Do We Expect Too Much From Our Tribe?

I can recall an episode of “The Daily Show” in which then host Jon Stewart was “reporting” the Trayvon Martin story. He mentioned the shooter’s name, George Zimmerman, and then crossed his fingers on both hands, looked heavenward and mumbled, “Please don’t let him be a Jew, please don’t let him be a Jew.” The joke was about the name Zimmerman, often a Jewish surname, and about the fact that Stewart, a Jewish man, desperately hoped the heinous act wasn’t committed by one of his own. (Zimmerman was not one of Stewart’s own.)

We expect more of people we feel a kinship with — our race, our gender, our religion, etc. It’s as if we somehow feel responsible for how any of “us” behave. Perhaps it’s related to ancient tribalism, where people strongly identified with their tribe. Their whole way of being was based on the group to which they belonged. It was a  blueprint for life, instructing people on how to survive, providing them with a belief system and a set of rules to live by. Humans are social animals; they gravitate to other humans. Perhaps tribalism is a way of avoiding total anarchy. I’m not sure, but I know it’s as true as it’s ever been that we expect “our” people to be, basically, better than everybody else. It’s as if we believe that all of us in that tribe are represented by each of us and if any one of us behaves badly, it reflects badly on all of us.

Recently, some members of the LGBT community were annoyed with Caitlin Jenner for some political stands she’s taken and for what they see as her seeking too much publicity in the wrong ways. They think her actions somehow pollute the atmosphere surrounding all transgender people.

I don’t harbor many expectations about members of tribes to which I belong. I had expectations for my family and those were summarily dashed by the despicable decisions my siblings made during the last 30 years. Given that, how would I ever expect any better from other people? I believe we’re all just people, regardless of the “tribes” to which we belong. Ultimately the fewer circles we draw around ourselves and others the better off we’ll all be. Having said that, sometimes the success of a member of a group does lift us all. Politics aside I was proud when America elected its first black leader and, again, politics aside I will be proud when we elect our first female leader. Also, I think it’s progress that the lines of our tribes are blurring as more and more we “mix” and become closer to each other and become part of more tribes than those that once defined us narrowly.

What we need to do is to fight for the rights for all members of every tribe to have the opportunity to reflect well on themselves and others. We have to start viewing ourselves more as the human tribe and recognizing that when one of that tribe rises and succeeds, it can lift us all.

Photo credit: Christiaan Triebert via Visualhunt / CC BY

Photo credit: Christiaan Triebert via Visualhunt / CC BY

8 Responses to “Do We Expect Too Much From Our Tribe?

  • Dana Daines
    2 years ago

    I feel that tribal pull when it comes to which woman should be president. I think most people want the first representative of their group to be outstanding. Mrs. Clinton is clearly not. She makes statements everyone knows to be untrue and just continues to do so,I suppose because research indicates the more one hears something, the more likely one is to accept it (among other reasons). I think she came close to, and under other circumstances would have been charged with, treason with her disregard for the importance of cyber security when she was in a position of high responsibility. She is NOT a woman I want to represent women in the White House. Add to that, she is riding her husband’s coat tails and using his name. She did not earn where she is on her own. I would be much more pleased to see someone like Carly Fiorina who has achieved a great deal and still seems to have her intregity intact.

    • In my post I did say that my pride at seeing the U.S. elect its first female leader (when it does) was “politics aside.” In other words, I wasn’t speaking about a particular candidate, but about the concept of finally choosing a woman being something we, as a country, should do. I don’t usually write about politics, not because I don’t find them interesting, because I do, but because they are so polarizing these days and that is not my goal. Having said that, I respect Hillary by virtue of her spending her entire life dedicated to public service for her country. I haven’t always agreed with everything she’s said or done but I haven’t agreed 100% with any politician ever, including the ones I voted for! And, finally, similar to you I wouldn’t vote for just any woman just because she was female. I would have to support the majority of her policies, just the same way I choose the men for whom I will vote. They have to care about equal rights, education, the environment, health care, gun laws, and all of the things that matter to me. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your taking the time to write.

  • …I think that you nailed it with having us realize that being part of the human “tribe” or better , species , is a more pertinent definition of who we are…human beings evolved and spread throughout the planet adapting to the environments in which they lived…hence our “differences” and our diversity …throughout our evolution on this planet , humans have come to the realization that our species is part of a greater planetary ( or inter planetary ) ecosystem , interconnected through a delicate ecological balance with each other and other forms of matter both animate and inanimate…those who have come to this realization , understand that our diversity is a good thing , that it is an essential and integral part of the ecological process. Unfortunately , some of us still carry ancient beliefs that requires us to act as if we must dominate each other and other species to fit opportunistic priorities that could lead to the destruction of our planet… evolution is slow , but still in progress …if we are to survive this evolutionary phase , we have to re-evaluate our attachment to old ways of thinking and acting , see each other as one species in congruence with everything … mix races ,religions and cultures together into one that defines our “tribe” as a planetary one of which we are all members , where the success of one is the success of all…where those that would harm another, be castigated , rehabilitated and brought back into the fold…our religion , inclusion…our conviction , to act in support of each other and the planet …it is a brave act to let go of our old divisive ways …they are holding us back…let them go…they are destructive and no longer serve our survival…if you love this planet , we must set it free ….free , free , set us free…

    • Okay, this should be published somewhere with a wider audience than this blog! You have said it so well and the musical ending… perfection. Evolution. It sounds so positive and possible, even inevitable. Yet we still have some who don’t “believe,” in evolution historically or in its present tense. They don’t see diversity as power, which is definitely is. Stupid humans, those. Maybe evolution will take care of them! Really terrific, though, Barry. Thanks.

  • The human tribe ~ yes! Why can’t we all just get along?

  • I agree with what you said here Deb. We all do have a tendency to pull for our own tribe when it comes to outstanding issues, but if we’d all pull for each other no matter what our political, religious or racial statures are, it’s possible the world would be a much better place. 🙂

    • It is possible and the more who believe that, the closer we get to making it reality, right?

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