We are social creatures far more than we are rational ones. The same way raindrops form on the backbone of a particle of dust, our abstract identities are an interpretive dance of interconnected values based on the particulate backbone of imperfect perception faculties coupled with what is communicated through our environment and the established cultural ideas we nurse from in youth. As social creatures, we’re wired to sacrifice accuracy on the altar of belonging. This isn’t because we’re more inclined to intentionally lie in order to belong to a group. Lies are a semi-irrelevant extension of our social nature. Our perception is geared to see what we need to see to cement the social bonds we depend on to live.
We ride aloft on the thermals of our innate social hungers, interpreting imperfect sensory data through a distorted cultural lens that was forged by environmental factors largely beyond the reach of our time, place and capability to influence. Once established, this lens becomes much more an inward projection of installed prejudices than an accurate interpreter of outward events. This is why what looks like common sense to one group looks completely insane to another. Our connection to ideas is an emotional one founded on the intimacy driven by the dependency of social hunger, it is not a rational one based on objective evidence.
We build our identity from the ideological breast milk of the culture we’re baptized in from youth. This ideological perspective is largely constructed at critical periods in development – prior to developing the potential to critically question the premises on which these perspectives stand, much less the discipline to do so. Along with an installed perspective forged on social dependency and how ideas serve as social glue, we also develop an ideological immune system to protect that same identity because, in so doing, we protect what it is we conceive of as our self. In aligning this ideological profile with how it serves to bind us to a group, we become an integrated part of a larger tribal body and thus historically more resilient, adaptable, and by extension, able to survive. An examination of accuracy is not as important as an evolutionary axiom of utility. It is what is useful and arguably essential to belong that trumps accuracy.
Allegiance to local sports teams is one of the recent manifestations of tribal instinct, as is allegiance to organizations, scientific and religious ideologies as well as abstract notions like property and nationalism. So powerful is this social currency that an abstract idea can form the basis of membrane to distinguish an in-group and out-group so powerful that people will fight and die over it. This tribal social attribute has served us well in a world where we needed to navigate some almost impossible adversity over the years. At times, without these kinds of uncompromising bonds to our local tribe we would have literally died off. Social currency is the coin of the realm that outwardly symbolizes the innate values that have been structured into our human cognitive frame over the years by nature to increase our potential to endure.
Along with every advantage conferred by some innovative structure born out of nature comes a potential downside. Our emotional-social attachments to abstractions along with our social hungers can become manipulated such that they are cemented to destructive things by the same engine that once drove our survival. Our innate traits can and have been exploited in some cases to drive emotional attachments to such things as corporate brands and causes which are in opposition to our best interests. People now routinely back causes that are destructive to our individual and collective well being because of ignorance, accidental appropriation and the deliberate and artful massaging of these natural social traits to serve narrow agendas.
The wealth of any local tribe has always come from it’s capacity to cultivate its people such that they lived within their means and continually cemented the bonds of unity and awareness of that which sustained their future. Each member carried the torch for and passed it to the next generation. Finding a harmonious equilibrium with the environment while cultivating and maximizing the fruits that nourish the community is the foundation of wealth. While desperate times have called for desperate measures, from the larger perspective, tribal wealth is a byproduct of how much the members of the community give to the community, not from how much power and resource they extract from it. A vested interest in the entire social and environmental ecosystem, including each other, is the life blood of the tribe.
Over time the sharing of resources and ideas is what led to our current capacity to no longer be bound as tightly to the whims of nature’s irregular bounty. We have the capacity to steer with far more intention and have far more impact through technology, but that does not mean that we have always chosen to steer wisely. Technology has provided the capacity to greatly enrich our lives, but only if it is appropriately applied. Our technological sword comes with two edges. We now have the capacity to greatly improve our lives, but we also have the capacity to destroy our future on the altar of now. Because of overpowering tools, we are faced with the new proposition of needing to apply our capacities judiciously and from a global community perspective to ensure our survival. We cannot afford to leverage our capacities capriciously without risking the destruction of the very channels that we depend on to nourish us.
Our local success now depends on the success of the many interconnected entities that collectively form our global body. We are no longer capable of operating as separate entities – different bodies. Each of us is a vital organ in the collective body. Together we are a singular whole. To strangle one part of the body for the sake of another is not only not effective, but can only be justified on a foundation of ignorant or wanton destructiveness. It is now a matter of self interest and sustainability to have, and actively cultivate, a stake in each others success and to cultivate the environmental channels that nourish us. Each of us is individually limited to the confines of that which we collectively decide we are. A world where we nourish each others potential, instead of exploit each others weaknesses, is a world that maximizes its capacity to unlock the fruit it has to offer itself. To strengthen our voice to its full potential we must strengthen each other. To effectively raise the experience of life we have as individuals, we need to recognize how contingent each of our success is on the success of the entire tribe.
A strategy that serves well in one context can be disastrous in another. We once lived in a world where local tribal unity was essential for survival -a world where we could leverage every tool at our disposal without concern for the backlash. The environment was the primary influence that shaped our ideologies and culture. If we didn’t listen to and change with the message delivered to us through the environment, we dissolved back to the soil from which we came and no longer have a voice. We now live in a world where technology has erased the need to bend to as many aspects of the environment. Along with this capacity we have effectively eliminated the protective membrane of local geography. We now all swim in the same pond and it’s a whole lot smaller than it used to be. What we do affects us all, and to survive and thrive, we need to shift our tribal perspective from the narrow set of ideological anomalies that are metaphoric echoes of a local people’s relationship to local environments over time to see the entire earth as our tribe.