Recently I heard Victor Davis Hanson speak at a conference in Laguna Beach, California, where he summarized the root cause of America’s recent rapid decline: tribalism. “Far from being the norm, America has been the great exception. This country has achieved greatness by rejecting centuries of reliance on tribalism for its survival and instead supplanted tribalism with achievement as both the foundation and the driving force of national success.” He went on to say that we have begun to return to tribalism, turning our backs on that success and embracing a failed system that ultimately leads to the destruction of even the very best of societies.

When I graduated from high school, both my grades and my standardized test scores largely determined where I could attend college. The reason was simple: Grades and test scores were the best markers of both achievement and potential success in college. It didn’t matter where you came from or how much money your parents made. If you had done the work and could prove that you would continue to do the work if accepted, you had a good chance of receiving a welcome letter to the college of your choice.

At the end of 2021, the University of California system—the most prestigious consortium of public universities in the nation—announced it was abandoning all standardized testing in its admissions process. Instead of test scores, unanchored subjective criteria such as the degree of “privilege” the applicant showed would now be used to determine whether a high school graduate would be accepted to one of the UC schools, such as Berkeley or UCLA. Of course, the word “privilege” is simply code for tribal status—race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation—qualities that are utterly irrelevant in determining achievement. But that’s the point: Achievement is no longer the criterion used to determine outcome. Tribal affiliation is.

This was brought to national attention recently with Biden’s pick for the next Supreme Court justice. He announced that he would only nominate a black woman. Her qualifications as a judge were not relevant. Only her sex and race would be considered, along with her political partisan leanings, of course. No non-activist black women need apply. She certainly lived up to the expectations Biden created for her. In responding to a question during the Senate confirmation hearings, she refused to define the word “woman.” Apparently, her tribe is the transgender activists. She made it clear during the hearings that she is beholden to them, along with the racist 1619 tribe and the pro-criminal pedophilia tribe. She belongs to quite a few different tribes, all of them organized with the sole purpose of taking down the United States as a nation.

We have other tribes as well, of course, some only recently formed. There is a mask tribe and an injection tribe. I call them Tribe Fear. Whatever the tribe, a commonly held trait is lack of thinking. Tribes don’t think. They act. And they always act to protect their members, often at the expense of everyone else. They promote mediocrity and unify behind incompetence, as long as their leader can obtain more spoils for the tribe. They do not share any real values, other than the primacy of self-aggrandizement. They do not promote growth. They promote expansion. Similar to a cancer, tribes can only continue to survive by taking over their host. They are not self-sustaining, and one can only join a tribe by sacrificing one’s individual identity. The individual is always killed as the price of tribal membership.

As the movement against individualism and independence continues to grow, the pro-tribal movement is gaining traction as a driver of dependency. If this movement is not thwarted, the United States will fracture into warring tribes, each dependent on a tribal leader for survival. We will become Lebanon, a disunited nation of religious denominations continually at war with one another. As the people at the bottom fight amongst themselves, those at the top gather resources for themselves, all the while extolling the virtue of sacrifice for those with little to begin with. Sound familiar? Gas hit $7 a gallon in California last week.

In my clinical practice, I see the psychological and emotional effects on the individual of identifying with a tribe rather than developing an identity as an individual. Individuation is hard. Every adolescent faces tremendous challenges navigating the path from childhood to adulthood. And there are no shortcuts. Declaring oneself to be transgender may gain you special favor and your own club to attend during lunch hour, but it won’t solve the emotional challenges inherent to normal development. Kicking that can down the road will only make the inevitable failures of adulthood that much more painful. No matter what your age, basing your identity and your source of achievements upon a tribe is a certain road to ruin. I’ve seen it lead to suicide.

As our nation moves backwards, it digs its own grave. We are heading down a certain path toward destruction as a society. Enshrining group or tribal identity as the defining quality of achievement will bring us nothing but ruin. A once-great nation finds itself on the brink of a national suicide.

Mark McDonald, M.D.
Psychiatrist and author of United States of Fear: How America Fell Victim to a Mass Delusional Psychosis