Sunday, December 03, 2006


Slow Crash vs. Fast Crash
Roe vs. Wade
Coke vs. Pepsi
Britney Spears vs. Jessica Simpson
Godzilla vs. Mothra
Tide vs. The Other Leading Detergent
Oreo vs. Hydrox
Playstation3 vs. Xbox360
Apple vs. Microsoft
Pre-tribulation vs. Post-tribulation
Hulk Hogan vs. The Iron Sheik

Sure, we could all go on for hours with that and it would be fun...

I'm not sure what prompted this, but I figured I would just purge and be done with it. It may have started last night when I caught the end of the UCLA vs. USC game. UCLA was ecstatic in their victory. It was a stunning upset that changed the complexion of the college football season (yawn). What caught my eye was the sea of powder blue waving banners, shirts and flags. You knew who was victorious. One the other side, the red and gold were idle and sullen. You knew who lost. All the UCLA students were proud of their team. All the USC students were dazed and wondering what to do.

This morning I was reading through the news and items of interest when I noted a story on sales of the Nintendo Wii. The story simply stated that the Wii was selling many more units per day than the Xbox360 or the Playstation3. I have no idea what those statistics mean or how they were arrived at, but it was tech news and I do tech for a living. Below the story the comments and rants took off. Sides were chosen and the onslaught began. The more I read, the more I just wanted to scream.

I am someone who believes (whatever that means) in Peak Oil. I believe that we are facing an impending crisis on this planet that could be (note the qualifier "could") catastrophic. But, I also believe that I don't have all the data. As I've stated in my various ramblings here and on your pages, we don't know all the facts. And even if we did have all the facts, there are so many that we can't sift through them intelligently anymore. So, that gives me some wiggle room.

What I've stated in my previous paragraph is that I'm not a fanboy. For a while my wife had a Mac and I had a PC (actually, I have two, one runs XP the other Linux). I had a Sony PSP and a Nintendo DS. I watch NASCAR and English Football. I have a power mower and a push mower (two push mowers actually, one for me and one for my wife). I have a garden and I go to the grocery store.

What has bubbled up within me is this seeming fixation with being on a team or a side. People square off on the war (which is good) and become rabid and sanctimonious (which is bad). In this little blog universe some believe in Peak Oil and some don't. A few see a bleak future while others see one with more optimism. Some want to go primitive while others want even more tech. I still believe that America is a place where we can all believe and live as we choose as long as we respect one another and do our best to avoid harm. But I keep feeling like there is this mindset that says there is only one way to believe on each issue. There is only one valid side of the story. "We rule!" "We're #1!" "U-S-A! U-S-A!" "If it ain't country, it ain't music!" This thinking tells me that if I support the Palestinians (which I do) I hate the Israelis (which I don't). I'm told that I am either with the government (which I am not) or I'm with the terrorists (which I am not). I am told that two political parties are enough (not for me). I am told that elections should be either/or (which I don't believe). What the hell is wrong with us?

This all smacks of some sort of tribalism or cult. Maybe that is unfair, but I don't know a better way to phrase it. The feeling is that if you own the Playstation3, you can't enjoy the Xbox360. If you believe in a simpler life you are a Luddite. If you believe in Peak Oil you are a gloom and doomer. If you believe in Global Warming you are a rabid environmentalist. You have to belong to some tribe or team or cult or group or side or ideology or philosophy or class or neighborhood or nation or sect and then ride with it no matter where it takes you. You must stand up for it, protect it, defend it, fight for it and even die for it. You must not allow anyone to besmirch or sully the reputation of your little circle and take steps to silence or punish those who do. You've got to wear a t-shirt or have a bumper sticker or button that ensures everyone knows your cause. Opposing arguments are obviously a waste and shouldn't be allowed to be made. When making your points, be certain to inject as many emotional arguments and ad hominem attacks as you can.

I have no idea what tribal cultures of the past were like. I don't know if they welcomed outsiders or rejected anything that was new. I don't know if it was common to simply hate and fear everyone else outside of your group or to embrace that which was new. Likely it was some of both. I do know that the mess we are in today is larger than one ideology or agenda. It will take everyone cooperating and seeing the issues as larger than themselves. There is no more time or room for self-interests and living out our need to be right or on the right side.

My problem in this is that I don't have a lot of faith in humanity. When I sit down with one person and talk about the issues of the world, I generally have no problems with them. Sure, we may not agree on everything, but I try to disagree with respect. When the group dynamic kicks in, a club becomes a gang, a community becomes a cult and an organization becomes an army.

I can see a bright future where everyone rallies together for the common good, puts aside their selfishness and contributes to the well-being of our world. Alas, I also see a world where xenophobia, selfishness, arrogance and close-mindedness lead to the end of a planet.

Evidently my mind is so open that my brains fall out and gather dust bunnies.


Blogger Jack Trace said...

One thing about that game you watched: it is a ritual: a bloodless and harmless ritual. Nietzsche claimed that the Greeks invented the tragedy as an emotional purge for the horrors of life that build up. Going to the theater to see tragedies was one of the unifing public events in the greek world. Women, Men, free and slave were welcome. Nietzsche believed that this was Greek Society's way of innoculating and stregthening people against the everyday difficulty and tragedies of life.

Maybe that is what we see in all these VS. I mean how many friendships are really made or broken on the Wii vs PS3 debate. Or even on the Israel vs. Palestine debate. True, some are, and some issues are more divisive than others. But on the whole, disagreement is a healthy way to "cleanse" relationships.


December 04, 2006 12:53 AM  
Blogger Frank Black said...

I am all for old-fashioned disagreements. Back in the day, you'd yell, scream, push, bloody a nose or two and then go have a drink. And I have no issue with the ritual of sport (I hate the commercialism of sport, but I love sport).

My issue is the massive emotional and psychological investment that goes into this partisanism. It becomes more than a friendly ribbing over shoe manufacturer or gaming consoles. My very value as a person is riding on this field goal! We lose the beauty and even the mystery of the game when we can't see that both sides are heroes (in the mythological sense).

Sad stuff.

December 04, 2006 8:43 AM  
Blogger Jack Trace said...

Hmm, well I guess we will have to disagree.

I think it is great to feel strongly and suffer strongly. I think it is cathartic. Moreover, still with all that investment, no one is getting hurt!

December 04, 2006 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Tess said...

Sometimes it seems that the defining characteristic of 'my tribe' is that we are the only ones able to see from the perspective of all the other tribes.

December 31, 2006 8:30 PM  

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