is an interesting part of the human psyche. It’s one of those things that’s so subtly ingrained that most people don’t even recognize it until it’s pointed out. In my ever-continuing study of people, I’m starting to realize that tribalism is one of the core reasons that we all can’t just get along. It’s also one of the topics that I’m exploring in my dystopian fantasy book DimWorld: Foundation and the series of books that will follow it.
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with tribalism, or the desire to surround yourself with like-minded people. I’m very inclined to do that, myself. I’m naturally drawn, through my tribal tendencies, to people who are musicians, or writers, or artists, or environmentalists, or intellectuals, or scientists (generally of the astronomy persuasion, although I’ll listen in on a biology discussion any day as well). These are all things that I’m very interested in, so it makes sense that I would be drawn to others who are also interested in these things.
The problem with tribalism
comes when people get so attached to their tribe, or the group of people that they relate to and have bonded with, that they start rejecting everyone who is not in their tribe. Here are a few major tribes that people identify with:
- Place of Origin
- Political affiliation
- Sexual Orientation
- Income Level
Most of the problems in the world can be attributed to people rejecting (sometimes violently) others who are in different subcategories of these items than they are. Interestingly, people can often have multiple tribal similarities, but will still reject each other over one difference. For example, two people could have the exact same answer on the first five items on that list, but if one makes $32K a year and the other makes $120K a year, there is a good chance that they will not be great friends. Or, maybe they make the same amount of money, but one is an atheist. Or gay. Or from Iran.
In addition to these major tribalism categories, people find a wide variety of lessor things to be divisive over. How many people do you know who have the same answer to all six major things, but manage to fight over what brand of truck they drive, or sports teams? Zoom in even further: motorcyclists, people who enjoy the exact same leisure activity: the guy on the Harley looks down on the guy on the Honda. Equestrians (that’s horse people, in case you don’t know): people reject each other based on what breed of horse they have, or what sport they participate in. Academics: what school did you go to? It extends to every corner of society: clothing brands, which store you shop at, where you get your jewelry, how often you go to church.
How important is it really?
Why is it that we feel the need to fight over these things? Why do we need to kill each other over these things? Why do we sow hate and discord over these things? Perhaps one of the major factors is that we tend to assign too much importance to our own interests, and we don’t save any for the interests of other people. Another major factor might be that we tend to run on autopilot instead of thinking about what we’re doing, and why.
As a way to promote self-awareness and acceptance, here’s what I propose:
The next time that you catch yourself thinking negatively about someone else, check your reasoning. Is this person acting in a way that violates your moral standard, or are they just in a different tribe? If they’re just in a different tribe, maybe you can let it go, and let them do their thing without condemning them for it. After all, that’s what you want them to do regarding you, right?
J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com
Well stated. Let’s just learn to get along.