September 06, 2004

True Tribalism

Amritas and I both frequently talk about tribalism. A major point of difference between us (there are only two, the other is here and here, but might be resolved here) is that he invariably uses the word negatively, while I use it positively. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to talk about it at length at this time, I hope to get back to it, but I want to catch Amritas’s latest post while it’s fresh – I think it contains a resolution:

Unfortunately, they [language and culture] are often abused as iconic tools for diasporic children seeking a sense of 'identity'. kevin kutabare kusoyama and his followers never cease to remind others that they are "Golden™, not AmeriKKKan". They cling to outdated stereotypes of tribes to deny 'the white inside'. Why do they hate Europpressors so much? Because (paraphrasing Walt Kelly) they have seen the enemy, and the enemy is them.

I think that tribalism is part of human nature, like love. When we can’t express it in a healthy way, we will invariably express it in an unhealthy way, as hate. I think the key word in the paragraph above is: outdated. It is a negatively-driven tribalism informed by a lack of tribal identity – devoid of inherent content. In my opinion, the way to deal with this is not denial – I am against asceticism in general as being inhuman and likely to backlash – instead, we should seek to fill the tribal void: find your tribe! Find the tribe that for you is a positive identification. It is easy to test whether your identification is positive or negative: Does it tend to make you love or hate identities other than your own?

To those of you who greet my thesis with skepticism, I offer this parallel: Can you imagine a misogynist man or a man-hating woman in a loving relationship with a person of the opposite sex? Clearly their feelings are driven by the absence of something that their human nature requires. What is the solution to their problem? To deny that love is important? To claim that love is bad? A man who finds true love will tend to love all women, and a woman all men.

UPDATE: Amritas responds.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at September 6, 2004 10:07 AM
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I am reminded of the Snow Crash / Diamond Age world(s?), where humanity has splintered into elective groups. These are all distributed through each other, though most have some kind of central enclave that is exclusive to them. The basic point is that membership in the tribe carries with it the tribe's legal system. Beyond that there is minimal common justice, aimed at preventing inter-tribal conflict and coercion of individuals.

If you haven't read these books, I heartily recommend them - the writing is fantastic, as well as the backdrop.

Personally I doubt that such a system could be achieved starting from our current situation. However, as we move towards the Accelerando / Singularity / name-of-the-week period of human history, I see the possibility for space habitats set up for different tribes with their own laws, etc., as sovereign nations, with the difference that citizenship would be elective and ideological rather than purely geographical.

Posted by: Dominic at September 7, 2004 10:50 AM Permalink

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