Friday, July 1, 2011
Tribes & The diminishing hope for peace and unity
The word tribe or tribal usually brings to our minds images of half naked people covered in seemingly funny body mutilations and drawings living in small groups in the jungle.
But its true meaning goes way beyond the common place understanding of the word.
According to dictionary a tribe is “a division, class, or distinct portion of people, from whatever cause that distinction may have originated”.
It usually helps to understand what words were meant to convey when they were first constructed, rather than what they have come to mean today after decades, if not centuries of misuse.
So coming back to the real meaning of the word tribe we see that any sub group that exists in humanity today constitutes a tribe.
Hence every culture, nation, religion, region, language, color, caste based division that exists in the world today constitutes a tribe of its own.
And each of these groups has its own ideas about everything. They have their unique social norms and practices, religious rituals and beliefs, sense of clothing, taboos, and notions of attractiveness and so on.
And since each of these groups makes a tribe, all people who identify themselves with any of these groups and follow the belief system of their respective group are tribal by the very definition of the word.
For example every patriotic Indian, American, German, or every fervent Muslim, Christian, Hindu is a tribal person.
Till people continue to be a part of these existing tribes, and follow the belief systems that were fed into them by their society they will be tribal.
For instance notions of beauty in our modern world are in a way as tribal as in the Mursi tribe of Africa.
Just like their sense of self-mutilation as an idea of attraction might be based on some irrational concepts or traditions that have been going on for a long time so are our modern ideas of self-mutilations.
Just like their notions of beauty might not appeal to us, ours might seem equally unattractive to them, simply because we hold on to our tribal notions, and they to theirs.
The point being that not only does the concept of self mutilation as a form of self expression seem pointless, and illogical. But also that it has turned into another tribal concept or fad that people blindly follow.
Every body in the modern world wants to get a tattoo or a piercing done because they see people around them do it and because it has been accepted as a sign of beauty, attractiveness and coolness. And who doesn't want to be cooler than the people around them? Everybody does. And the moment you follow a lifestyle blindly, you are tribal.
And while our approach towards self mutilation might seem a little more refined than the people from jungle tribes, we can always find extreme cases of mindless self mutilation even in the urban jungle.
Besides reducing self-expression to mere physical appearance is as shallow as it can get. Self-expression should be about expressing one's true inner self.
But to find one's unique self-identity, individuality one needs to look into him or herself. And since most people have no interest in exploring themselves, they are all more or less the same individuals from within, and try to find their individuality on the surface through external modifications to their shallow selves.
Their individuality is only skin deep.
So if you are a person who blindly follows any norms, rules and ideologies of a society, instead of being an independent thinker who comes to his own intelligent conclusions about life separate from the herd you are tribal.
It must be clear by now, that more than anything else being tribal is a state of mind. It is a way to go about life- an ignorant way, that requires people to be a blind follower of patterns and practices.
While a few tribes might have come into existence simply as remote totally isolated cultures, we see that instead of these cultures coming together and uniting as they are slowly being exposed to one another, they are headed quite in the opposite direction.
Not only do these different tribes of nations, religions and so on rigidly refuse to come together, but these existing tribes themselves are further being divided into more and more subgroups.
Because we see ourselves detached from everything else around us, we as individuals constantly tend to search for our individual identity detached from the over all one, the whole of humanity. And no matter how further we keep dividing humanity into smaller and smaller groups, there will always be a person or more who will still feel the need to detach him/her/ them selves from the existing divisions and create an identity of their own by further dividing humanity.
Our ego creates an image of 'me' and 'my'. And the concept of 'my' can attach itself to anything including ideas and notions. So ego attaches itself to ideas, notions, way of life as 'my', and wants nothing to do with anyone who doesn't agree with these notions. Every single person wants to see other people live according to his/her belief system.
And when other people don't act according to one's belief system, one's ego in order to feel superior to the other people, and their ideologies tries to detach itself from all that doesn't agree with it's ideas by creating a label for itself 'my' separate from the rest that is 'not-my'.
So we see that the existence of divisions is necessary for the ego to satisfy its need to feel superior. For example the divided identity of a group like Hindus needs to exist and persist separate from the Muslims and other religions so that each of these groups can feel superior to one another. That is the reason that these groups never agree to grow beyond these divisions and come together. The need to feel superior surpasses all human intelligence in this case.
This is very visible in the fact that every existing group of humanity believes itself to be superior compared to the rest. Hindus feel superior to other religions, and so do Muslims, Christians, Jews and so on. Every country and it's people feel superior to other countries and their people and so on. This desperate need to feel superior can be observed in every walk of humanity both at individual and collective level.
Each individual's egoistic need to feel superior to everyone around him/her, keeps people from accepting all the other existing people, their ideas and lifestyles as part of whole of humanity, and trying to unite all of them to attain one improved unified understanding of everything only remains a dream.
Instead our ego keeps us divided from everyone and everything around us. And so instead of coming together as humanity, we are dividing humanity into smaller and smaller groups to find our individuality.
And we will keep distancing and dividing ourselves from others around us, till each one of us is utterly alone, with no other human being in sight for miles.
Hopefully then our ego will find it’s individuality. But with no one else around the whole concept of individuality and the struggle to find it might just lose its meaning.