Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Humans are a tribal species. Some, we are born to; some, we have chosen for us; some, we elect ourselves -- but we tend to identify with our tribe(s), and many of us belong to several. What we eat, where we live, where we go to church, or temple or mosque, or stay home, who we hang out with, how we look at the world ... these all tend to come from things that, at their core, are tribal mores.

In this age, you can belong to a tribe whose members are far-flung and whom you have never met -- witness the power of the internet ...

This aspect of our being has been both strength and weakness, and I believe that ultimately, we will have to expand our vision of what constitutes "us" and "other" if we are to survive as a species.

Somewhere between twenty and twenty-five percent of the voters in Kentucky admitted, presumably to strangers doing the polling, that they voted against Obama because he was black. (I expect a percentage of those didn't use that polite a word.) Right in your face racism.

A certain percentage of people could not bring themselves to vote for Clinton because she's an innie and not an outie. Right in your face sexism.

A number of the tribe that identifies itself as liberal female is royally pissed-off at how they believe the media has treated Hillary. And, rather than vote in the general for her rival for the Democratic nomination, will either stay home or vote for somebody much, much farther away from Hillary than Barack could ever be.

Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face is generally not considered smart behavior.

There are plenty of reasons to vote for or against somebody. I'd love to live to the day when it would be for policy or philosophical reasons alone and not because of skin color or genitalia, but I'm not holding my breath against the day.

Subdivisions of the tribes seek to separate themselves from the other by belief and even by language. Many, if not all, major professions have their own patois, a secret language that only the insiders can truly understand -- lawyers, doctors, cops, reporters, engineers, gangbangers, rock stars, science fiction fans ... you name it. Some are subtle, some not. Hardcore science fiction fans -- don't dare call it "sci-fi!" -- call non-fans "mundanes."

There aren't as many of us, the sense of it goes, but we are smarter. Better. Naturally, our numbers will be small and we will be viewed as oddballs, but that's okay, because we know we're superior. Pick a group. Listen. Feel the groundswell when they don't notice you. You hear the sursurrus of, It's Us versus Them, and they don't have a fucking clue ...

People give themselves titles. They allow within the group that those outside cannot possibly understand Their Truth. They shake their heads at anybody who presumes to offer that they might have some inkling of the way things work. Un uh, no, sorry, you can't, we know, and you don't, end of discussion, move along. You aren't the droids we're looking for.

You may have seen the light, but it's the wrong bulb.

The ugly isms -- sexism, racism -- tend to arise from a sense of smugness -- our tribe is the best tribe, all others come after us.

The only path I can see that offers hope for our salvation comes with enough education, enough shooing away the complacent ignorance, until people begin to understand that the guy squatting next to the campfire in Laos is like the guy in his Escalade driving on the Autobahn, or the Avon Lady in Houston. Humans.


But I think it's gonna be a long time coming.

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