Who Belongs to Your Tribe?

Modern Tribes
Modern Tribes

After spending 90,000 years in tribes, we humans still carry tribal characteristics and probably always will. One essential characteristic is identifying fellow tribe members-who belongs to your tribe? This was a life and death determination. Is that individual part of the family, a potential trading partner or is he an existential threat?

You may say, “That’s absurd. We have progressed beyond such primitive ideas, except for a few scattered groups in backward parts of the world.”

Have we? I maintain humans have not changed fundamentally over the past 100,000 years. Our ancestors wanted to stay alive, just like we do. They were every bit as smart, moral/immoral and innovative as we are. They only lacked our technology, which we did not invent all at once when we became enlightened, but one invention built upon another over the millennia. “If I have seen further than other men it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants,” is attributed to Isaac Newton but even this betrays the Great Man concept. Rather than giants, we stand on the shoulders of multitudes of clever unknowns.

In times of stress we still try to solidify our tribe. If something is wrong, it is likely the doing of a foreign invader. Who is it? Who is different? Who is “not us?” “Un-American?” This is not only perfectly natural, it is inevitable. Since the tragically cascading crash of 2008, this sifting out of non-tribe members has accelerated.

The world-wide rise of what is labeled “the far right” is a manifestation of the more fearful tribal members acting aggressively toward the “invaders.” Anders Brievik, who murdered 77 “multiculturalists” in Norway in 2011 wrote a 1,500 page manifesto explaining why he was a hero for doing so. Basically he said the blue-eyed blonde Norwegians and their “way of life” (which equals life itself) was under attack by foreign tribesmen-Muslim immigrants. The immigrants would out-reproduce the natives and use the Norwegian democracy to simply vote them selves into power. His argument contains a cold logic. If his facts are correct, his conclusion is correct. His facts were not correct. When women become educated and household income increases, birth rate goes down.

All far right positions contain a cold, if simplistic logic. Census figures show that America will turn browner as the years go by and the Mayberry/Little House on the Prairie way of life will be lost forever. Melanin is a quick identifier of tribe members. Original Americans were white. Well not the original, original Americans, not the Native Americans, but the Real Americans-they were white. Now things are going badly and it is the fault of some foreign invaders, some fifth column. The Commies are done for-who is invading now?

This is not as irrational as it may seem if you realize we spent 90,000 years in tribes. Imagine living in tribal days and spotting a few strangers. Who are they? Are they related to you? Are they here to steal your women and pigs? Are they spies for an army that wants to steal everything and carry your children off into slavery? It is not irrational because it has happened, over and over again. Jared Diamond in the World until Yesterday describes how traditional New Guineans will closely question any strangers regarding their bloodline. Perhaps they are related somehow? Otherwise, they should be killed.

It seems nations can absorb a lot of immigrants with few hassels IF:

1)    The newcomers are willing to pay their dues. That is, work as hewers of wood and drawers of water for a generation or so.

2)    The newcomers adapt the clothing, values and customs of the settled tribe. Otherwise, they remain quite suspect.

3)    The newcomers arrive in reasonably small numbers so the tribe can keep their eye on them.

This is just the way it works. If I were going to live in another country, I would assume I would need to learn their language, follow their laws and adapt their customs. I would not stop being Polish and a Christian. This has worked, over and over again, around the world but perhaps especially in America. America has been enriched by taking in new tribe members, otherwise we would still be eating boiled beef and dancing the minuet.

Egypt: Frenchman Dies in Police Custody amid rising Xenophobia    


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