This post is about the common values we seem to share with the vast majority of Americans. We don't belong to a political party. We don't subscribe to a particular religion. But despite this we do believe deep down that thoughtful people share the same universal principles. We invite you to join us in building on this foundation so that we can grow from a place of shared understanding.
Why people join tribes
Something about joining a "tribe" makes humans feel better. They provide a sense of belonging and purpose. But tribes come with risks. One risk is "group think" and a lack of self discovery. Another is a desire to help one's team and fail to develop a sense of personal identity. Both of these risks create an adversarial relationship between tribes...a force that is all to obvious in the world of politics and religions today.
The human desire for a Tribe is build into our DNA. Humans are not special in this way. Many social mammals feel pressured to seek social acceptance. We also like being told we are right, and tend to despise those that make us feel we are wrong or backward.
But what is the cost of political tribalism?
Many tribes have little consequence on important things like the health and security of our families. Sports provide a perfect example. Joseph spent much of his childhood near Chicago ... home of “Da Bears” 🐻. Why do they like Da Bears? Because they grew up near Chicago. That’s all fine and good when it comes to football 🏈 but it’s not a good way to run the country.
Being an individual is hard in part because we are so small. There are 340,000,000 people in this country. So why do we vote? There are Billions of humans...so why would God listen to just one of us? Tribes help to satisfy the feeling of irrelevance. We may not matter that much but our team matters.
There are practical risks to being an individual as well. You risk a lot by being different. If your parents, your friends, and your family are predominately a Democrat or Republican, then how you feel and how you vote is a BIG deal. If you make the “wrong” decision....you could ruin close relationships! Meanwhile your impact on the broader world is tiny by comparison.
Why should we listen to those not in our Tribe when changing our minds can ruin our relationships?
Its just not that practical for many of us to try and seek truth and understanding when our Tribe provides such valuable feelings of community, belonging, acceptance, righteousness and purpose.
But if we let tribalism continue to dominate our political discourse, or allow extreme religious beliefs to threaten global stability...we run the risk of losing our Democracy...and more.
Humanity needs an alternative approach to finding community and purpose. We need a new tribe that doesn't derive value from being exclusive.
And that is why we belong to the tribe of universal principles.
First Principles are the rules that govern a system. That system is our planet, and how we all work and live together to make the world a better place. So what are the first principles that make life better, and can we agree on them so they can be truly universal? We don't know for sure but we gave it a shot. There are as follows
Opportunity to succeed
Progressive and Conservative
Freedom and Liberty
We elaborate on each in turn...
1. Opportunity to succeed
We all deserve a shot at success, but equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome. We should celebrates success and work hard to make sure all our boys and girls of every race and culture have the opportunity to make their dreams come true.
No one achieves success on their own; which is why those of us that can afford to should give more and ensure that the opportunity for success is available to future generations.
Americans can rally around this, but both parties fall short.
Republicans who say the poor just need to work harder are blind and cruel. Over 1 in 5 children live in poverty. Many talented students cannot afford the education they need to reach their true potential. Parents making minimum wage often need to work 2 or 3 jobs just to survive… leaving no time to help their children find their way to a better life. We should all be outraged at the injustice of subsidizing sugar and endless wars while our schools and bridges crumble.
Democrats who think the answer is big government and handouts fail to appreciate the free market and the cost of higher taxes on our economy. What is needed to ensure that all people have the opportunity to succeed? Far too often, Democrats prescribe solutions that go well beyond what is needed to ensure everyone an opportunity to succeed…removing incentives to earn our way at the expense of others.
2. Charitable Interpretation
One definition of love is that we choose the best possible interpretation of the others words and actions. The book, “How to win friends and influence people” supports this value as a necessary first step to building relationships.
A related concept is Hanlon's razor, an aphorism that means, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
Earlier this week we were discussing racism with some friends...one of whom brought up Howard Schultz and how he had said, "I don't see color" in the context of discussing racism. Some might feel that his comment was stupid, but does that make Howard a racist? Obviously not, but that didn't stop many liberal commentators from implying as much.
The default mode for party members and affiliates seems to be the opposite of this: Twist words to make whatever your “opponent” says sound as bad as possible. Make memes and write angry posts that demonize the other "team". This kind of "gotcha" behavior does not help Americans improve their understanding of the issues and reach commonsense solutions. Not in our party.
Americans need to also rally around basic decency, mutual respect, and a willingness to acknowledge differences of opinion can exist without demonizing our neighbors.
3. Progressive and Conservative
“A Progressive” should refer to anyone who believes that we still have much work to do to ensure that all people have the opportunity to succeed. Mahatma Ghandi said that, “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”. Republicans that believe we are the greatest nation in the world need to wake up, and take a look around. We have much to learn from the rest of the world when it comes to taking care of the “weakest members” and preparing our children for the future. The term “progressive” means that we have a mutual goal of giving all people the opportunity to succeed.
“A Conservative” should refer to anyone who seeks to “avoid waste” and is “marked by moderation or caution”. Elaborate government programs and handouts should be the last option considered after all free market options have been shown to fail. There are many areas where this is the case...especially defense, education, finance, and environmental protections. We need to be creative and scientific in how we use government to address problems not solved by free markets.
4. Freedom and Liberty
We need to embrace a moral code of live and let live. If you enjoy smoking marijuana, hunting, or some other activity that is not hurting other people...you should be free ti do so. Republicans need to stop filling our jails with victimless criminals. Democrats need to acknowledge and protect the 2nd Amendment. Everyone also deserves the right to privacy. Both parties have failed to make this a priority. We need better protections from the state and foreign actors.
5. Growth mindset
Our country will not remain a superpower for long if we, the electorate, continue to isolate ourselves from ideas different from our own.
Do you tend to agree with you parents and friends on political issues? If you answered yes, you have an exciting journey ahead of you.
We need a party that embraces challenging deeply held beliefs. We need to embrace a growth mindset...one that pushes us to think outside the boxes of political party and find creative solutions to our shared challenges.
One big breakthrough in the McPhail household has been a real focus on what we call finding the "East West Equilibrium" (EWE). Basically, it means taking the time and energy to try to work on important issues together until we find solutions that take the best from both our cultures and experiences. EWE is a recipe for finding new possibilities that are outside the cliches and platitudes of political talking points we should all be tired of hearing.
Humans evolved to be tribal. Our tribes give us a sense of purpose and community. But they rob us of self-discovery and a deeper sense of our our identity. Political and religious tribes also threaten our Democracy and peace around the world. The instant gratification and companionship that comes from tribalism is powerful. Breaking our dependence on tribalism is made even harder by the recognition that we are all but tiny specks in the great universe and so standing apart from our tribe can bring an overwhelming sense of insignificance.
But the reality is that tribes are not real. They are social constructs that serve some emotional needs but at great cost to the potential of humans to come together and grow. We can do much better when we are not caught up in petty arguments about whose tribe is better, and instead build from principles that we share.
Our tribe is one of universal principles that we believe all humans can and should aspire to accept and proliferate. We hold these principles to be self evident...that all humans benefit when we live by these principles.
Opportunity to succeed
Progressive and Conservative
Freedom and Liberty
Feel free to join our tribe. Let's show ourselves and our children that we are not afraid to be different...so long as we are pursuing a higher purpose. A purpose that lifts everyone UP.
Learn more about UP at the link below.