We are all tribal

You may have noticed references in passing news stories that tribes are still very important in the identities of people in say, Libya or Afghanistan. Tribal chieftains still settle conflicts in tribal councils and tribes form alliances and war with each other. It is always interesting to see how different societies structure themselves and would be particularly interesting if it worked.

Old Testament tribes
Old Testament tribes

We “moderns” tend to pooh-pooh such backwardness, as if we don’t also think in terms of tribes. We form tribes but our tribes identify not on kinship lines, but on socioeconomic or political lines.

We have the OnePercent vs. the Ninety-Nine Percent, Liberals vs. Conservatives and Left vs. Right. We have leaders, councils, a distressing sense of superiority that our tribe is the best and the rest are Barbarians.

One man who is supposed to be an expert on tribes in the Middle East is Carl Salzman. I read some of his articles, which are very informative, but I noticed a certain hostility beneath the information. “Those Arabs!” he says, “They are violent, they are clannish, they see their tribe as the best and they approach everything as “us vs. them.”

But Professor Salzman, you are saying exactly what tribes have always said: We are the best and those other people are barbarians.

After further research, I found out Professor Salzman is a member of the Zionist tribe.

Tribal council Afghanistan
Tribal council Afghanistan

The Pashtuns, consisting of at least 60 tribes spread across the Afghan-Pakistan border, don’t control any media, but if they did they might write that they are the best because they are hospitable, brave and operate under a code of honor, while other tribes are selfish and rude, cowardly and disloyal and have no honor. Barbarians.

The Pashtuns have repelled all invaders through their movement which you may have heard of-the Taliban. They have repelled,in the past twenty years, what we call the world’s two top superpowers-the USSR and the USA.

“The Taliban!” you may be thinking, “they are terrible! They are mean to women and…violent…and barbaians.” But then, ask yourself, how much does that verdict depend on our own tribal alliances?

Forming tribes, thinking ours is the best and the rest are barbarians is apparently just human nature. But it leads to violence. What to do?

1). Admit that we are all “tribal,” and that we are NOT going to be objective and rational about it.

2). Remember that history demonstrates that tribes sometimes got along fine. They do not have to love or even approve of each other, as long as they respect each other.


Tribal map of USA
Tribal map of USA






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