The curse of tribalism

Which came first? The extended family (the clan) or the tribe? The nuclear family seems to be a modern invention, reflecting (possibly) a social surround of physical security, an increasing material wealth, the assertion of individual expression, a confident portrayal of self-sufficiency, and something in the air or water. Societies do change gradually, but not necessarily for the better. There might be intangible currents, un-noticed until perhaps too late, which cause societal changes.

In the nuclear family, unless it reflects an arranged marriage between relatives, 2 unrelated individuals join together. The extended family, irrespective to its distribution in space, and any social connectivity, reflects blood and marital bonds. Traditionally, these have been strong, offering material and psychological support (apart from some jealousy, perhaps). The extended family is the clan.

The tribe represents a collective bound by culture (including religion), language, shared land, and an agreed lifestyle. Social stratification, kingship, a priesthood, and other manifestations of power relationships would determine variations in life-chances within the tribe. The close bond within a tribe would exclude other tribes, because of competition for sustenance and other needed or wanted resources. Tribal tensions and tribal warfare ensure that what is common between tribes is over-run by what is different (usually religion).

The following extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ reflect the curse of tribalism.

“Returning to the admixture of tribes by colonialism, in seeking to delineate their respective spheres of influence all over the world for about five centuries, peoples bonded by ethnicity and religion were split by the creation of artificial borders by the colonial ‘powers.’ The new nations thus created had a mixture of tribes with a diversity of ethnic heritages (resulting in on-going butchery of ‘the other’ in some territories).

In Europe, the home terrain of the colonial rulers, nations had been created, also about five centuries ago, on the basis of coherent tribalism; that is, an occupancy of the land, and a shared history, language, ethnicity and religion.

Within the unrealistic national boundaries created in the colonial territories, one or more lesser tribes became dominated by, or subservient to, a larger tribe. The Hindu Tamils of Ceylon, became an unequal political minority in the new nation of Sri Lanka to the majority Buddhist Singhalese after the British left; they seem to have been better off under the British. With the recent end of the claim for regional autonomy in their traditional territories by the Tamils, the Singhalese are reportedly copying the Israelis in infiltrating the lands of the minority (but without any claim that their god gave them the land in a historical past).

The breakdown of the old Yugoslavia, the devolution of political autonomy to the Scots and the Welsh within the United Kingdom, and the split of Czechoslovakia provide sufficient evidence that artificially created nations may not be durable. Pride in their ethnic heritage lead some tribes in such nations to seek independence. In the future, they may seek to merge with their counterparts in other mismatched tribal agglomerations.”