The word tribe speaks to the past. There is something of the primitive associated with it. And yet the algorithm-driven postmodern present creates tribes out of us. Social media networking and the consumption of traditional media are changing who we are. Virtual reality and lived reality are pushing us into groups. Aggressive political marketing sets fire to our traditional loyalties. Many of us can be given labels. Our views can be pigeonholed and held up for derision.
One of the first methods of attacking supporters of Jeremy Corbyn was to group us all using a dismissive discourse. Our individuality and our history was erased. At best, we were called Corbynistas. We were researched and prodded. Bourgeois journalists sneered that we were followers of Leon Trotsky. Others suggested that most of us were too young to know about political reality. The diversity in our views was suppressed. Any unusual opinions were ridiculed. A tribe had been formed and the postmodern media set about trying to discredit it by any means necessary.
Now there is a reactionary tribe or two present in the British body politic. They are often males who love money and detest political correctness. They are opposed to immigration and hostile to the postmodern. While they may have gained from global capitalism, they have a nationalist identity. Their supporters may vote against the interests of their own social class. When they make statements that reflect their unease with contemporary reality, their opponents shout “gammon” at them. A tribe has been established and its views are likely to harden.
In these circumstances, we should try to exercise our independent thought. If we support Corbyn, we may still question his nuanced policy on the European Union- a third referendum on the issue might not be such a disaster. If we oppose mass immigration, we may still think about the historical benefits that a diverse culture has brought to our lives. In other words, we can refuse to become tribes- we can challenge the misconceptions that others may have about us. Sensitive Corbynistas and flexible gammon can cut through the media stereotypes.
The postmodern was once associated with jokes. But the laughter is now at our expense. Jean Baudrillard highlighted some of the problems with media culture in the 1980s. The theorist wrote:
“It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody.”
The left should not descend into the mud. People cannot be reduced to gammon. For example, we may have a drunken uncle who could be described as gammon. He should pay his taxes, but he should not be denied a barbecue in the sun. And if he wears a shirt with pineapples on it, we should not laugh.