“Give generously for de cause,” said a somewhat aggressive Irishman to me in a Kilburn pub 44 years ago.
My chum Gerard was playing in a Comeallye band that night: he’d had the good sense to warn me earlier that not contributing to the IRA bucket was a bad call. A dropped a Pound note into the offertory, and my reward was a withering look.
“You’re not one of us, sure that’s clear enough,” he muttered, moving on to the next victim. Inside my head were all manner of brave Robert Mitchum-style things to say in response. I restrained myself with remarkable ease.
You’re not one of us. It is, of course, the ultimate tribalist rebuff. And – by definition – a threat.
As it happens, I have supported the aims of the IRA since 1961. I just don’t support their methods. And over the years, I have refused to deny what’s obvious to anyone involved in Irish politics: robbing and maiming became a way of life for IRA officers. In the end, they became a feared mafia no better than the Kray gang. The means employed had so obfuscated the ends, they had literally lost touch with the objective. Indeed, it became almost de rigueur for the ends not to be achieved.
I didn’t take up blogging to join causes. I got into it as a retired writer and adman who – on being released from the MoU corporate bubble of privilege – quickly discovered that most financial advisers, banks, bond marketeers, private health providers, privatised service sectors, hitech combines, car manufacturers, pension concerns and the politicians in their pockets were taking the piss out of the ordinary citizen.
Worse still, it seemed to be the one syndrome that was genuinely global: it was rife in Washington, Whitehall, Westminster, Brussels, Moscow, Tokyo, Paris, Sydney and even Beijing.
But along the way, the more appalling symptoms of Everyone’s At It inevitably led me to champion the causes of the bullied and abused. It is, I think, instructive to look at that series of causes: there is a learning for us all in so doing.
The first thing I got seriously behind was the way in which Blairite Labour was busily putting up notices and making declarations about this and that, but not actually doing anything as such for the ordinary citizen. Everything, it seemed to me, was a stunt. Old Labour – and its heartland voters – were being conned.
Despite the bile reserved by Old Labour for use on New Labour inside the stockade, it was as nought compared to the venom spat in my direction when I dared to suggest that This Great Movement of Ours was even a gnat’s less than perfect.
You’re not one of us so butt out….I got the message loud and clear.
The next stop was institutional paedophilia in the justice and care home systems. It was all going rather well until I got close to some abusee case histories and discovered that a lot of the claims didn’t check out.
Having led a charmed life, the only sexual abuse I’ve ever suffered is the occasional complaint about failure to perform following over-indulgence in brewery output. This of course damned me forever in the eyes of the Beeeleeevers.
You’re not one of us – so you obviously work for them, they concluded. I’d apparently been “mixing with the wrong sort of people”. I was “unsound”.
So when I told the Sickoseekers that the BBC had got the wrong McAlpine as their smoking gun, I was ignored.
The BBC is still paying for its brainless tribalism today.
Macro events moved on (the way they do) and the gun fired for the Greek austerity marathon.
I watched and commented – at first enthralled by the skill with which Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis got themselves elected – but then began to smell the odour of over-confidence. “We’re going to dismantle class privilege in Greece bit by bit” said Varoufakis; “Brussels will learn that Greeks cannot be bullied” Tsipras asserted.
I suggested that perhaps Syriza was underestimating the sociopathic illegality of its adversary’s methods.
You’re not one of us, I was abruptly told: you underestimate us. We Greeks are clever strategists. We will get them right where we want them. Then you will see.
I will confess that I was late in the day to the Waspi cause – an acronym that stands for Women Against State Pension Injustice.
My lateness was not unrelated to the fact that – while the Waspi Executive was stroking itself all over about how many members it had – genuine awareness of the Osborne/Duncan-Smith embezzlement of Waspi State pension monies was almost zero in the UK overall. Without knowing one victim personally, I would still not have a clue about what or who Waspi is today.
So I began to post and tweet about what a complete fiction the Government’s defence of this heinous mugging of 1950s-born women is.
“Who are you?” a rude tweet asked me accusingly 48 hours later, “You do not have official Waspi status. What do you know about the real issues here?”
Only gradually did it dawn on me that a neo-Stalinist core group of secretive Waspi “leaders” was running the show.
You’re not one of us I was told: “We’re managing perfectly well without you thank you very much”, a further tweet somewhat inaccurately opined, “mind your own business”.
The multivariate squabbling going on within Waspi has if anything worsened over the last three months. I devoted a fortnight to explaining how bad this looked in public on the internet. But the condescension and vitriol continues: and after receiving misdirected insults from a woman who can’t even spell her own avatar, I got this reasoned response from the grandiloquently self-titled @Everywoman last night:
You’re not one of us. The undiluted admiration of tribal incompetence continues.
At first sight, it’s hard to understand why this attitude to innocently proffered help exists with such consistency right across the social piece and even continents. But on mature reflection, I should’ve worked it out ages ago. I have, after all, banged on about it enough myself over the years.
Tribalism is something so ingrained in the human psyche, it cannot be eradicated from the overwhelming majority of us who are prisoners of it. Even if a tribe gets together in an emergency that must one day have an end, it is still a tribe. And every tribe has three ever-present features: it exists to protect itself, it is headed by those for whom control is the only raison d’etre of life, and for the rank and file of the tribe to feel truly safe, the leaders must be beyond reproach.
Any attack on the aims, track record and members of the tribe are treated as a physical attack on the tribe itself. And it is this above all that enables the Super-chiefs – the self-styled national élite – to divide and conquer.
A genuine community is a series of tribes who cooperate with each other because they have several core aims in common. A community at war with itself is one where the divisions between the tribes have been exploited by those who seek ultimate power.
The tribes fall for it every time, and the Super-Chiefs always “win”…in that they demand and get total control over an increasingly anarchic situation. This anarchy results, however, in a disaster in which none of the original aims are realised. Literally, Götterdammerung.
Right now, the US, British and EU Establishments are exploiting divisions as never before. Like I said, I should have worked it out ages ago: there are many ways to improve the lot of the World: but in the current environment, actively supporting causes isn’t one of them.
Of course, I wish all those I tried to help well, and treasure the friendships I made along the way. But it is cancerous ideology that needs to be eradicated, not its symptoms. In adopting tribal causes, I haven’t helped them. And they certainly haven’t helped me.