Blackfoot, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Crow, Apache, Arapahoe…
The reality of tribes is sadly unavoidable in discussing the troublesome “social animal” design (flaw) of our species, but it’s something that makes me feel a little gross whenever I talk about it.
If you interpreted that to mean that I personally find people to be gross, that’s not too far off the mark.
Of course, we all have an ever-shifting assemblage of tribes to fulfill our strange need for a consensus. As you accurately surmised, my current circle of influence is relatively small, and the most significant constituent of those interlocking associations happens to be a dog. In high school, I fell in with a singularly bizarre and fiercely independent group of friends who stayed in touch far longer than one might expect post-graduation. In recent years, it seems we’ve all realized the wisdom in finally cutting that umbilical, but a few remain close friends. In the late 80s, our common bond was a ludicrous sense of humor and an affinity for partying. These days, the only sure common bonds that remain are bilateral symmetry and opposable thumbs. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Regardless, much of their former influence has proven indelible.
I’ve had my drinking tribe that necessarily moved on once I stopped imbibing. The specifically non-drinking “recovery” tribe with whom I briefly fell in at that point quickly proved far too insipid and childishly religious for my tastes. I’ve inadvertently found myself in the midst of other appropriate tribes revolving around punk rock, writing, philosophy, Buddhism, shared political views, and terrible Nickelodeon shows. I am a person and I am not quite a hermit (yet), so all of this is naturally par for the course.
But as you alluded to in the final paragraph of your letter, the word itself with its newly odious sociopolitical implications makes me bristle at its very utterance. I remember just a few short years ago, I often found it cute when another blogger would refer to their readership as “their tribe”. It was relatively innocuous and seemed to foster a sense of inclusion and acceptance. I no longer find it cute. It’s gross.
I don’t consider co-workers to be a tribe. Generating income in a soul-crushing job is the new pursuit of former hunter-gatherers, and the randomness of a company’s staff coupled with the involuntary nature of having to work for a living takes the common bond tribal aspect right out of it. It can be a tribe if you’re lucky enough to enjoy the company of your fellow automatons, but I would guess that this is a comparative rarity.
People will continue to float in and out of my life for as long as I continue inhabiting this planet. I try not to attach to them. Emotional independence is literally all I’ve got going for me.
I also have a very short attention span, my recent monomaniacal blog page notwithstanding. Usually, within a pretty short time frame, I can extract all the inspiration, education and camaraderie that I seek from a person. After that, I simply remember them fondly as having been among that rarest of tribes: people who don’t make me want to vomit. Is it any surprise I’ve never had the desire to marry?
I know that some of this might sound pretty cold, but I venture that it’s true of all of us, to varying degrees. Embracing an ever-shifting cast of characters while former tribe members necessarily fall off is a form of non-attachment and as such, seems to be a somewhat healthy psychological outlook.
Do you, like me, secretly admire the simple and the stupid? They may need bigger and more clamorous tribes than you and I, but I also surmise that most of them are considerably happier. Am I just jumping to arrogant conclusions when I assume such things or do you agree that the bigger one’s intellect, the more potential for depression and existential ennui?
Does my aversion to social media have anything to do with my ever-increasing lack of tolerance for my own species?
Forget that last question, I don’t care if it does.