The Long Arc of Tribalism

Publish Date
Principles Series
Last Edit
Apr 3, 2022 01:47 PM
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Among other trends, humans’ trajectory has bent steadily toward larger and larger networks. Families became tribes. Tribes became city-states. City-States became Countries, which became Empires and global alliances.
Alongside that trend, the internet and now social media are running an incredible experiment in open worldwide networks. We’re more connected and integrated than ever. And while we retain loyalties to our families, tribes, countries, and other “tribes” along the way, the internet has really made it clear that we are all part of a human tribe.
Given all this, it’d be easy to say that this grand experiment will continue until we become one global alliance broadly united in our interest of humanity rather than any one nation, ethnicity, gender, or any other subgroup. If so, social networks would appear to be critical to this.
But a contrarian view is that it won’t continue and, in fact, will snap back. And we are seeing it snap back across the political spectrum. On the far left, radicals are looking to form tribal bonds based on identity groups, while the far right is also forming tribal bonds through nationalism.
It’s been said by those who have been to space that it contributes to a view that we are all in this together.
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Though it feels like a binary choice in the moment, we do not need to choose between becoming global citizens or retreat into tribes. That is a false dichotomy.
And it is a dangerous choice to present, as many irresponsible politicians and media figures are. Our best path forward almost certainly lies between the extremes – eventually getting us to a “global citizen” mindset, yet ensuring that our path there is careful and never tips into chaos.
Of course, this doesn’t offer an easy answer as to what any individual should do. Framing in terms of the negative as “don’t be tribal” isn’t all that practical of advice. But if you do care about ensuring that we navigate this tumultuous time, then strengthening the bonds closest to you will help you to work effectively together as a team. And building empathy and connections outside your tribe will also help to build bridges rather than burn them.
“Do everything” isn’t great advice either, but it may be the best option we’ve got.