I often speak of tribes and tribalism in a negative context, in terms of divisions, racial strife, politics, the things that divide us along tribal lines. I am a real outlier, as in I don’t know if I would agree to belong to a tribe that would have me. Given my history among cults, dysfunctional families, feminism, and strange groups of people, this is not surprising. I am often on the outside looking in because I am not quite sure I want any part of you people.
I tend to be an outside observer, not a joiner. However, I forget sometimes that tribes can also be healthy, that they are innate to the human experience, that people need to belong to one another, to have a sense of purpose and a place in the world. In our culture we’ve kind of fractured the family, economics have caused us to move away from extended communities, and there is a real hunger for tribal belonging in the world. You see this expressing itself in unhealthy ways, in kids joining gangs, in cults, in everybody who is anybody clicking the politically correct “like” on facebook. In politics, at least on the internet, there can be a great deal of ostracisizing, bullying, all tribal behaviors as if we we’re rival gangs competing over territory, policing the tribe.
So when you’re outside the tribe, rejection can be a powerful thing, painful. People will modify their behavior to try to fit in, they’ll change their values. Or they’ll separate themselves and just refuse to have anything to do with people in general, people who have often rejected them.
I’ve just been pondering and observing the nature of tribes lately, the push to create equality, multi culturalism, versus human nature, the human need for belonging in small groups. While I am all for creating a more peaceful world, for some unity within the human family, as people we are really designed to exist within smaller tribes. When your world gets too big, like in cities for example, we shut down, we wind up living the fallen log in the forest syndrome, where we just step over one another as if people lying on the sidewalk were nothing more than fallen logs. It is not that we don’t care, it is that we can only care about a limited number of people within our circle, within our tribe.
I don’t have the answers, I don’t know how you fix it, but I think the concept of tribalism and the human need to belong to small groups needs to be recognized and acknowledged more. A big part of that begins with families, that is our first experience with the nature of tribes. As we dismantle the family more and more, and redefine marriage, we begin to lose that foundation for future relationships, we lose the skills for building tribes that become communities. Technology, world trade, this push to create one global world, also threatens to dismantle our innate instincts for tribal belonging and when healthy things are repressed they tend to manifest themselves in unhealthy ways.
You know I just can’t end a post without mentioning our Lord and Savior, friend of the fatherless, of orphans and widows and the lost, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.