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Mitch SMith


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Neo-tribalism - solving the identity crisis of humanity.

More and more, I get the signal that many, if not most, of the problems we are confronted with today trace to the collapse of our identity - as individuals and communities.

My idea in this conversation is neo-tribalism.

At the base of this idea is a recognition of our evolved capacity to conduct social advantage as a survival strategy - and how we now face the critical choices that will determine if evolution got it right in the case of humans .. or if we will become no more than a fossil record for the ponderings of some other species that got it right..

I encourage readers here to review Robert Sapolsky's work on primate social organisation - it helps get a larger picture if you understand that primates are very experimental in geographical time-scale.

We, as a primate experiment, seem to have gotten out of balance since the last ice age. we have entered into many exponential dynamics that all appear to be converging in the next few decades.

Personally, I feel that it is inevitable - that we are far less in control of what happens than we would like.

That said - Have we over-reached our own capacity?
And should we now consider a partial return to what we are designed to be?

My idea asks this question:

Are we tribal by default?

And if we are - should we not respect this - to the extent that our tribal limits are recognised in everything we attempt to progress our integration in the world we participate in?

I suggest that we are tribal.

And I suggest that our tribes cannot be more than 150 productive adults plus dependants.

I suggest that the "family of man" is a deep mistake and that the real advance is, not in the unification of all humans, but the unification of human tribes.

I suggest that we should abandon the notion of all humans in harmony and get on with the job of all tribes in harmony.

Please discuss?

I have some observation which I will share in the process.


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  • Oct 13 2013: Mitch,

    Could not agree more. I feel we are and have always been tribal. It seems it occurs a lot sooner than I thought and may be built into our genes.


    I think the tribes are like most individuals and does not pay attention unless their goals/desires/needs are impacted. The question comes in when two or more tribes have opposing goals/desires/needs.
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      Oct 17 2013: Hi Wayne,

      Many thanks!
      This observation is in line with the experiments run by Jane Elliot:

      It is an eye-opener for sure.

      We are aware of the negative propensities in our nature.
      It focuses attention on the need for regulation, and how regulation itself is subject to the same propensities.
      Policy is a blunt tool - one that gets blunter over time .. the need for dynamic policy arises .. and then the need to cull the mountain of policy that results.

      Here, I observe that custom might be superior to written law, but that written law might be better applied at the inter-tribal level. Certainly, the middle-eastern religions sought to solve the inter-tribal legislative question. They had the advantage of recognising the fundamental tribal unit .. this has become obscure in the globalist world.
      That's not to say that religions got it right .. but I think it is a wrong-turn to abandon the advances they had achieved.
      The item that snags my attention right now is the function of "totem".
      If one assumes that totem is the prime identifier of tribe, then the work of producing a functioning inter-tribal legislature will be concerned entirely with totem.
      As it stands, totem is being used to disintegrate tribes rather than integrate them (advertising).

      Dmitry Orlov has some interesting observations on how the economic model operates on the totemic level - and influences tribal cohesion - by having the opportunity of watching the Soviet Union disintegrate, and transition into globalism, he gets insight into the defaults that emerge in functional economy.
      • Oct 17 2013: I remember this experiment and others similar to it. What scares me is that it seems to be in the genes.
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          Oct 17 2013: Well .. perhaps we have to examine why it scares us?

          Saving people from death is seen as a virtue, but is it?
          Solving the population crisis through the green revolution only paved the way for more death - with interest. And if we can contrive another revolution, and another, then the debt only mounts - as exponential as the interest.
          So it is that the wise counsel us to abandon fear of death.

          When you look at what genes do, you see that they don't just have single-state outcomes, they command a range of modes that react according to signal.
          So .. a policy that is sound in one mode, is disastrous in another mode.
          I keep harping-on about Sapolsky's discovery of the matriarchal/patriarchal modes of baboon tribe-behaviour.
          Each is stable - but which is appropriate?

          If death is not to be feared as a matter of policy and virtue, then which mode is it that returns it to virtue?
          And what is it in death that makes any difference? At that point one puts death aside and examines "harm".

          Our notions of morality - and the codes/laws that flow from it .. this seems to have individual advantage balanced against community advantage.
          And then you see that the simplistic notion of community fails to deliver infinite hierarchies of towns, cities, states, nations, empires, trade-blocs and globals - it all becomes intractably ad-hoc past the boundary of the tribe.

          What if we accepted xenophobia? What if, in accepting it, we got an opportunity to investigate it with the intent to make it work better?

          I think that while we treat these things with repugnance, we will never truly look at what they really are. And if we don't look, we will never deal with them.
          I can see a time coming soon where we will need that vision.

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