Tribalism: Our Shared Enemy

in tribalism •  last year


source

Rule by authority (especially via threats of violence) is bad. Yes, there are degrees of bad, but those are often measured by in-group, out-group, tribal biases. When "our team" does it, we're okay with that because the outcome (we tell ourselves) aligns with our goals. It's amazing to me how often this plays out in politics again and again as each tribe vilifies their rivals while exonerating their heroes.

Right now, it seems more people are doubling down on their tribalism. It takes many forms. It might be religion or atheism. It can be seen in the political left, or the political right. It's liberalism (rarely the classical kind) and strong conservatism.

It's primitive.

We evolved to over-value our close tribal connections because those were the most beneficial to spreading our genes. Today it handicaps our rational, logical thinking. It's a shortcut we should consider working against as we use this tool we call our brain. Using terminology from Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow, it's a System 1 mechanism. We do it automatically without thinking because it saves glucose. It runs on optimized hardware compared to the slower software of rational thought.

Let's move beyond primitive tribal thinking.

If your identity is primarily defined by your "in-group," you may need to level up. You may be stuck in an older version of primate thinking.

It happens all around us and mostly it's not really a bad deal by itself. We call ourselves "Steemians" because we're fans of this site. Same goes for sports fans or gamers or whatever. No real problem there. Some of us may also use terms like "Voluntaryist" or "Anarchist." I actually resisted those labels for quite some time because I think labels make us more stupid. I didn't finally accept them until enough people started using them to describe me, no matter how I described myself. I realized then it wasn't something I could prevent.

But now when I see "Voluntaryists" or "Anarchists" do stupid things or defend stupid things, I have to hang my head and sigh at the negative results of tribalism once again. It doesn't matter how individualistic our label is, it still hooks into a mode of thinking which lumps ideas and categories together to retrieve related ideas more easily. It's a primitive flaw, especially if our need to conserve glucose or react quickly enough to outrun a predator no longer matters for our survival.

Some might get confused about my position and think I'm against culture or cultural diversity. Far from it. Our differences, heritage, and groupings can bring about incredible beauty, diversity, creativity, and new ways of thinking. It's only when those things result in lowering wellbeing and are used to engage our primitive thinking that I ask we re-evaluate.

My plea to you is to recognize tribalism in your own life in all its forms. Recognize how much in-group and out-group thinking makes up your self-perception. Realize how often you make decisions, often without realizing it, because it's what someone "from your tribe" would do. See it in the media and information you consume. Try to see reality from a perspective that is not your own because that's when you're using the more advanced parts of your thinking.

That's when you grow.


Luke Stokes is a father, husband, business owner, programmer, voluntaryist, and blockchain enthusiast. He wants to help create a world we all want to live in.

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

Great article. I absolutely agree with you. The less we label ourselves the more flexible and open minded we are.

I agree with your overall message. But I think I just take exception to the demonization of the term, and social construct, of 'tribalism' which you characterize as 'primitive'.

I think I could make the case that in many cases, tribal societies have functioned better, and have more nuanced, highly evolved mechanisms for in-group and out-group interactions, than modern, nation states. Which is not to say that there's anything inherently virtuous in 'tribal' organization. Typically, tribal refers to a much smaller scale of societal organization, more closely attuned to the needs of the collective, of which the individual is part.

I think my reaction is mostly semantic, in any case. I'm not sure how else to characterize it in another way at the moment. I too have been speaking about the need for non-polarized relations, and more inclusive modes of communication across the insanely diverse array of 'groups' which make up modern society. I think I would just throw 'group-think' under the bus, as opposed to tribalism.

I've learned more about healthy relations with all of life from 'tribal' societies than the rest of humanity combined.

Anyway, I think in essence we agree, as I said it's just your language in this particular instance I'm not so sure about.

·

I love your comment. Thank you.

When I first started looking for an image for this post, I struggled quite a bit. All visual representations of "tribalism" I could find touched on the very good things you mentioned, and I did not want to villify them. I agree, there's a lot to celebrate about pre-agricultural societies which were much more anarchistic and in harmony with their surroundings. There is also some evidence to show some of the stories we tell ourselves there are a but romanticised (the book Origins of Virtue is a great read).

Language is difficult becuase it's just symbols loosely connected to independent representations of ideas. Group-think is certainly a core part of the problem, but I also think we shouldn't deny the evolutionary role tribalism has played on the development of our brains. As one who leans toward anarchism, I will readily admit almost any social structure is more advantageous for increasingly wellbeing than the nation state. When we get past 150 or so relational connections, things get complicated. Tribes certainly have value, but they also bring a real cost and risk due to our authoritarian nature and primitive desire for a tribal leader/warrior. That said, I do agree with much of what you said and do greatly value your comment. I would love to spend more time with tribal people for more personal perspective.

·
·

Thanks for your reply.

Yes, it's a difficult subject to talk about, partly due to the problem of language itself. The english language for one is very mechanistic and reductionist in its worldview. I'm not trying to be a jerk, and I know this is just a comment not to be picked apart. We agree on the whole, totally. I'm going to change just one word in a sentence from your reply. Emphasis mine.

I agree, there's a lot to celebrate about pre-agricultural societies which are much more anarchistic and in harmony with their surroundings.

Look, I'm just as guilty of this as you are. I see you're here in North America, as am I, and we've sort of isolated ourselves from this reality since we live in a pretty homogenous bubble. i.e. The most 'diverse' people you know still live predominately in cities and take the bus, watch the television, go to school, etc. I just want to point out that we're not talking about some anthropological relics. Though admittedly, with the rampant spread of 'civilization' as we know it, they are perhaps only 5% of the world population, at present, yet they account for a massive share of linguistic wealth. i.e. differing worldviews.

Thanks for the book recommendation, 'Origins of Virtue', It looks pretty compelling. I'll for sure give that a read.

To further stoke your taste for connecting with the remaining tribal peoples of the world, and the wealth they possess, I will leave you with this wonderful talk by Wade Davis, in case you haven't seen it before.

I might pass through Nashville in the springtime. If so, I'd love to catch up!

Peace,
@lovejoy

·
·
·

Sweet! I'll check it out. Yeah, if you do pass through Nashville, definitely connect.

Yeah, it's difficult to count 5% as being more than 5%, but as you said, they do have more than 5% of linguistic wealth and alternative perspectives. I was specifically referring to the shift from 100% to 5%. I often make generalizations about "humanity" which obviously don't fit for 100% of humanity.

we're not talking about some anthropological relics

That's a really good point. It's easy for me to think that way since, as you said, most people don't fit that category at all and there very clear is an "anthropological relic" that used to be the norm for all humans.

I look forward to watching this. Thanks!

·
·
·
·

Yes, and thanks for being so gracious with my critiques. I really appreciate it! I decided to post that talk on my blog as well, to share with the community at large.

Definitely a different perspective. However, I will share this. I was a democrat with somewhat liberal thinking. Then somewhere along the way, the ideologies changed and I found myself disagreeing with a lot of that thinking. So Andrea and I switched to republican. But, we don't agree with everything there either. We would convert to independent but then we wouldn't have a say in the primaries. So We liken ourselves to be independent conservatives and are content with that.... for now.

·

Thanks for chiming in!

Well, I have a lot of opinions on voting in national elections and getting involved in the political process. If you care to read about them:

That said, I certainly don't have things all figured out. Maybe the political process can work. I'm just waiting to see it. :)

We've had a brief conversation about Tribalism and Eugene's little bubble in Oregon. I hadn't realized it was impending my growth until I moved out of that little town. Now, I'm single and making most of my own decisions (no bossy girlfriend).
I got myself a nightshift job at Kroger to help make extra cash. Tomorrow is my first day. I don't expect Kroger is going to buy my Tesla, but hey, you've got to start somewhere! Might as well be the bottom! Before I apply for any further employment opportunities, I want to figure out how to manage my Drupal installation. It's a mess of php scripts and modules. Yuck! Maybe I will post a craigslist ad for a local mentor to get me off square one... Shoot, maybe I will just post one on Steemit! Since I work second shift, we might have more opportunities to meet up for a coffee (there's a Starbucks right in Kroger). Until then, I hope you bounce on the trampoline safely and -be well-!

·

Thanks Terry! Congrats on the new gig. I hope it goes well for you. I don't know much about Drupal, but maybe we could rubber duck it together and figure something out. Which Kroger are you at and what are your hours? Maybe I could swing by sometime before your shift or during a break.

·
·

I'm going in tomorrow, after I pay my phone bill. I'll send you an email when possible! I work the second shift on Murphysburo, across from the Verizon store. I might be having a coffee at Starbucks for an hour, before I punch in.

In-group (tribe "me") vs. out-group (not tribe "not me"). Personal attachment.

·

To the extent we wrap our identities into a group think process, yes. I'm hoping we can use better mechanisms for self identity and association.

I love this post. Cheers, Mr. Stokes.

·

:) Thanks.

I'm a big proponent of reason and identification; Thus labels. But good points were made here. Upvoted.

·

Identification is absolutely necessary for reason, but within this category and context, it does us a disservice, IMO. We should see "human, homo sapien" and not some tribal identity. Making identity decisions about an individual based on characteristics of a group is a fallacy.

·
·

We may well see someones "tribal identity" if it is in fact there, but I can agree that we shouldn't try to create "tribalism" and that we shouldn't force a stereotype onto the individual. Collectivism is a huge problem, while individualism most definately is the answer.

Now, someone might look at that last statement of mine and suggest that I don't "polarize", but that on the other hand is not a claim I buy. Some people are individualists and some people are collectivists. The fact that there are many degrees and variations, which I of course recognize and give significant importance to, doesn't actually negate this aspect.

This is why, for example, I think it's disgraceful when some people suggest that a black person should be refered to as "african american" when even his/her grandparents never set foot in Africa.

·
·
·

I think there could be reasons to even frown upon the concept of calling a black person a black person. I do it too, so I'm not gonna tell you what's right or wrong, but consider this:

What if instead of black person, we just use the word person?

Or "scientifically minded person" or "poetic person", or "passionate person", or just "hard working person".

There are many ways to describe a person, and race is one of those which is inborn, and cannot be chosen. That makes it irrelevant for those of us who try to see individuals as individuals, rather than as a tribe, collective, or other sort of group.

Think of trees within a forest. Each tree has its own story, and although they may make up a forest, and their roots may form deep knots around each other, each tree is still an individual. The forest is the illusion. Only the individual trees are real.

I want to see the individual trees, not the forest.

What do you think?

·
·
·
·

I think there could be reasons to even frown upon the concept of calling a black person a black person.

I totally agree. That's not a word we normally use where I'm from, but I would consider it better as long as everyone knows it's a simplification for "darker skinned" etc.

Or "scientifically minded person" or "poetic person", or "passionate person", or just "hard working person".

That's a great idea in most cases. As an individualist I'm of course 100% in agreement with you, except for those cases where ethinicity is an actual factor. (and there are many such valid cases, such as when searching for a specific person, doing scientific research, prescribing drugs etc)

I see a dangerous trend in the U.S. currently where people are taking DNA tests and then proudly refering to themselves as a certain percentage "European" or "Asian" etc. It may seem like harmless fun, but this is how the hardcore racists have behaved for a long time and it is confusing ethnicity with nationality and cultural heritage.

·
·
·
·
·

I have a pretty heavy disdain of culture and nationality, to be honest.

I guess there's some existing sentiment out there, where people say things like,

"Some might get confused about my position and think I'm against culture or cultural diversity. Far from it. Our differences, heritage, and groupings can bring about incredible beauty, diversity, creativity, and new ways of thinking.

But where does this actually happen? Where is culture not a detriment to anyone not in that culture? And even if a few outliers exist, like maybe one culture that's really benevolent, or maybe they have great food, I can't help but view culture as a thing that's inborn, and undecided by the individual who lives in that culture.

It might just be because I was raised in modern internet culture, and so the ways of more primitive, tribal societies just look primitive to me. Primitive, inefficient, unintelligent, and generally just a step out of feral ape-hood.

It's inspiring an essay even now. Check out my profile in a day and I might have a new essay about culture, or rather, the disdain of culture from the perspective of a person in a beautiful culture.

·
·
·
·
·
·

Culture is what we do and influence others to do habitually, based on principles that we share. So culture is not something we are born with, but something that we are always (in one current form or another) born into.

But the individual still makes his own culture, hence why we have subcultures.

I think the risk is going to the extreme and promoting "multiculturalism" when one actually just mean that people should have a right to behave as they like and exchange cultural information as long as they don't harm anyone. This makes society better, if we adopt the right principles.

Just mixing a bunch of different cultures because we make a badly thought through decission to value them all "equally" (they could be equally good, bad, extreme, mediocre etc) is a very bad idea however. Then we're just avoiding making a decission as to what is right and wrong. With such thinking there is no longer even any known reason to resist dictatorship or other horrible practices.

·
·
·
·
·
·
·

Did you see my newest post?

You might like it, and I wouldn't mind seeing your own post as a response.

Great post, thank you! Great to see responsibility for originality of thought - voted and followed.
I sometimes find that being a contrarian, for the sake of it, is where one finds the greater understanding as one's thinking has to work harder than towing the line of perceived wisdom. It can be troublesome, though. I tend to find my tribe can be small to the absolute degree in those instances!

·

Thank you! I always so appreciate a new earned follow. :)

Yeah, contrarianism does come with a lot of troubles. Sometimes people avoid reason and logic simply to be a contrarian without realizing they are following into the same trap! "I can't agree with this, I'm part of the contrarian tribe. I have to disagree!" Heheh. I'm a fan of tribes of one, closely connected and fluidly aligned with many, many other tribes. :)

This is exactly why I disagree with the communities that will be coming in Q3 here on Steemit. We will naturally be attracted to our comfort zones and close out the rest.

·

As we continue to evolve as a species via our technology, I think we can change what "naturally" means to us. It's true, the temptations will be greater once the interface pushes us into tribal boxes, but we couldn't also look a thing it as an opportunity to directly join tribes which we disagree with in order to grow and learn. Having a concentration of ideas I don't understand in one place can help me grow that much faster.

But, most people probably won't approach it that way.

A very correct assessment. Even the most ardent freethinkers revert to tribal tendencies everyday. For example, we (for the most part) prefer family members and relatives first when making moral and financial choices.

The most important is accepting that and remembering our tribal tendencies, because it will probably take thousands of years of evolution to breed some that tribalism out. Or genetic modification...

·

I'm thinking it will be genetic modification combined with technological augmentation.

·
·

Yup, but there is a lot of resistance to genetically modifying humans right now (people have issues with genetically modified plants already). I wouldn't bet on widespread genetic modification in humans in this century.

·
·
·

There might be some Luddite pushback, that's true. I also think exponential changes will be quite interesting to adjust to. We may see things we've never seen before, including wide acceptance of new concepts, if they bring valued change. The generations growing up now have always had technology. Previous ones didn't even have the Internet.

I see you made the a-hole's downvote list. What'd you do to set them off? I wonder if someone will do an auto-upvote to counter the downvotes.

·
·
·
·

True, but no one opposed the Internet and called for outright bans on it. It's actually kind of funny that the article you wrote is about tribalism - and here we are, huddled around our online campfires talking about genetic modification and technological augmentation when in reality the majority of people oppose such technologies (for example, almost everyone in my family oppose GMOs).

I totally agree with the comment " food for thinking".
Let's say we are in a cafe-bar and watch a football match. Let's assume that we are supporters of the one or the other team. There are also some guys that are extrovert and "live" the match by commenting and reacting . Some of us will see these guys in a friendly or in a hostile way depending on which is our favorite team.
The match is over and we are ALL start talking about what happened during the game. During conversation we discover that the extrovert guys ARE NOT funs of either team. They just love football very much and don't care about the teams. BUT WE LABELLED THEM because is so natural to react in this way, "saves glucose". During conversation, we might experience a " huge loss " realising that they do know much more about football than we do.
I understand that this example is too much. I just want to say that by labelling other people we play the game of THE BIG ONES. It's convenient for them in order to control us. That is what we want? I don't think so.
Focus on what , for example, a "leftist" say and not on that he is a "leftist". The product of such a conversation perhaps would be more intersting than you might thought. "Anarchist" has to pay for the electricity, a "conservative" also. We are humans after all with problems and dreams and these are our true strength and not every kind of label.
I understand that a person need to somehow"belong" in a group. Ok, but do it using critical thinking, otherwise there is a possibility that the group will "swallow" you.
In short, political parties tell you " save your glucose for me " but we have to tell them " it's my glucose and I'll consume it as I decide. You (political parties) are there for me and not the opposite ".
Thanks for the food for thinking.

·

"It's my glucose!" Heheh. Thanks for commenting.

Food for thought this morning, thank you.

·

Thanks for reading!