Vexed by the Tribe

I am vexed…

It’s a word you don’t hear much, now. Old English, I believe. It describes an agitated state of mind – and possibly body – when something nagging can’t be solved.

What I’m vexed about is the entrenchment of nationalistic opinion across the world, in the face of much more important issues – like the world’s climate problems and the undermining of democracy as a new type of war carried out by authoritarian regimes.

I’m vexed because I think I’ve seen beneath this to the psychological mechanics of something that has the potential to kill the world.

In Britain, with Brexit, we are marching, like lemmings, towards a clifftop that will bring chaos and self-inflicted harm to not only this generation of voters, but our children and their children. They will look back at the devastation and ask why somebody didn’t do something to avert it.

Friends in the USA describe a similar situation, there. My intention with this blog is not to discuss politics, but to examine the entrenchment of views that underlies these vast shifts in ‘normality’. This is closely linked to the use of ‘fake news’ as a defence against the truth…

The psychologist Maslow did some ground-breaking work on developmental psychology, particularly human motivation, back in the 1940s. His celebrated diagram of the “Hierarchy of Needs” is reproduced below:

Source: Wikipedia

Maslow’s idea was that the lower needs in the pyramid had to be satisfied before the higher and more creative functions would manifest. It has been modified since the 1940s but remains a popular and intelligent way to understand some of the ways societies evolve – or devolve.

In Maslow’s scheme, the ultimate state of the human in a society is one of ‘Self-Actualisation’ – the top of the pyramid. This is built on ‘Esteem’, which grows in the soil of ‘Love’. Only below this level do the ‘fear-factors’ come into play.

There is an upward current which is enabling. But any downward movement in the lower levels is capable of de-stabilising the whole thing. It would be difficult to put a complex political situation like Brexit into the above pyramid, since this is based upon a society’s condition rather than that of an individual. But we can identify ‘what’ happens in such upheavals, and that may serve to illustrate the forces at work.

If a majority of people vote for something, then we in the West believe they have ‘spoken’ and we honour the result – unless there has been electoral fraud or other fundamental abuses. And this is a big ‘if’. With every such new generation of abuse the perpetrators show they are cleverer than the regulators.

But Western Government is still based on the principles of democracy. So the motivation behind how people vote is a vital thing to understand – and it may help us to come to terms with the often self-destructive basis of such individual decisions. This is where it could be illuminating to consider a scheme similar to Maslow’s at work at the heart of how countries evolve their governance.

A person is born into a ‘tribe’ not into a society

We are all born into a family of some sort. We know nothing of the society in which that family exists. If we are lucky, the family will be loving and caring. In honouring that we will wish to reflect the inherent but often unstated values that the family subscribes to. These are powerful things, and much more akin to how tribes used to, and still do, work. The Tribe will have a relationship to the geography in which it exists. This may be cooperative or antagonistic.

The route of the person from birth, through the values of the tribe and to real individuality may not happen at all. True individuality requires knowledge, judgement and a high degree of self-reliance. We all know Tribes in which such a rise to the ‘freedom’ of individuality would be frowned upon – to say the least.

Complexity, of the sort we experience today, is a relatively modern thing

Despite this, the wisest of individuals have, throughout history, risen to think for themselves and brought great change to the overall society in which they lived. Their upward journeys have been struggles of courage against both circumstance and prejudice.

I believe we now face new forces which are abusing and mis-shaping our countries. They are driven by the relatively small number of people who understand the ‘Complexity’ of our worlds. Our societies have changed beyond recognition in the past fifty years, largely driven by technology. Tech can be and is an enabler, but it is also a generator of fear for those left behind as powerful entities dominate the way in which such Tech is used…

Tech is also an ideal basis for placating the masses. Television soap operas and dating shows, for example. Thinking is hard, that is the simple truth. Thinking for yourself is very hard…

The above diagram illustrates the idea that, while maturity is an aspirational force pushing up our pyramid of self, Complexity is a negative one and drives people back into a tribal mode of behaviour. I believe this to be happening across western societies, today, and it partly accounts for the rise of nationalism and the seeming ignorance of the historic basis for the repeated rise of fascism in our histories.

A Tribe will serve its society if it has expectations that its brightest individuals will ‘see farther’ and educate the tribe, itself.

So, what can we do about what is happening in Western democracies? We may be unable to do anything. There are tectonic forces at work, both economic and political, which are de-stabilising for their own advantage. We can at least be aware that this is taking place and consider how Tribes are ‘played’ by such forces.

A Tribe will serve its society if it has expectations that its brightest individuals will ‘see farther’ and thereby educate the Tribe, itself. If this is not present, and any alternate thinking is given the ‘fake news’ treatment, then the element of ‘belonging’ will be invoked near the base of the pyramid and we will be collectively dragged back to the vexed lower land of our birth and not the potential of our individualities.

© Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

17 thoughts on “Vexed by the Tribe

  1. WE ARE BORN TO OBSERVE WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND US TO SURVIVE AND FROM THAT UNDERSTAND WHAT WE CAN DO TO SOLVE A PROBLEM. WE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER GLOBAL WARMING, THAT TIME HAS LONG GONE, THE VICTORIANS STARTED POLLUTING THE SKY, SEA AND LAND WITH DEBRIS AND WE HAVE SIMPLY ADDED TO THE PILE. ON THE MATTER OF BREXIT WE MANAGED BEFORE WE JOINED AND WILL MANAGE NOW.
    THE BIGGER ISSUE IS ‘CONFIDENCE’ THE BRITISH PUBLIC CAN NOW SEE INSIDE THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND SEE WHAT THE PEOPLE THEY HAVE VOTED FOR ACT LIKE ON THEIR BEHALF.
    THE TURN OUT AT POLLING STATIONS WILL DRASTICALLY FALL AND GIVE SOME STRANGE RESULTS.
    DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE WORD, PEOPLE HAVE BECOME SELFISH AND OBSESSED WITH THEIR SMART PHONES, IT’S VERY SAD TO SEE PEOPLE WALKING OR DRIVING WITH A PHONE STUCK TO THEIR BRAIN, CHINA

    china.alexandria@livingthedream.blog

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment, China. There are many issues raised. We are born to learn and adapt, for sure. But there are moments in a nation’s life which affect it more than others. I believe Brexit to be one of those…
      As to confidence in parliament; we have been able to see the House of Commons televised for many years, so it is not a new thing. What is new is the level of scrutiny that the run-up to Brexit has brought, with the machinations of the inner power groups made public.
      My core issue is that the people who were most passionate about Brexit are those who will be most hurt by it – the UK motor industry is now severely damaged because of it, already. Places like Sunderland and Swindon will be devastated, yet, in the case of the former, Sunderland, were lauded as ‘the town that broke Sterling’.
      I do not worry – but I am concerned; and I am most concerned when people of vast wealth lie to and manipulate those who cannot think through to the consequences of how they are being ‘farmed’. Thank you for your contribution to the blog.

      Like

  2. Hi Steve, Thank you for a most comprehensive article. I am not University educated but do try to think deeper about most aspects of life. Surely one doesn’t have to be Einstein to appreciate that our brain-power – whatever it may be – is given to be used.I only wish mine was more astute!. I wholeheartedly agree that there are tectonic forces at work.To see such greed and power being used to the degree it is, world-wide, at present, is abhorrent. Democracy is being eroded, common sense -which politicians do not possess-ignored. Having lived through WW2 and been evacuated three times was unsettling enough, although I was treated kindly, but when you witness the horrors of Syria and the evil strengths of China and Russia, not to mention a list of other countries run by despots, it is easy to be fearful and we can only hope that common sense will, somehow,prevail (Husband and I retired to Spain and our British pensions are laughable, especially because of the rate of exchange against the pound..but we are happy and live quite simply.) Busking could be on the cards – hub could play the spoons and I can still tap the Time Step!! Ha ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chuckles! I love the image of you both busking, Joy! Yes, we live in dangerous and abusive times, but I’m always surprised how the ‘good’ is rallied around when someone makes a stand. 😎

      Like

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