We’re all tribal, usually multi-tribal. Each of our tribes satisfies a need – for security, for personal warmth, for a sense of being part of something greater than ourselves.

For some of us, our primary tribe is our first one, our family. For others, it’s a job, church or avocation that’s all-consuming. In any case, most of us have found ways to balance conflicting loyalties and priorities in our multi-tribal lives by subordinating things to the demands of our primary tribe. We learn to set priorities among the tribes that enhance life.

But there’s another way to deal with this. Create a conflict with another, non-related tribe. Viola! Now we’re talking about “The Other” – a favorite foil for film, literature and political propaganda. “The stranger is Danger.” If we do this well enough, we’ve created a new primary tribe that subordinates all others with the unifying tenets of hate and fear. Enhance your own life by stepping on the lives of others.

If you need to be in charge, to have people cheering and following you, the easiest way to do it is to create fear of this Other. If you can convince people that joining you makes them part of an exclusive group, you’ve stroked their ego and cemented their loyalty. You don’t need a plausible solution to your perceived problem, only a slogan that appeals to our most primitive priorities: the need for inclusion and our fight or flight instinct.

We multi-task our days with different people in different environments. And, in the networked world many of us inhabit, usually have more in common with a distant co-worker or chatroom sycophant than our next door neighbor. Our tribes grow from commonalities – work, regional or school loyalty, bumper-sticker politics.

Tribes are the same. Only different.

Every group has its traditions, its in-jokes, its assumed commonality. Even if you’re not a part of it, you’ll feel at home if their objective is similar to one you’re part of. Shared gentleness and gossip is pretty much the same from church to church, with little more than the names changing. The same can be said of spiritual seekers, whether or not they’re churched. Road warrior gatherings or political meetings may have their own cultural norms, but their core rituals would be familiar to any observer.

At first glance, I’m a semi-retired road warrior, with most other groupings in my past. No longer a warrior, I’m just a searcher – and while the searching community has always been there for me, I’m paying more attention to it.

My take on it all –

As long as your tribe is building, contributing and helping its members and others, great. If your tribe succeeds by building a defensive wall around its hateful and fearing members, we’ve got a problem.

Just because others are different, are they bad? They’re not a threat. They’re an opportunity to learn something new from someone new. Unless you feel you don’t need to learn anything more because you think you know everything you need to know.