Like many, I’m bemused at best but often angry that people don’t listen to facts when it comes to the environment, Brexit, immigration, white supremacy etc. So I watched a video about the Flat Earth movement. It’s such an extreme example that I wasn’t pulled into the debate. Then it became clear that the underlying values that guide these beliefs is simply that they don’t like the scientific notion that the earth is nothing but a speck in an immense universe. They want to feel special. Perhaps this is what drives any ideology: a club of people wanting to belong to something and feel top of the pecking order, master of the environment. The way forward is dual: stand for your convictions (I am a feminist because…. ) but not to try and convince any group by imposing one’s own viewpoints (you are wrong because ….). And in the meantime perhaps acknowledge the challenges of being human and the importance of the need for belonging.
The reason for this need can be analysed from different perspectives. It can be evolutionary (survival), social (indoctrination of be value of individualism and being special and needing to “win” mixed with masculinity (Hofstede’s interpretation of that – so ambition and power) and such values that are taught through institutions, to how we as humans would seek group membership to enhance our self esteem to feel good about ourselves (social identity theory).
A modern notion of identity is pluralism and the politics that goes along with that is tolerance and laissez faire. All well and good for educated (white) urbanites who can identify with multiculturalism and being a citizen of the world but for many, tribalism is (still) so important. And why be dismissive of this? Who of us is truly multicultural; we all have our tribes, including that urbanite. Perhaps we are fighting the wrong fights about being right and what matters is the underlying driving value. There are initiatives that are remarkable, such as a project in Germany that connects people with opposing views to have a chat. This is an extraordinary initiative and the organisers are reaching out to Europe and beyond to connnect. So what can you do? Well, much of the understanding for the need for belonging starts at home or in your organisation. In an uncertain environment, showing that you care will encourage people to voice their ideas and help each other. That care can be expressed by (ethical) norms and procedures (formalisation) – standing for a way of doing things that makes people feel safe. This way, people spend less energy worrying about survival.