Four kinds of tribes

All tribes are not the same. Belonging to the best kinds of tribes feels especially right. Yet any tribe will do when we're craving that tribal feeling. I've come to the conclusion that we are hard wired for tribal experiences, just as we are for storytelling and predictions. They way we feel about belonging, solidarity, and bonding with others runs deeper than the feeling that we enjoyed some entertainment or distraction from drudgery. I suspect we will settle for the worst kinds of tribes because the feelings run so deep and so strongly. It's like an experience I had as a teen. When was staying at a farm in Kansas one summer, I discovered that well water tasted so bad it was undrinkable when I wasn't thirsty, but could be gulped down without hesitation when I was parched from hours in the hot sun. Any tribe will do when we're thirsty for tribal feelings.

I've been playing around with different ways to tell the difference between tribes after David Ronfeldt pointed me in the direction of some wonderful online resources. Steven Pressfield has created five videos in an inspiring series he's titled "It's the Tribes, Stupid". He's also launched a blog to explore the tribal mindset where he's quoted an op-ed piece Ronfeldt submitted to the LA Times "21st Century tribes" as well as linked to a paper Ronfeldt wrote: Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

The first satisfactory split that occurred to me divided tribes by their kinds of geographies:
  1. Some tribes have adapted to desert terrains, mountainous regions or urban decay. It goes with their territory to be patriarchal, war-mongering, doctrinaire and intolerant of weakness. The adversity in their physical environments and constant threat posed by like minded tribes would maintain a paranoid state of mind that easily justifies betrayals, beatings and beheadings. They pose threats to neighboring countries and internal governments by acting out their unmet needs, inescapable survival issues and chronic anxiety from so much desperation in their lives. They maintain order by a consensual honor code that requires insults, grudges, and retaliation for dishonor.
  2. Other tribes that have adapted to edible landscapes: jungles, forests, and river basins. It goes with their territory to be neighborly, nature loving and creative. Their consensual frame of mind yields handicraft traditions, healing arts, and nurturing approaches to individual differences. These tribes are equally timeless, disinterested in progress and insular as warrior tribes. Yet these tribes realize solidarity, identity and other psychological benefits of membership by sharing their surplus, communal child rearing, and other cooperative endeavors. They are harmlessly acting out their satisfied needs, freedom from survival issues and continual gratitude from so much abundance in their lives. They maintain order by fearing the metaphysical consequences from ancestor, evil and nature spirits who are imagined to be omnipresent, easily offended and keenly observant.
The other parsing of differences between kinds of tribes followed research into employee engagement that the Gallup organization has done for the past decade. This longitudinal study is mentioned in a book I'm reading: Primal Management. The Gallup research studies categorize employees as either engaged, disengaged or actively disengaged. I got to thinking there must be a fourth category: actively engaged. It was omitted in their research for the same reasons we cannot taste our own tongue or raise up a step stool when we're standing on it. The fourth category is what the Gallup research, publications and consulting are doing to the levels of employee engagement it's measuring. It would require measuring their measuring to convey that impact. When I applied these differences to tribes, here's the four kinds I've defined:
  1. Actively disengaged tribes are destroying order, stability and the lifestyles of others. They are battling against oppressors, abusers and injustice. They are devoted to seeing others as enemies, demons and inhuman who need to be stopped, destroyed and eliminated. They are right in their own minds to make non-members out to be entirely wrong to avoid taking any responsibility for their effects on others. Their imaginations as paranoid. They are expecting the worst and accumulating confirming evidence relentlessly.
  2. Disengaged tribes are maintaining order, stability and value for themselves. They are keeping to themselves, keeping out of trouble, and keeping things from changing. They are devoted to seeing themselves as special, destined and enduring. They are right in their own minds to make non-members out to be ordinary, directionless and non-essential so as to avoid taking any responsibility for their effects on others. Their imaginations are magical. They are expecting metaphysical interventions and accumulating confirming evidence relentlessly.
  3. Engaged tribes are innovating new working arrangements and value that benefits themselves and others. They are contributing to collaborations, stimulating each others' creativity and bringing out the best in tribal members. They realize the solidarity that is characteristic of tribes without sacrificing their intellectual prowess, technological sophistication, innovativeness or responsiveness to outsiders/customers. They are right in their own minds to make non-members out to be boring, uncreative and inflexible so as to avoid taking any responsibility for their effects on those others. Their imaginations are innovative. They are expecting inspirations or breakthrough syntheses and accumulating confirming evidence relentlessly.
  4. Actively engaged tribes are transforming the context which has perpetuated the confirming evidence for each of the other kinds of tribes. They are making it safe for the other kinds of tribes to no longer be right in their own minds as they make non-members out to be dissimilar. They provide living examples of creating developmental experiences for others which open up new possibilities, revise the definitions of obvious problems and free people from their long history of self-confirming evidence. They are right in their own minds to make non-members right in their own minds as if there are four ways to be right. Their imaginations are visionary. They are expecting situations to be transformed by coming from a better place, seeing them differently and acting accordingly. They also accumulate confirming evidence relentlessly.
This framework for four kinds of tribes provides a map for transforming the forms that provide a tribal feeling a great cost or to the exclusion of others.

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