Humans are tribal beings. According to the social sciences, we have the ability to bond with approximately one to two hundred people. However, because of increased population and the reach of social media, the concept of the tribe has expanded.
Here is a partial list of different kinds of tribes that exist in our society in no particular order.
When I look at this list, two things pop out at me. First, the height of the entry barriers to each of these tribal types differs greatly. Second, the glue that holds them together is of varying strengths.
The highest entry barrier is blood or family. The only way to get into that tribe is through birth, adoption or marriage.
The second highest is geography. People who have moved from one place to another know that the locals—i.e. people who were born and raised in certain area—have a stronger link that binds them than the new people can ever create.
The third highest barrier is language and so on.
As such, it is easier to join a sports fan tribe, where the entry barrier is affiliation to the team, than to join a friendship tribe, where time, experience, and degrees of trust play a vital role. Of course, when you mix family and geography with sports, then the entry barrier becomes higher and you have to prove yourself if you ever want to belong.
On the other end of the spectrum, the tribe with the lowest entry barrier is the tribe of humanity, to which we all belong.
There is a strong relationship between height of the entry barrier and the strength of the glue that holds the tribe together. The higher the entry barrier, the stronger the glue.
“Family sticks together.”
“Go [fill in the blank] fans.”
In addition to that, the more elements you mix together, the stronger the glue becomes. The most cohesive tribes are usually ones that share the largest number of high entry barriers, such as, geography, language, unity of protection, unity of purpose, unity of belief, tradition, friendship, etc.
From Cohesion to Aggression
From an evolutionary standpoint, belonging to a tribe has been absolutely vital. Even today there is much good that can be said about strong cohesion. It provides everything from a network of physical, emotional, and financial support, to a personal identity, strong emotional connections, and much more, with a sense of belongingness at its core. Nobody can deny that belonging to a tribe creates a special feeling.
However, tribal mentality can easily go from, “We are great together,” to, “It’s us against them.” Where that line is exactly is hard to tell, but, historically, tribes are probably best known for having crossed the line from cohesion to aggression over and over again.
Things to Contemplate
Think about the tribes you belong to, the strength of the glue that holds them together, and the height of the entry barriers that surround those tribes. Most importantly, think about where the line between cohesion and aggression lies and decide not to cross it.
At the end of the day we all belong to the tribe of humanity. Even though the entry barrier is low, we must strive to make the glue stronger.
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We are an educational and social good interfaith organization. We provide people with access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. We use the term interfaith broadly to mean 'a strong belief in someone or something' and focus on improving interrelations between people who have different worldviews. Our primary goals are to remind people of our shared humanity and to support new and ongoing efforts.
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