Thursday, October 9, 2014

before you join a tribe part three: homogeneity

Welcome to part three of Before you join a tribe. If you missed the introduction and part one, you can find it HERE and for part two you can click HERE.

For all the tribe joiners in our midst who have decided that they are ok with honoring their elders, giving them a seat at the table and have accepted the practice of following the sage advice without argumentation or dissention, I’d like to present one final characteristic of tribal life for you’re your consideration.

This may be stating the obvious, but tribes are homogenous. I sense that the comfort of homogeneity is what lures Americans towards tribal culture in the first place. Whether the tribe is exclusively for young-moms-who-attachment-parent-babies-with-hipster-names, or for mildly-pretentious-urban-dwelling-social-justice-seekers, or for clever-and-aspiring-bloggers-dying-to-be-published - (and I could probably join any one of those tribes) people flock to that group because there they find like-minded folks with whom to share the journey. There is not a single soul on this earth that desires to go at it completely alone. Even the most introverted among us want and need friends and we find such incredible security in being surrounded by those who hear us and get us and choose to follow the same path. Contention is draining and wounds of offense can take ages to heal and it is always easier to do life with those who are set on helping you fly instead of clipping your wings. Tribal homogeneity often eliminates disparate opinions and that makes us feel good.


But one-ness with a tribe depends on more than shared, positive feelings and like thought. Consider that the homogeneity of the tribe is primarily genetic. A person is born into a tribe – an Aushi will never be an Ngoni no matter how Ngoni he acts or thinks or feels. The Aushi are Aushi by blood which means mobility is not possible. To be rejected by or to voluntarily leave ones tribe is to know isolation in the severest of forms. There is no “Southern Baptist today, Anglican tomorrow.” You cannot be a “recovering republican" amidst your new found liberal tribe. Tribal identity is human identity. One does not select tribal alliance as flippantly as one selects emoticons for a status update.

Furthermore, for all the wonderful harmony that a tribe seems to possess, this peaceable community dynamic comes at the expense of transformative discussion and debate.

Members of a homogenous tribe are rarely challenged by other people to think or act differently. Tribal cultures, particularly those that subscribe to animistic worldview, maintain harmony through passive acquiescence and submission. The MO is usually, “this is the way we do it. fall in, or get out.”

The more like-minded the group of people, the less freedom a person has to challenge, the less chance a person will be challenged, the less chance a person will grow.

Doreen and Felistas with peanut shell earrings. I'd consider joining their tribe. ;)

Because I recognize my own tendency to drift towards the safety and security of my own “tribes,” 
I have to consciously seek out friendships with other tribes so that I learn and come to appreciate what common ground exists with those who are not theologically reformed, ivy league, free-range young moms. For my own good, I need to take meals with other ethnicities and talk politics with alternate lifestyles and learn contentment from diverse economies. And if I fail to do so, if I hang with my own tribe for too long, I don’t feel loved so much as I feel smug, confident in my own rightness when everyone around me keeps confirming my opinions because that’s what tribes do. 

For my own good, I need people looking at me with stink eyes, questioning my philosophy and probing my motivation. I need new information, alternate techniques, and answers from beyond the familiar. Diversity of thought and opinion is what pushes my boundaries, cements my few convictions and challenges my unfounded, made-up rightness about everything else. The result is that I become a more thought provoking, empathetic being, one that can survive outside the realm of having her ego stroked and who lives inquisitive and concerned. I like who I am when I'm outside of my familiar "tribes" and I like the person that good and challenging social environments make me become.

And so, dear friends, where does this leave you? Desperately searching for that feel good group of people to call your tribe and agree with your everything? Or embracing the beauty of diversity and growth. I know, I know, when I put it that way... But as much as I hope this blog reflects on what is, I hope it equally challenges us to what could be. Tribes are sexy and all the cool people are telling us to join theirs and it sounds oh so alluring, but if homogeneity will never make us into the kind of people we want to be, are we still ok with that?

1 comment:

  1. Love your thinking Bethany! Amazing isn't it how these principles transend cultures today?