A Better Tribe on New Year’s Eve?

Frank With His TribeInfidel753 offers a thought on this the arbitrary end of the year, A Vague Musing at Year-End. Basically, it is a short love letter for diversity. He mentioned the “dying era of religious and tribal conformity.” I’m with him on that but I’m afraid I’m deeply pessimistic. One of my favorite words — used always as a great compliment — is “idiosyncratic.” But I fear that we are not built to love the idiosyncratic.

I think a great deal about the film Plan 9 From Outer Space. It’s not a film I much like. It was just Ed Wood trying to make a whole feature out of some home movies with his old pal Bela Lugosi. Much better is Glen or Glenda — the full exploration of the pleasures and the pains of being the man he was. But what bothers me is that most people only know these films because they are seen as “bad.” But they aren’t bad. They are just strange — different from what other filmmakers chose to produce. To me, Glen or Glenda will always stand as a great example idiosyncratic art — art that is done for the sake of tickling the brain, not soothing it.

I’m not sure how we get past this whole tribal identity. I agree with Infidel753 that such identity based upon religion is getting less strict. Just the same, we seem to be transferring one kind of tribal conformity for another. Now we have much greater opportunities to find other people who are more consistent with who we are. So we aren’t dependent upon having friends drawn from the neighborhood that we grew up in. Now we can draw from people all over the world. My concern is that this just makes our tribal identities even more rigid. Maybe it just makes our prejudices seem all the more true and unquestionable.

In this regard, I feel fairly safe. This is because I find myself always working the margins. I think of myself like a Puck — disruptive but benign. If people started to properly appreciate Glen or Glenda I’d be right there to point out that it’s a dreadful film! Or maybe not, because in such a world, I would probably just be an accountant. Such a reasonable world would need not Pucks! But the thing about the Puck is that he is, ultimately, a lonely creature — desperate for fellowship but destined to disappointment because of his nature.

Still, I have my friends. And they are an eclectic bunch. The one thing they seem to have in common is that on any issue which we are both passionate, they know that I am wrong. In other words, I am quite blessed. But I see problems. There is a kind of background noise of agreement. And these are things that I really won’t brook disagreement about — things like the death penalty. Or on the positive side, the importance of empathy above all else. And it is based upon these kinds of things that we do have a tribal identity.

So we disagree about my many passions. No one will read Don Quixote — at least all the way to end. No one will watch Glen or Glenda — at least all the way to end. No one treats my ontological theories with anything but scorn. But we all desperately wish for a more humane and just world. And I would really like to believe that we are connected in this way because we are right. But I fear it is just that we are a tribe.

Regardless, I hope the new year moves in the direction preferred by my tribe. Because, you know, we’re right.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “A Better Tribe on New Year’s Eve?

  1. Why is tribalism wrong when it is about having a group of friends you enjoy spending time with?

    I can see the problem with tribalism outside of having like-minded people to hang out with. When you are trying to relax, why would you spend a great deal of time arguing with someone? But for the bigger stuff, it is a problem.

    • I’m not arguing against like minded people. But I am arguing against insularity. And I’m arguing against tribalism in the sense of people thinking they are right just because they are part of a tribe. See, for example, the way that police forces act.

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