16 April 2007

What's Your Tribe?

Is that the question behind almost all human interaction?

Used to be, 30,000 years ago and more (or at least it seems like it used to be, nobody really knows for sure), your tribe was a mix of your genes and location. All members of a tribe shared a basic knowledge set, and were cousins, if not even closer relatives. There may have been some specialization, but for the most part everyone knew how to do every other persons function, or at least that's what the archaelogical record suggests.

At some point, for some unknown reason, someone got the bright idea to specialize. Turns out if you do the same thing enough times and pay attention to what you're doing, you might just get better with time.

Fast forward a thousand generations or so, and now everything is specialized to an astonishing degree. Add to that the internet where every specialization, every quirk, every hobby, every kink, every addiction can be shared, displayed, obsessed over, indulged, and fed.

But what does that have to do with tribes? Folks now can't rely on family bands to offer identity, instead we are constantly defining and redefining ourselves with each person we meet, and in each social circumstance.

Every choice you make becomes an identifier of which tribe(s) you want people to associate you with.

Mac v PC, Sony v Nintendo v Microsoft, Red Sox v Yankees, Trojans v Bruins, Chicago v NY Style (Pizza), Cat Fancier v Dog Lover, Horde v Alliance, Original Trilogy v Prequels (OK, that one doesn't count, that's no contest).

I think a certain degree of xenophobia and xenophilia is inborn in all folks. We are repulsed and attracted to that which is different from how we identify ourselves. There are evolutionary reasons why both might be attractive to a population. On the one hand, a small band with an especially good mutation would be advantaged by only breeding with those like themselves, but bands that have a history of favoring those unlike themselves have the advantage of new blood regularly. That ambivalence might be hardwired. Now that each of us carry identities born not just from who are parents are, or where we were born, or what gods (or non-gods) we worship, or who we choose to rub genitals with, I think we feel the need to both justify our own choices while casting suspicion on those that choose otherwise. It's an impulse from a dark and primordial place. Now that impulse finds expression across a variety of matrices.

It isn't pretty, it isn't rational, it just is.

So, if you love riding cycles, you can't just enjoy cycling, you have to hate folks in cars, if you are proud of making eco-friendly choices in your personal life, you can't just be satisfied with that, you have to despise folks who continue to 'pillage the planet', if you are a non-smoker, any soot-souled and soiled individual who dares to puff around you needs to be ostracized.

Is this something we could change? Is this something we should change? Does this look infected (wrong question, nevermind)?

If you need to blame somebody or something for these ramblings, blame the comments from this week in blogging in the comments at So Quoted. I take responsibility for the thoughts that are my own, and I deflect blame over there (or give credit if you like) for the concepts inspired by that thread.

And speaking of ridiculously specialized skills and how these odd skills are now appreciated more widely than they might have been in the past, I give you Billy Marks Balls (ping pong type).

(alternately you can divide the world into the tribe of folks who believe these tricks are real and the tribe of folks who believe that they were done through computer-aided devilry)

(hat tip throwing things)


bill said...

It was a great man who said: When two tribes go to war
A point is all you can score

Pastor_Jeff said...

That video is so totally awesome. And the Rocky music seals the deal.