by Joe Courter
When I started thinking about what this next Publisher Note should be, the concept of tribal thinking came to me. Our mass society is very alien to the human behavior and cultural experience we evolved with. We as a species, up to the present, lived in smaller groupings, with quite varied cultural practices and attitudes from regions we don’t even consider far away now. There were rivalries and conquests, but also cross-fertilization and trade, not only in goods, but ideas. Now we are still feeding from the same cultural trough.
But, within that, we still have our tribal differences, ones we consciously or unconsciously select. If you follow cable news, the MSNBC tribe’s news is quite different from the FOX news tribe’s. Wall Street Journal is quite different from Democracy Now. And now with the proliferation of websites, you can plug into all kinds of information silos, some which are spot on in their analysis, some which build mountains of bullshit from scraps of repeated data of dubious merit. I think a lot of people can even lose their sense of tribe; feel lonely, alone, even desperate. But for most people, life is a flow with other more or less like-minded people. We have our musical tastes that we develop, which have a sort of tribal feel, our vicarious ritual tribe of sports and/or religion which give pleasurable structural things to do, and our existential paradigm which can give us a hopefully purposeful life. And with that, then comes your life, making your way with work, play, family and friends.
But even more now than back in time, there can be clashes when there develops a collision of tribes, or maybe for this point we will say interest groups. These interest groups can have behaviors and attitudes which become incomprehensible to the other. What we all witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri in the last weeks was a moment that catalyzed actions that were driven to even larger proportions by our media, always happy to stir things up in their quest for viewer share. Police misbehavior undoubtedly added to the conflict, all too visible, thanks to the people’s media of cell phone videos and Youtube.
For all the efforts of White people to understand the impact of Mike Brown’s body laying in the street, and our own feelings of mistrust of the police in certain situations, none of us can know what it means to be Black in our society. The oppressor class just can’t comprehend it, much as men have trouble understanding how women feel in our patriarchal society, or how a third world people feel when another nation occupies it. This has blown up way past tribes, and all that can be hoped for is that common interests can overcome differences between interest groups. We can hope that coming out of Ferguson there can be a greater dialog and understanding of the state of affairs that allowed a situation like what took place to develop, and allies of human rights, human opportunities, non-militarized policing, and economic justice can come together.
All this pales with the collision of interest groups playing out in the Ukraine, in Gaza, and in the Iraq/Syria area. Fueled by high and low tech weaponry, foreign policy agendas are being pushed by distant or neighboring powers. Ruthless behaviors killing on a grand and gaudy scale, whether with missiles, bombs, bullets or blades – and made available to our TV screens and computer monitors – shock us, numb us, influence us. It is hard to watch, and understandable why a lot of people don’t.
The big picture for humans right now is daunting. When I was 11 years old it was duck and cover time. Now that I am in my sixth decade of existence, I can look back and see that a lot of the problems we face now as a species were just starting then. So how to cope?
Do what you can where you are. Get with others to get that tribal feeling rekindled. Get active and find purpose. If you are here in Alachua County,F we are rich in cultural and social change opportunities and wonderful climatic conditions.