Supplemental: The tribal hatred just keeps on coming!


In today's Times, the Yazidis are us: In today’s paper, the New York Times describes the tribal hatred aimed at the Yazidis.

Azam Ahmed did the reporting. We thought of conduct which was described in Nazi-occupied Poland, then in the Balkans and in Rwanda. Ever so briefly, we also thought about us:
AHMED (8/27/14): The afternoon before his family fled the onslaught of Sunni militants, Dakhil Habash was visited by three of his Arab neighbors. Over tea, his trusted friend Matlul Mare told him not to worry about the advancing fighters and that no harm would come to him or his Yazidi people.

The men had helped one another over the years: Mr. Mare brought supplies to Mr. Habash’s community in the years after the American invasion, when travel outside their northern enclave was too dangerous for Yazidis. Mr. Mare bought tomatoes and watermelon from Mr. Habash’s farm and sometimes borrowed money.

But his friend’s assurances did not sit right with Mr. Habash. That night, he gathered his family and fled. Soon afterward, he said, he found out that Mr. Mare had joined the militants and was helping them hunt down Yazidi families.

“Our Arab neighbors turned on all of us,” said Mr. Habash, who recounted his story from a makeshift refugee camp on the banks of a fetid stream
near the city of Zakho, in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We feel betrayed. They were our friends.”
Ahmed spoke to one of the people accused of turning against the Yazidis. Among us humans, loathing of The Other is deeply bred in the bone. People succumb to these tribal impulses all around the world, not just in eastern Ukraine:
AHMED: “I called my closest friend after we fled, an Arab man who owned a shop in our village,” said a Yazidi man who identified himself only as Haso, declining to give his first name out of fear of reprisal. “When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was looking for Yazidis to kill.”

The friend denied Haso’s account. But he grew angry when a journalist referred to the militant group as ISIS, because the militants now prefer to be called the Islamic State.

Another Yazidi refugee, Qasim Omar, said that just before ISIS reached his village, Arab neighbors began flying the group’s black flag from their homes.

“Before ISIS came, the Arab villagers had already helped them,” said Mr. Omar, 63. “I couldn’t believe it. They were our brothers.”
Do not refer to them as ISIS! That's not what they say any more!

Ahmed also describes the way some Arabs have “risked their lives to save persecuted friends.” That happens everywhere too, among the “righteous Gentiles.”

Tribal loathing seems to be deeply bred in the bone. Presumably, mistrust of The Other was once a survival skill.

It surfaces in different ways within different cultures. Do you ever get the feeling that you see this loathing in ours?

We don’t mean, Do you see it when you watch Fox? We are asking a different question:

Do you ever think you've spotted this impulse among those within your own tribe?


  1. I have reluctantly come to the sad conclusion that if you believe the survival of humankind is more important than anything else, the quicker we have a world government--dictatorial or not--the better. Maybe we humans, on the verge of self-extinction, just aren't ready for freedom (freedom to wage war, freedom to exploit, freedom to enslave, freedom to destroy the environment, etc.). After our one billionth DWI, maybe we need to have our "Freedom License" revoked...until we become one people who can demonstrate we've learned how to behave.

  2. How do we know that tribal animosities aren't being used as a justification when there are other motives at the heart of aggressive behavior? For a simplistic example, when a school bully attacks someone, is it that the kid attacked has red hair or a funny name that motivates the bully or is it something else?

    When large central governments have united disparate people and suppressed tribal rivalries by force, these have emerged stronger than ever with the collapse of that central power. I am interested in the active attempts the EU has been making through education to break down national loyalties and build on commonalities across peoples. At the Antwerp zoo, there were exhibits on evolution and the triviality of racial differences and the shared human ancestry across broad spans of time, with comparisons to animal species. It was explicitly teaching a different way of looking at humanity. It is very different from how children and adults are educated in the USA and I am curious to see whether it will help Europe with its much more open racial/ethnic divisions. How quickly might out own racial problems disappear if we were to take a similar approach? But it would require pissing off religious fundamentalists because it means teaching evolution more actively -- with its implications.

  3. I see it most when watching Al Sharpton tell black people they are at risk of being shot in the street by cops for no reason.

    The reality is that a black person is many times more likely to shoot a white person in broad daylight for no reason, as happened in Miami yesterday when a black driver got out of his car and murdered homeless man in a wheelchair in cold blood and broad daylight for no reason.

    According to police, 58-year-old Israel Zequra was sitting in his wheelchair when he was shot. Those who live nearby said he was a very kind person who would ask for money along the 95th Street exit ramp on I-95. "I've lived here already for about four months so I've always seen him here. My mom has been living in the area for about five years. I would give him money. Sometimes he'd play guitar, and I'd give him a dollar," said resident Indiana Para. "I remember one time I was coming from, I don't remember, a party or something, and I was with a friend of mine, and all he asked us was for a bottle of water."

    Nancy, who sold water next to the victim for years said he suffered from severe arthritis. "I come out here today, not for myself, but to sell water, so I can help pay for the funeral," she said. "He was very friendly. He spoke to everyone. He didn't have a bad bone in his body."

    Authorities said a black male with a red shirt, who police identified as Rodney Louis, was seen leaving the scene in a gold Chevy Impala.

    1. I see it every time a white person says, "Al Sharpton."

    2. There are thugs of all ethnicities and races. It describes behavior.

    3. Racist libs believe thugs applies only to blacks simply because there is a much higher proportion of black thugs.

    4. 8:17, contemplate 10:24's comment and tell me again that "thug" carries no racial connotation.

      Hint: It's the new "n" word.

    5. We don't need a new n-word. Take 10:24 at face value.

    6. I will take him at whatever "value" I choose, thank you. And I don't see much value in immediately whipping out "thug" to justify the homicide of every dead unarmed black kid.

      No, Trayvon Martin didn't have it coming to him. Jordan Davis didn't have it coming to him. And Michael Brown didn't have it coming to him.

      Take that at face value.

    7. Thugs who shove around store clerks as they steal from them and then attack cops do in fact have it coming to them, that is if a society hopes to remain a civilized one.

    8. I think Michael Brown was trying to act out the gangsta role he had fantasized about and ran up against reality.

      If we want a civil society, we need to stop making money off kids by selling them video games and music that idealizes destructive behavior and instead encourage positive role models and images. I have always opposed censorship but I am changing my mind because the behavior depicted in action/adventure movies, in video games and in music is too harmful for the kids without counteracting positive influences in their personal lives, and too destructive to our society as a whole. We need to help these kids -- not shoot them when they become too confused to govern their own behavior.

      Wilson didn't cause Brown to behave as he did. He shouldn't be punished. His parents should step up and accept responsibility for letting him try on the baby gangster role without intervention.

    9. Welcome to the repository of the Self-Anointed "Reasonable Conservative" and Put-Upon White Male Pontification Society.

    10. So, you're saying that you disagree but you don't know why, so you call names?

    11. Why do so many people assume that every comment here is written by someone male and white?

    12. You may think that thugs who push around store clerks should be shot and killed, but I think bankers who trick people out of their money should be hanged. If everyone got what they deserved, we would depopulate the earth. Lets stop trying to figure out who deserves to live and die and focus on fixing the problems.

    13. Well put, 10:55. Negligent parents who likely bought and taught "progressive" excuses for antisocial behavior caused the death of a black kid. Again.

    14. I think anyone who tries to push around a cop using force is likely to be hurt, if not killed. I think parents need to teach their sons that it is not safe to use a cop to demonstrate their manhood.

  4. The recent book, "A Troublesome Inheritance" by NY Times science writer Nicholas Wade says that tribal loathing is natural and even speculates that it may be genetic. So, one must work extra-hard to overcome tribalism.

    I recently saw a performance of "South Pacific", which includes the song, "They've got to be taught." Sadly, it appears that it's worse than Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics claim. People don't have to be taught to hate and fear. Tribalism is natural.

    1. Sociobiologists tend to skew conservative. When a science writer writes a book, it can be crap or it can be pretty good, depending on whether that person is trying to advance a point of view or trying to summarize what is known on a topic in a more balanced way. I don't know this particular book, but you need to watch out when people start claiming that anything is natural and even genetic, especially something as complex as behavior in social situations. There aren't genes for that, but there are agendas.