Jewish Nationalist David Brooks Is Appalled By Tribalism

According to Wikipedia:

Brooks met his first wife, the former Jane Hughes, while both were students at the University of Chicago. She converted to Judaism[90] and changed her given name to Sarah.[91] In November 2013, David and Sarah Brooks divorced.[92][93] In 2017, Brooks married his former research assistant, writer Anne Snyder.[94]

According to The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, in a September 2014 interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Brooks said that his oldest son serves in the Israel Defense Forces.

So Jewish tribalism is great, but gentile tribalisms are bad? On the other hand, David’s latest bride is not Jewish, so he’s obviously not as committed to the Jewish tribe as he once was, and his heart seems to be leaning towards conversion to Christianity.

David Brooks writes in the NYT:

“A funny thing happens,” Haidt said, “when you take young human beings, whose minds evolved for tribal warfare and us/them thinking, and you fill those minds full of binary dimensions. You tell them that one side in each binary is good and the other is bad. You turn on their ancient tribal circuits, preparing them for battle. Many students find it thrilling; it floods them with a sense of meaning and purpose.”

The problem is that tribal common-enemy thinking tears a diverse nation apart.

This pattern is not just on campus. Look at the negative polarization that marks our politics. Parties, too, are no longer bound together by creeds but by enemies.

Furthermore, it won’t be easy to go back to the common-humanity form of politics. King was operating when there was high social trust. He could draw on a biblical metaphysic debated over 3,000 years. He could draw on an American civil religion that had been refined over 300 years.

Over the past two generations, however, excessive individualism and bad schooling have corroded both of those sources of cohesion.

In 1995, the French intellectual Pascal Bruckner published “The Temptation of Innocence,” in which he argued that excessive individualism paradoxically leads to in-group/out-group tribalism. Modern individualism releases each person from social obligation, but “being guided only by the lantern of his own understanding, the individual loses all assurance of a place, an order, a definition. He may have gained freedom, but he has lost security.”

In societies like ours, individuals are responsible for their own identity, happiness and success. “Everyone must sell himself as a person in order to be accepted,” Bruckner wrote. We all are constantly comparing ourselves to others and, of course, coming up short. The biggest anxiety is moral. We each have to write our own gospel that defines our own virtue.

The easiest way to do that is to tell a tribal oppressor/oppressed story and build your own innocence on your status as victim. Just about everybody can find a personal victim story. Once you’ve identified your herd’s oppressor — the neoliberal order, the media elite, white males, whatever — your goodness is secure. You have virtue without obligation. Nothing is your fault…

The crooked timber school of humanity says the line between good and evil runs through each person and we fight injustice on the basis of our common humanity. The oppressor/oppressed morality says the line runs between tribes. That makes it easy to feel good about yourself. But it makes you very hard to live with.

As Carl Schmitt noted, the friend/enemy distinction is the basis of politics.

All victimologies contain a nationalism and all nationalisms contain the capacity for genocide.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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