TRIBALISM: Bane of Modernity

“Looking back through human history, we see our species having evolved to live in tribal groups, where individuals support each other sharing skills and resources. Modern life is isolating and counter to our biological heritage, which leads to stress and an emptiness that we try to satiate with drugs like alcohol, food and shopping.”

  • Wulf Zendik


Tribalism is the bane of the totalitarian humanist universalism of modernity.

Unless in corporate-state-sanctioned outlets such as rooting for a sports team or being a part of a drinking club, tribalism is all but outlawed.  Shunned and thought the worldview of “barbarians”.

The specific group loyalty of tribalism causes problems in the attempts at a united “global order” based in materialistic consumerism and totalitarian humanism.  The idea that tribalism is “part of the problem” is shared by both left-leaning New Agers who lump tribalism in with negative actions and emotions such as greed and fear, as well as with  secular humanists, such the contributors at the Huffington Post, who see tribalism as a roadblock towards a “global civilization”.

If we’re to advance as a global civilization, we can’t focus on the past internecine conflicts or the way civilizations acted when we first started developing. That’s such a bone-headed way to organize ourselves today. It holds no promise because it is backward-looking instead of predicting what the future will demand. And with climate change, the potential for war, inequality and poverty, we have many problems to solve. Let’s put aside our tribal differences and focus on what the world could be like 3,000 years from now; not what it was like 3,000 years ago.

Of course, right off the bat we see the assumption here is that this “global civilization” is something to be desired.

Of course, this “global civilization” referred to is the modern Neo-Liberal empire; which in turn is simply the latest form of the old British Empire.  This empire is an evolution of the empires that came before it, and exists as the result of the ever-expanding desire for cheap consumer goods, foreign resources, and of course, the power and dominance of those who head it.

The irony here is that very tribal people who are very protective of their lineage and “their people” are at the head of this global order that tells the rest of us that there is no difference between us and that we should all “become one“.

In certain esoteric views of history, it is believed that one of the things that Christ Jesus accomplished through his incarnation was that he instilled within the faculties of man, the ability to love someone outside his “tribe”; someone who was not ethnically, racially, or even culturally like himself.  This could be seen as an expansion of mankind’s capabilities towards compassion and empathy; allowing them to move beyond that which was immediately most like him.

But the modern social application of this expansion of our faculties of love and inclusiveness now seems to have reached a point of imbalance.

It is now as though only altruism done for the stranger or someone who shares only the most basic human commonalities with us is what is lauded as most virtuous.  It is as if an act of kindness or in many cases, perceived kindness, towards the stranger or foreigner is of greater value than when it is towards family or kin.

Now we are told that to think, act and love tribally is immoral and “uncivilized”.

Adopt a child from Africa and you are a candidate for sainthood.  Adopt a child from the U.S. (particularly if they are of your own race/ethnicity) and, well, people are a lot less excited… and they might call you a racist.

And while the fruits of globalized modernity and its universalist values have certainly yielded great technological and material gain, the side-effects of degenerative disease, mental illness and an attitude of solipsistic nihilism become more virulent the closer you get to the “source” of this global modernist culture that the Neo-Marxists call “Whiteness” (i.e. America and the Western World).

We have disregarded tribalism and all that comes with it in exchange for a globalized culture that is so vast in its perimeters (7 billion in counting), that it can’t really be conceived of in more than a sort of nebulous and theoretical way.  The result of this has not been a true embracing of all, but rather the atomization and isolation of modern man by a large, impersonal system.

The larger something is, the harder it is to manage.

If you’ve ever seen anyone making a pizza crust, you see that there is a point where the dough can get too large, where, if not brought back to a manageable size, it will become unmanageable and ultimately fall apart.

British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar postulated that the maximum amount of relationships that a person can maintain in any sort of meaningful way is 150.  While that number has been debated, it is certainly less than 7 billion.   The idea that there is a limit to one’s mental/emotional capacities and resources is largely common sense, whether one admits it or not.

And despite the best attempts to create a unified cosmopolitan “global civilization”, we really just have created different tribes and different identity groups like LGBT, Feminism and Black Lives Matter.

The typical definition when used to describe tribalism is that it is something that is governed by ethnic, racial and/or religious particulars.  However, while these things will often make it much easier to establish cohesiveness in a tribe, I do not believe they are not the be-all, end-all in this Age.  But conversely, I also do not believe that organizing a tribe around these older principles is the morally reprehensible act we are led to believe it is.

At its core, a tribe is a group of individuals who share a common mission and purpose; a group of individuals who look out for each other first and foremost.  Any look at the cohesion and brotherhood among men of different races in American military units, particularly the more elite ones, and one can see that this is certainly the case.

Tribe is going through the trials and tribulations of life with the support of your brothers (or sisters) as opposed to trying to go it alone.

Tribe is strength, encouragement, accountability, and fellowship.  Tribalism is helping most those who have most helped us.  Whether you want to call it tribe, fellowship, community, etc., makes no difference.  We are looking out for those who look out for us- but not just because we need them, but because we feel love and connection for and to them.

In my view, the expanding of the heart faculties enabled by Christ allowed us to expand our definition of what tribe can be, rather than render it obsolete.  It allows for the possibilities of recruiting others from outside who can add to the overall synergy of the tribe and bring in “new life” if the group becomes weakened for whatever reason.

Tribalism is the tendency of like elements to group and cooperate with one another and is an organizing principle of Nature, not a human vice.  Of course, with the unique way that man has the faculties to shape his own evolution, it can and should evolve with him, but it will never go away and the attempts to make it do so will only cause further friction and dis-ease.

We are capable of loving outside of our ethnic, racial, religious and cultural lines, but we are not capable of serving beyond our faculties and means.

Attempting to make the entire population of Earth “one tribe”, will only inevitably fail, as humans will inevitably divide into like groups, and there will always be different groups as people are inevitably different to varying degrees.

Humans are social creatures by nature, and work best in small, cooperative, mutually supportive and nurturing groups; in teams.  These teams in turn, can cooperate and align with other groups.  And at the end of the day, most people will play better with one team over another.

It is the belief that one group has to sabotage another in order to survive and thrive that needs to be done away with, not that we function best in groups of like individuals.  Tribes can and I would argue, must, work to cooperate with other tribes and form mutually beneficial alliances.

I see human society functioning best as part of a de-centralized network of small cooperative, localized, sovereign tribal communities that act as stewards to the land they live.  We must work WITH Nature, not against it, and tribalism is part of our natural way of being, as pointed out by author Andrew Sullivan:

Tribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life.

Any act of love and service will ripple throughout the consciousness of humanity and elevate it.  Through loving and serving its members, the tribe serves the entirety of humanity.

We need to do away with the human desire for empire, not the human need for tribe.

In closing, I will leave you with the words of intuitive healer, Cas Hartley:

I cannot advise often enough that you must find your tribe… the support, the love and the healing you will give and receive through this beautiful exchange of energy is priceless. As a mother, and as a woman, I know that my life is so much better for having a tribe, a village if you will, that I can laugh with, cry with, celebrate with and grieve with. We learn together, we grow together and we each bring a unique energy to the collective. How could it possibly get better?

Namaste and WRA-ALDA’S Blessings.




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