Our Unfortunate Habit Of Creating Tribes

Sep 19, 2016 · 2 min read
© Julicos | Dreamstime.com Article By David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)


Maybe it’s our monkey DNA. Maybe if we were descended from some other breed, cats perhaps, we wouldn’t be so anxious to fanatically clump ourselves into groups, packs and tribes.

Then again, maybe it’s all a function of our self-awareness, just our egos driving some innate desire to make ourselves feel more powerful and important than we actually are alone.

By himself, Joe Sixpack is a powerless individual, living from paycheck to paycheck, nothing outstanding in his future, nothing noteworthy in his past, his todays filled with humdrum and tedium.

But inside Joe’s head he is not alone. He’s a member of a self-adopted pack which is famous, powerful and revered. He’s a Cheese Head or a Yankee or a Warrior. In his mind, their victories are his victories.

But Joe doesn’t stop there. He strives to self-include himself into all kinds of tribes — racial, national, religious, occupational, and social.

How many times have we heard the mob’s cry:

“Let’s go get those dirty _____[fill in the blank]!”

Without the instinct to adopt ourselves into tribes we wouldn’t have armies or mobs, crusades or jihads. Without tribes the slogans “White Power” and “Black Power” would be meaningless. No one would care.

Donald Trump calls for a ban on Muslims. ISIS calls for a holy war against everyone who is not a Salafist.


I got a call from a friend yesterday afternoon.

“Did you see the game?” he asked.

I knew the game he was talking about. It took place two thousand miles away between two groups of highly-paid men who had been carefully inserted into different sets of color-coordinated uniforms on the basis of high finance and mathematical algorithms.

The team-members themselves were temporary, ephemeral, almost interchangeable. On some future day even the cities they supposedly represented might change. Over time only the teams’ roots names remain the same.

I couldn’t stop myself from thinking of Jonathan E fighting for The Energy City.

As for any particular game itself, if not for the psychology of tribes why would anyone care?

“No,” I told him. “What happened?”

“We won!” he announced proudly.

I briefly considered telling him:

“No, you didn’t win anything. Just watching a bunch of uniforms emblazoned with the name of your city (this year) win an artificially-designed game against another set of uniforms with a different city’s name across their backs doesn’t mean you won anything.”

But I didn’t.

What would be the point?


— David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)

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Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 17 novels and over 200 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

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