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Quite frankly, I am sick of all the excuses made these days for the chaos in our society. Everyone seems to have their favorite cause or group to blame, and others lament that particularly the violence in our society is “complicated,” as if that explains the disruption all around us. I want to take a different perspective on our situation, and you can decide if my thoughts are credible or not. The framework I want to use is an ancient yet prevalent phenomenon: the tribe.
Tribes became one of our oldest affiliation groups centuries ago. People figured out that in a tribe, they could seek out protection, relationships, and collaboration for food and security. We know of the 12 tribes of Israel; in American history, we have the many Indian tribes. Countries all over the world expanded out of the tribal tradition.
Today we could say that all of us belong to tribes of one sort or another: nuclear families, extended families, religious groups; service clubs, boy scouts and girl scouts, fraternal groups. In college, we’ve seen sports teams, ROTC groups, religious clubs, affiliation groups, and recreational clubs, too. To one degree or another, these groups meet the criteria for tribes, as I’ve defined them here. They provide opportunities to build human relationships; they provide a clear mission yet are broad enough to serve most of their members. There are opportunities for leadership, rules to guide the members in their interactions with each other and the community, a commitment to a higher purpose, friendship, and interpersonal support.