Friday, March 05, 2021

Red Tribe, Blue Tribe, Gray Tribe - Part II

In Taiwan one of the major political divisions breaks down along ethnic lines.  In Israel, the Ashkenazim tend to be liberal, the Sephardic Jews conservative. In the UK the Scots vote SNP, which is strongly against Brexit. (It is not clear that this has any measurable advantage for the Scots other than they think being in the EU allows them to be more Scottish.) Northeast Scotland, and the Orkney and Shetland Islands vote differently.  I haven't looked into it. In much of the rest of Europe, voting along ethnic lines does not seem particularly ideological to my eyes, but I am willing to be educated on the matter. French-Canadians have long been more ideologically liberal than the rest of Canada.

In America, the urban Irish have long voted for Democrats, most famously in Boston and Chicago, but in most other places as well.  Ethnic Jews have been extremely liberal, but Orthodox Jews have been conservative over the last few decades.  African-Americans used to vote for Republicans, but have been 90% Democratic since the 60s. (LBJ's prediction of "200 years" will probably not out, but it has been over fifty.) Blacks who vote Republican come under considerable social pressure.  Hispanics, Muslims, and Asians have been 70-75% Democratic until Trump, who moved all those numbers down a bit. Upper Midwest Scandinavians are enormously liberal, interrupted only by being socialist. The Scots-Irish used to be heavily Democratic, but have flipped to strong R in the last decades.  Zell Miller and Jim Webb were the last of the old version of that political tribe.

 I mentioned how the A&H tribe considers it part of the package to be Blue Tribe. Regions and church denominations divide in similar ways.  Episcopalians and Lutherans have been developing increasing disapproval and even contempt for evangelical churches and styles.  Let me assure you that this has nothing to do with theological differences about Real Presence in the Lord's Supper, nor going to the mat about liturgical services.

Yet we assert, all of us, that we choose our politics because of how we think about the issues.  We swear it is ideology, carry on ideological arguments among ourselves, and speak with enormous contempt for the ideas of those other people across the way.

Enter Gray Tribe.

This Gray sort of person has long existed, but is only now becoming something identifiable as a cultural force. Though modern Grays tend strongly to atheism and agnosticism (with some interesting exceptions), many of the Greeks, nearly all theists, would score Gray, and Church thinkers across the centuries as well.  Boethius, Aquinas, Pascal and Descartes, and Erasmus.  The more mystical thinkers qualify less often. Politically, Benjamin Franklin looks at first to be Gray, though his fondness for Masonry suggests that he might be merely open-minded in a different way. Edmund Burke, willing to follow the logical consequences of idea even in the face of the condemnation of his Whig Party should be a Gray hero. Moderns should in fact be much more sympathetic to his ideas of society as an achievement rather than a decision, first because they don't like that idea and need to be shaken, and second because his predictions about this came true to a greater extent than any of his contemporaries.  He predicted the French Revolution would turn violent and tyrannical when they were still just hippies, and predicted the inevitability of an eventual tyrant, probably arising from the military and who looks stunningly like Napoleon, a decade before he arose. When you get it right, you deserve a closer look. "Nathan the Wise" by Lessing was about the same time and has that Gray Ideal behind it: We will follow the reasoning ruthlessly, wherever it goes.

Gray thinking gained steam in the natural sciences in the 19th and 20th C, and we strongly associate the ideal of that thinking with scientists. Yes it should work, according to theory, but it just doesn't. Something else must be true. That scientists fall short of this as individuals should not obscure the fact that they have done more of this type of thinking than most others.  When they have refused to accepted better data and logic, it is often not because they were Tories or Whigs, Republicans or Democrats, but for entirely personal reasons that their entire career had been built around a set of ideas and they were loath to abandon it. If you accepted germ theory as a doctor in the 19th C you had to accept the idea that you had killed a lot of people who would have been better off if had just left them alone.

But that's not the tribalism of not believing in vitamins because you are Chinese or Hispanic and your people just don't accept that.  That happens in science, where whole regional schools of thought will hang together over a theory, but it is less common.

The impulse to have public debates, whether over science or other subjects is that sort of Gray Rationalism. While those did sometimes hinge on who was more charming and a better speaker, it's significantly better than competing political ads and slogans. Shaw debated Chesterton. CS Lewis - a significantly Gray thinker* - founded the Socratic Club at Oxford for the express purpose of having people who disagreed on core issues come in and make their case in a clear, even cold way.

I am making something of a case that Grays are defined by their their objectivity. That's a bit tricky. There is very much the cultural element of being computer-focused, even living online that I have not even touched on yet.  Also, it doesn't take much reading of either historical or current examples to find that many who claim to be objective whose actual reasoning and behavior reveals that No, really, you're not.  You just have a separate set of emotional/social/psychological ideas that animate you. So at the moment, I am going to start with a definition of Grays as those who profess the ideal of objectivity, whether they started from the Blue or the Red Tribe previously. That is temporary.  We won't be staying there, especially in my eventual predictions of where this is all going. The attitudes of science fiction writers and libertarians are going to point us in some interesting directions.

In terms of current political changes that are emerging, I have a little thought I think will hold up - though it may collapse as I look closely.  The Blue Tribe thought of Grays as merely a subset of itself - their research arm, if you will.  The science, computer, and more objective thinkers in their tribe thought that was where they were going as well. Those were even able to attract some defectors from the Red Tribe if they were either science geeks or not especially religious.  But as the Blue Tribe has gone woke and gone crazy, the Grays have chafed against this considerably.  They are becoming empowered, and They Don't Need You. They won't stay for cancelling, for example. (Except they might, because of their own internal conflicts.) 

Much more to come.

*Tolkien was more dramatically imaginative, but not as Gray.


SJBC said...

French Canadians were more conservative than English Canadians prior to the "Quiet Revolution" of the 1960's. Strong support for the Liberal Party from the 1890's onwards was a strategic decision, like support for the Democratic Party in the Old South before the 1980's. Consider the support for the Union Nationale, a conservative and nationalist provincial party, which held power in Quebec from 1936-1939; 1944-1960; and 1966-1970.

Grim said...

The Scots-Irish used to be heavily Democratic, but have flipped to strong R in the last decades. Zell Miller and Jim Webb were the last of the old version of that political tribe.

Not quite the last! Though they may have been the last to hold office.

Zachriel said...

Assistant Village Idiot: I am making something of a case that Grays are defined by their their objectivity.

That suggests a supra-definition. Not sure your meaning. Are the Grays simply those unaffiliated with the Red and Blue tribes? Perhaps Grays are just viewing things independent of the prisms of Red and Blue, but not necessarily objectively in a scientific sense.

Sam L. said...

I am gray (of hair) but I despise, detest, and distrust the Dems, and the GOP...I call it the "GO Along To GET ALONG With The DEMS" Party. Which I also distrust.

JMSmith said...

I grow nervous when someone tells me they are "objective." Especially when they say that I should follow their advice because they are "objective." If they are "objective," then I am just one more object in their world. They can predict the consequences of my behavior (assuming they somehow believe I can control that behavior), but they cannot actually advise me to keep out of the shark tank. I prefer advice from a good person who is reasonably cognizant of the facts to the advice of an "objective" person who, as we say down here in Texas, has no dog in the fight. It is possible to have a dog in the fight and be realistic about the merits of both dogs.

RichardJohnson said...

I grow nervous when someone tells me they are "objective."

I am reminded of a discussion among my relatives about a certain historian who has a STEM doctorate and decades of STEM practice. A cousin stated that this historian was to be recommended because he had a "scientific" approach to history. Maybe so, but the century-long spiels about "scientific socialism" make me skeptical about anyone trumpeting a "scientific" approach to history.