The Link Between Provincial Attitudes and Tribalism

Currently, there is a lot of support for “buying locally” and that “local” is somehow synonymous with “moral.”  There are city-wide campaigns in some areas to “shop local” or cries to, “save our small town.”

Do you wonder why your teenage boys fight?  In gangs, over girls?  You’ve taught them that the entire world ends at the city or county line.  There is no word outside of the little box called, “local.”  Without seeing the world as a large place, full of possibilities, is it hard to imagine our young folks fighting over small pieces of ghetto territory?

I will not post the link, for fear of political retaliation, but one small college town newspaper recently featured an editorial concerning candidates for the new university president.  The search committee narrowed down the applicant pool to a few candidates, but did not include one of the current school administrators.  This editorial stated that one of the biggest qualifications was this administrator’s birth city and current location- both of which were the same town as the college.  His hometown should be the qualification for his  presidency, that over the skills and experince of the other candiidates!

In reality, simply purchasing something because it was generated locally, or hiring someone because he or she lives in the area is a disgusting form of tribalism.  These types of advertising campaigns and government programs are used to substitute an imaginary moral with a value. They rely on the consumer to overlook the product itself and instead look at where the product was made.  A well-made, value-added product would not need to rely on such claims. These claims can only made by an inferior producer, with only a few notable exceptions- locally grown produce, for example, implies that it is fresher than produce brought in from another place.

To choose (or not choose) an employee or a product based on non-essentials, such as race, gender, or family history is a poor way to do business.  These things are not important to the quality of the product, or the value added.  Also, these non-essentials are not under the control of the person seling the product.  Buying from members of your “tribe” simply because they are members of your tribe is tribalism. Refusing to buy because the seller is not a member of your tribe is also tribalism.

To choose (or not choose) an employee or a product based on philosophical grounds is not a choice that stems from the quality of the product or the value added.  However, because the money you spent on the product or employee is inconsistent with the value system or may be used to actively destroy a set of values you uphold, it could be in your interest to make this choice.  Therefore, a boycott can be a moral reason for not choosing a product or employee.  Because this choice to buy or not buy is based on the choices of the seller is NOT tribalism.

So then, what about the case of “buying local” or “hiring local?”  A local product or individual is not a matter of choice- a person is born where he or she is born, and he or she has no say in the matter.  The circumstances to which a person spends their childhood is often mandated by parents, including the location of their home. Imagine the absurdity of hiring only folks that grew up in a single parent household!  Yet, somehow, when we “hire locally” we are stating that the circumstances one is born into are far more important than the value of the product!  This is clearly tribalism in its ugliest, most concealed from.

Next time you see a “shop local” sign, think back to the true meaning of these signs. “Buy from our tribe, only.”  You can replace the text in your mind with, “Only shop at white-owned stores” or “Don’t buy from the Jews” if you prefer, as these signs all mean the same thing.

Thank you for reading my post.

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