WE HAVE to learn to distinguish between the two. They can look the same, but one is good and the other bad. Yes, we have to be loyal to our family, country and whatever group or institution or person to whom we may have made some commitments. But we should not let our loyalty degenerate into tribalism.
Tribalism is a caricature of loyalty. It is a blind and unreasoning attachment to someone or something, an exaggerated version of loyalty that makes one unable to appreciate the good others may have.
A person with a tribal attitude is usually closed-minded, rigid, inward-looking and exclusivistic in his attitude toward life in general. He has a parochial mind, and his understanding of things is usually shallow and narrow. He is quite an isolated person. He likes to control things and persons, and is quite compulsive about it.
A truly loyal person, while he is faithful to commitments to someone or something and sticks to his distinctive identity, is always open-minded, dynamic, flexible and versatile, and outward-looking. He has a universal and inclusive outlook in life. He knows how to let persons and things be and to let go.
A tribal person would not know how to work in tandem with others with a different culture, lifestyle, spirituality, etc. He seems imprisoned in his own commitments. He is prone to cause division in the world.
A truly loyal person would know how to live the social principles of common good, solidarity and subsidiarity. He knows how to cooperate with others as well as to give his distinctive contribution to the whole world. He fosters unity, not division, amid the vast variety of cultures, lifestyles, spiritualities and conditions that people may have.
A tribal person is often afflicted with all kinds of insecurities, with the complexes of superiority and inferiority alternating in his mind and heart. He is more prone to fall into anger, hatred, resentments and bitterness, envy, vanity, etc.
A truly loyal person usually lives in peace and confidence. He knows he has to be humble to properly tackle the many differences and conflicts he would unavoidably face in life. He would know how to integrate them to form a useful and meaningful unity.
A tribal person often likes to find fault in others, and gets entangled in the differences and conflicts. He likes to compare himself with others, and often falls into gossiping.
A loyal person knows how to adjust and adapt to others. He knows how to flow with the times and the varying circumstances. He is happy with himself and with others, no matter how different the others are from him.
To be sure, the distinction between a truly loyal person and a tribal one lies on who is truly with God. Both can appear and openly profess to be with God. But only the loyal person is with God. A tribal person makes his own caricature of God.
This reminder about loyalty and tribalism is very relevant these days as we tackle issues especially in politics and spirituality. It is in these areas where the dynamics of loyalty and tribalism is most conspicuous.
With respect to the proper love for country, for example, we have to distinguish between patriotism and nationalism. The former is true love for country while being open to the other countries. The latter simply sticks to one’s country without giving due attention to other countries.
In terms of spirituality, we unfortunately witness many people with different spiritualities nowadays engaging in unnecessary competition and creating division instead of unity. They foul up the environment with their gossips and subtle attacks against each other.
We have to inculcate the true virtue of loyalty in everyone, especially the young ones, and purify those instances where the signs of tribalism are present./PN