Tribalism increasingly bores me. It’s ruining debate. I’m not talking about the laugh-a-minute, knockabout, playful fun of supporting your favourite team and enjoying a friendly rivalry with your opponents. I’m talking about the overly blinkered version, where nastiness takes over and objectivity becomes rarer than the dodo’s lesser seen second cousin.
Of course, many of us are used to this form of blind faith in football and videogames (console wars, how do we love thee? Let me count the ways…), but the last couple of weeks have really brought it home to me that politics is just as capable of bringing out the no-seeing-eye.
One of the forums I frequent is predominately made up of people with views on the left of the political spectrum. Does this mean that election talk is full of hearty speeches about how the socialist model is the way forward and public services are king? Surprisingly not. No, in the midst of blasting the Murdoch press for being biased and overwhelmingly negative (both true, of course), I’ve lost count of the number of times that the Conservative party as a whole, and their supporters, have been called that very naughty “C” word that I won’t write on this blog. And no, it’s not “crap”, “comical” or “crustacean”. Rhymes with hunt. Nice, eh? Yep, a third of the population of the country and a vast swathe of its politicians are labelled – generalised – with the most insulting term in the English language. That’s what passes for political debate, apparently. For calling the Tories c-… er… not very nice people, is encouraged and seen as perfectly acceptable, while any opposing viewpoint sees the person espousing it ridiculed, laughed at, and generally seen as not being worth the support of oxygen.
Now, it’s easy to stand back from this and call it supreme hypocrisy, right? While the Tories are being portrayed en masse as people who don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves, and see themselves as all superior, the attitude towards anyone who dares take the opposite viewpoint is… well… to insult them and treat them like second class citizens. There’s irony for you. Sure, you may not like a party’s policies, but don’t resort to such shallow rubbish when it comes to arguing against them.
Back to football. A devout fan of Manchester United simply cannot bring himself to admit that Alex Ferguson or his team can do or say anything wrong, or that… say… Liverpool can do anything right (though this season, on that latter score, they may have a point). But to me it’s sad when all trace of objectivity is lost. It’s blind devotion. It’s borderline insane to have such a black and white (or rather, devilish and red) view of things. And when that devotion turns to insults and nastiness towards opponents, doesn’t that rather defeat the purpose of the game of football?
I’m not saying that all opinions are equal. I’d sooner run that hateful Graham Norton cartoon through the entirety of Doctor Who than give a platform to the BNP or Bristol Rovers supporters (*massive wink for the latter*). But I do think that society in general should open its mind a little more and be prepared to listen to different arguments, than be so entrenched in its views that it automatically cuts itself off to new possibilities. Is that really so much to ask?