups.
This is perhaps the most important concept that I want to share. Systematic brain errors divide us. Understanding this – I mean truly understanding all of these systematic errors, is essential to uniting us. Education is the key, and this is what I hope to provide. Those very brain errors are themselves responsible for closing minds to the reality of these facts. Regardless, the hopes that I have for universal enlightenment persist and I hope to endeavor ever onward opening minds without providing cause to close them. I fear that I have taken a misstep – spreading the divide rather than closing it.
Please know that Human Flourishing for all is my number one goal. Never do I intend to come off as judgmental, hurtful, or otherwise arrogant or elitist. When I do – please push back and offer constructive criticism. We are all in this together – and time, love, life, peace, and compassion are precious. This is the starting point – something that I am certain we share. Don’t you think?