We all undoubtedly have memories of doing something stupid and our parents saying something like “if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you do that too?” The point, just because other people are doing something doesn’t mean we should do it too. This is one of the major themes in my latest short story.
Most of us know intellectually that following the crowd and believing what others believe just because it’s popular is not healthy. However, most people are still guilty of this. I know I have been. It is hard being the odd person out. Humans desire to have belonging among other people because we are social creatures so it becomes easier than we like to compromise our beliefs, or at best downplay them. How many kids swear they will never smoke, but do that exact same thing when they are a little older because their friends are doing it?
It is easy to spew platitudes about thinking for ourselves and doing our own thing, but in practice it is far more difficult. This is the inspiration for my latest book The Cursed Forest. There are many odd beliefs circulating lately that I would wager most people who adhere to them don’t really know why they believe it. Look no further than our current political climate. How many people vote simply because there is a “D” or an “R” after a candidate’s name? His desire to fit in, I believe, is the driving factor behind the tribalism in our culture.
How many dangerous ideas spread quickly due to fear of what others might think? Children’s television shows constantly teach “being your own person “but some adults don’t adhere to this logic though. Take a look no further than the atrocities of the 20th century. Sadly, history is replete with examples of group think and allowing or attributing to terrible things. The best way to curb this is to know why we believe what we believe and to resist compromising our believers because an ideology is popular.
It’s no secret there are deep divisions in American culture, especially politically. Maybe it’s just my perception but it appears that everything is suddenly seen through the lens of politics. While that isn’t to be completely unexpected, after all people read things through a worldview. However, right now there appears to be less nuance and more, “believe like me or you’re evil.” This is seeping into fiction. Television, movies, and books are labeled with assumptions based on who ever is consuming the media and many times they are wrong.
I’m going to say up front that I do not adhere to the philosophies of either Republicans or Democrats. I find them both deeply flawed for different reasons. I feel this needs to be stated just in case someone attempts to accuse me of taking sides, since reading into things is a common practice on the internet. Now that that’s out of the way, both parties have built of tribalism around them, while painting the other side as evil. Yes, evil. Not misinformed, not simply disagreeing on important issues, no evil. The chasm between Liberalism and Conservatism has grown so much that neither side can even agree on the basics. Around politicians that craft these ideas there is the rest of the country who mostly either adheres to one side or the other.
This tribalism doesn’t end at the polls or while determining which candidate to vote for. It often overflows into media. Readers start to have a visceral reaction to books because there are perceived ideas from “the other side” while authors cave to pressure to pander to their audience and fall into the trap of becoming too political with their works. Tensions have been rising, especially after the 2016 election, and continue to escalate, almost as if people are looking to fight with those who believe differently.
In my next post I will continue this topic. For now, I think all of us need to consider the implications of tribalism and vilifying those who believe differently.