Monday, 14 January 2013

Idiot of the Western World

I finally saw the film, The Cabin in the Woods. I do highly recommend it if you have not seen it. The film introduces five figures which can be viewed as either archetypes or tropes in modern horror films: the athlete, the scholar, the virgin, the whore, and the fool.

The virgin and the whore are well-worn topics. The athlete is the alpha male warrior-type man and the scholar is the beta male who essentially has run human society since the beginning. The alpha may hold the reins of power, but the betas make things happen. The last one is the most fascinating. The archetype of the fool is mislabelled. He is not a fool, he is an idiot.

The word idiot comes from the Greek word idiotes meaning a private citizen or individual. Moving into Latin it becomes idiota meaning the same, an ordinary person or layman. In ancient Athens, the idiot was someone seen as being self-centred and concerned exclusively with private life as opposed to the public life of the citizen. This state of mind was equated with children who were born as self-centred but matured through education to be citizens involved in the public life with others in their community; therefore any adult who possessed these traits was seen as being immature or mentally undeveloped and widely considered to be dishonourable.

As the word moved from Greek to Latin to late Latin to Old French and then into Middle English around 1300 AD, the original meaning of individualism and selfishness was lost and the word idiot came to be defined exclusively as a mentally deficient person.

Marty, the character of the fool in The Cabin in the Woods, is by no means mentally deficient. He is an avid pot smoker, slacker, and social drop-out. He represents an increasing class of people in the West who look at public life and turn their back in disdain. He is an idiot not because of pure selfishness, self-centeredness, or ignorance. He is aware, both cognitively or intuitively, that civic life is a con, and his seemingly paranoid belief in the puppet masters proves correct.

For example, consider that the presidency of Barrack Obama is no different from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush, in terms of policy; and his challenger in the polls for the 2012 election, Mitt Romney, was not that different from Obama. So why bother voting? Why go through a pointless process like election campaigns and civic involvement when the outcome is no different? Why act when the “puppet masters” have predetermined the outcome?

The idiot looks at the world and sees his fellow man scurrying around competing for women always who seem to exploit and reject them in the end.  He sees people paying fortunes for worthless university degrees and end-up working dead-end jobs.  For those who get the great high-paying jobs the cost is freedom sold to employers, spouses, and children.  The view is not that different from the line of reasoning that led King Solomon to declare in Ecclesiastes that all is vanity and striving after the wind – or to put it in the vernacular, “It’s all bullshit”.

The fool in the films Clerks and Clerks 2 is the character Randall Graves who confesses that he behaves as irreverently as he does because when he looks at the world everything looks stupid to him. Likewise we have the Comedian from Watchmen or the Joker from Nolan’s Batman who see the world as one big joke. The idiot sees that the game is fixed and refuses to play, but if he does choose to act, then he acts against society. The Comedian and the Joker are both in the guise of “fools” but their actions veer towards destruction. Likewise, Randall looks to cut down others, and Marty brings about the end of humanity.

A valid question to speculate is whether the idiot in the sense presented here is an archetype or a trope. Archetypes are ancient images preinstalled into the human psyche, like the warrior or the fool, and can be found across time and space in human narratives. A trope is more of a modern convention that recurs in films, television, books, and comics. The idiot has its precursors, such as the fool and the rebel, but I see it as a wholly modern response to a modern context.

In the film, Pump Up the Volume, we have the character Mark Hunter in 1990 who assumes the guise of the pirate DJ known as Happy Harry Hard-on responding to a letter from one of his listeners.

'Dear Harry, I think you're boring and obnoxious and have a high opinion of yourself.' Course some of you are probably thinking I sent this one to myself. 'I think school is okay if you just look at it right. I mean I like your music, but I really don't see why you can't be cheerful for one second.' I'll tell you since you asked. I just arrived in this stupid suburb. I have no friends, no money, no car, no license. And even if I did have a license all I can do is drive out to some stupid mall. Maybe if I'm lucky play some fucking video games, smoke a joint and get stupid. You see, there's nothing to do anymore. Everything decent's been done. All the great themes have been used up. Turned into theme parks. So I don't really find it exactly cheerful to be living in the middle of a totally, like, exhausted decade where there's nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to.

Nine years later, we have Tyler Durden in the film, Fight Club:

Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

The issues described by these characters over twenty years ago have not improved.  They have gotten more pervasive as more and more people are becoming idiots.

It is common to identify these idiots as rebels. We might contrive that in the case of Tyler Durden in Fight Club, but generally the difference between the idiot and the rebel is that the idiot sees the pointlessness of rebellion. In his mind, cutting-off the hydra’s head will only spawn two more, so what is the point? What Tyler Durden does have in common with the idiots is that he sees the only solution to be not a new head, but the complete destruction of the existing order.

In the world I see - you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.

Looking past the idyllic primitivism of Durden’s desired world, what we see is a life where life has purpose and actions are meaningful and appreciated. In 1980’s post-apocalypse films, we have raiding marauders or mutant monsters. Today’s expressions include shows like Jericho and Revolution that focus on community values, honest living, and a purposeful existence. It is almost as if we want Western Civilization to die.

The television show Revolution is a post-apocalyptic world where electricity stops working and society crumbles. One of the characters, Tom Neville, is a typical tamed man. He works as an insurance adjuster beaten-down by his corporate boss and goes through life meekly asking permission. He lets off steam with a punching bag hung in his basement and tells his son, “We only hit the bag, not people”. After the blackout, the chains come-off and he proves himself to be capable, ruthless, and tough. With civilization gone, he is able to live to a potential that he never knew he possessed. The character may be a villain, but I think many viewers can relate to his position. They cannot articulate this, but they feel trapped.

We live in a world where people seem in practice to define freedom as a state of being free from oppression. When in fact freedom means being free to act without prevention. These may seem very similar, but the difference is vital. A person might say that they are free because they do not fear jackbooted thugs patrolling the streets and harassing citizens, an image that they identify with oppression, true, however neither is there the freedom to act without fear that the government may punish actions through arrests, courts, and penalties. Whether there is active oppression or subtle nudging, the power to act is removed from the individual and without the power to act there is no freedom.

Idiocy is a reaction to this sense of fear and powerlessness, this absence of freedom that the idiot alone recognises. When society at large accepts a particular narrative that they consider normal, then anyone who rejects it is not normal and therefore weird, alien, and outcast. This social exclusion may even exacerbate his rejection of society. He does not want to reform the plantation. He wants to burn it.

They say, “Don’t rock the boat, especially when you are standing in it”. It takes an idiot to do something that stupid, but maybe that is what we need to shake things up.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Age of Hades

The typical school day for Victorian children consisted of Classics, followed by Classics, then Classics, and then, just to mix things up a bit, Classics. Of course there were other classes too, but much of a student’s school day was devoted to the Classics. As late as the 1920’s, a person was not deemed educated unless he spoke Latin. Today, the Classics are the ghost towns of academia. It’s a pity really.

When I was a boy I studied Greek mythology for fun and much of my adult knowledge on the subject stems from this period, however I have lately been dipping my intellectual toes into these Greek waters once again and I had a rather fascinating realisation.

The word zeitgeist means “the spirit of the age”. It is not a literal spirit; rather it refers to the General Will of the people manifested. Yet, looking over certain periods of history, and taking into consideration the human tendency to see patterns, it is easy to assign a guiding force over the ages of humanity and the Olympians make ideal metaphors for the spirits of the ages.

For example, looking at the Romantic Period (1776-1929) we see a surge in invention, commerce, human understanding, and above all freedom. These are all under the auspices of the Greek goddess Athena. Her image is found in countless works of art and sculptures of the period (including the Statue of Liberty), not to mention federal and local government buildings and seals. Even Britannia and Columbia, the symbolic representations of Britain and America, are based on her. The Romantic Era was the Age of Athena.

This got me thinking. Which Olympian is the spirit of our post-modern age? Apollo? No, he is more suited for The Enlightenment. Dionysius? No, the social chaos is not as widespread as one might expect from the ultimate party god. We supposedly had a sexual revolution and we are obsessed with love, but this is not the Age of Aphrodite. Ares? We’re not so medieval. Hermes? It is the communicate age after all, but that did not seem right either. It’s difficult to truly recognise your age when you’re in the middle of it let alone identify the driving “spirit of the age”. Then it hit me. This is the age of Hades.

After the Olympians defeated the Titans, the three sons of Kronos divided the spoils of earth, sea, and sky between them. Zeus got the sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the earth, well, not the earth exactly. The surface of the earth was neutral territory. Hades got the hidden earth underneath. He is the Lord of the Underworld which includes the mineral riches as well as the bodies we bury. He is the ruler of the dead, their judge, and the god of wealth. His name means “the Hidden One”, but he is also known as Pluton in Greek and Pluto in Latin – the Lord of Riches.

Many scholars argue that the Romantic Period ended with World War I. I see the war as part of the beginning of the end, but not the end itself. The true end came with the collapse of the stock market in 1929, financial mismanagement that exacerbated the Great Depression, and the fear that drove the world towards government central planning. It seems fitting to begin the age of Hades with the word depression, a loss of faith and hope.

The spirit of an age is its driving force. For example, some may smirk at labelling the Romantic Period as the age of freedom because of the existence of slavery, but what they fail to consider is that it was a century that saw an active movement to free slaves and it succeeded. The driving force was the process of liberation and not necessarily the absence of slavery.

Likewise when looking at the age of Hades we are looking for the general thrust of the age, the movements of events towards a conclusion. The Romantic Period saw the birth of the Modern and the apex of Western Civilization while our post-modern age is the movement towards its death. Many cultural historians have observed that the patterns of Western Civilization over the past near century indicate a death wish leaving them to conclude that we are a suicidal culture.

Of course this view may be an example of apocalypse porn. The term apocalypse porn was coined to describe the phenomenon in which people derive a perverted pleasure in reading about or theorizing on the end of the world. The fear began in earnest in the 1950’s with the Cold War nuclear scare, then predications of environmental disaster starting in the 1960’s till today, and now its economic collapse we fear or government tyranny. This is not an overt fear, but a lingering one as if it is slowly consuming us from the inside making us numb.

We live in the deadliest age with an estimated 231 million people dying in military or civil conflict during the 20th Century. The irony is that as a culture we seem to place more value on human life than ever before, and yet our attempts to preserve human life are overshadowed by a massive death toll.

Hades is the god of riches. Traditionally this meant the mineral wealth hidden underground like gems and precious metals. Contrast this with Athena as the goddess of invention and commerce, the creation and exchange of values, therefore Athena is the goddess of capitalism. Hades on the other hand governs existential wealth. It is not created but found wherever it is hidden and once found it is hoarded, for Hades is a greedy god.

In the age of Hades money is still created, but the focus is in moving existential wealth around rather than commerce. Where the Athenian Victorians demanded commerce flow for the sake of prosperity, today the children of Hades demand invisible wealth is transferred from rich to poor with only a sparse choir calling for an increase in production to alleviate financial woes. Even so, the poor are not that poor. The average standard of living far exceeds that of medieval nobility.

Pluto, the Roman name for Hades, gives us the word Plutocracy, rule by the wealthy. There has always been a symbiotic relationship between government and the rich. Politicians want the wealth and the wealthy want the power of force. It is when this relationship becomes a bit too cozy and rulers govern not to defend the rights of the people but to legislate the interests of the rich that we see the hand of Hades at work. Today this is called corporatism or crony capitalism, while some erroneously call it capitalism from their occupying tents.

The Age of Hades has also brought us the death of the family. Should we be surprised by declining birth rates in the West, after all the god of the dead is infertile? Liberated women are now free from life-long familial responsibilities and many men and women now choose to opt out of the family game altogether.

Neo-pagan orientated feminists indulge themselves in Olympian fantasy, but the truth is that Athena hated other women, Hera is the goddess of marriage and family, and Aphrodite is the sexy beauty queen. None of these fit the feminist ideal. A flimsy case could be made for Demeter the goddess of fertility and farming and more so for Artemis, the lesbian huntress, but the best goddess to represent feminism is Persephone, the wife of Hades.

Hades adored his wife and would often acquiesce to her demands to such an extent that she could be rightly considered the co-ruler of the Underworld. In a similar vein, feminists like to believe that they took the power they now have, but the fact is that men gave it to them just like Hades relinquished power to Persephone. The thing is that she hated him for it.

As the judge for the dead, Hades divided new arrivals into three groups: the good, the bad, and the average. Seriously offending the gods resulted in eternal torment. A life un-extraordinary meant being reduced to mere post-mortem sheeple grazing the Asphodel Meadows. Only those who really stood-out from the crowd got the good stuff and this meant being heroic, but very few gained the special rewards or the special torments. The bulk of the deceased were sentenced to a blissful limbo where they forget who they were in life and mechanically pursue routine monotonous activities of no consequence. Film maker George Romero portrayed this metaphorically in his zombie films with people shuffling about in constant consumption continuing their routines long past their sell by date. The state of humanity in the Age of Hades is the walking dead.

Athena loved heroes. She counselled or sponsored Asclepius, Bellerophon, Hercules, Odysseus and Perseus. Likewise during the Age of Athena young boys were inspired to live heroic lives through the body in strength of arms, or through the mind in creation or invention. The greatest challenge for any hero involved a journey into the Underworld to match wits with Hades. Of those who ventured into that dark realm, only Hercules and Orpheus returned (and he left empty handed). Heroes may have been rewarded after death, but in life Hades was not a fan of heroes.

After the Age of Athena ended, the pervasive social mood was to tear down the ideological statues that had been erected to honour Victorian heroes. Individualism gave way to collectivism as the dominant social philosophy. Victims replaced heroes as models for action. Social status went to whichever group could argue themselves as the greatest victims while the heroes of old were repainted as villains. For the first time in history, the losing teams were awarded the trophies.

The thing is that human beings need heroes. The concept is engraved into our DNA. So we quarantine them. Heroes get relegated to works of fiction to be outgrown. We indulge our need vicariously through narratives in television and cinema or in video games, but frown on those who make them legitimate role models for life. Sure, some men might strut around thinking themselves the tough guy, but never have the opportunity to test their imagined mettle, and this makes them arrogant. Rather than lead us to extraordinary lives worthy of the Isle of the Blessed, heroes subjugated by either this dismissive attitude or arrogance lead us deeper into mental limbo as slaves to Hades.

The Age of Hades is one of fear, sorrow, and hopelessness, despite great wealth, in a life without conscious direction, subjugated by the corrupt, and without heroes to save or inspire us. Of course, what I have written here is no more than an interesting observation, a flight of fancy. Yet, one feels obliged when pointing something out to follow with a prescription.

The Age of Athena ended with a general loss of faith. Sure, we lost faith in heroism and the nation-state after World War I and we lost faith in capitalism with the Great Depression. Since then, we have been abandoning many of the virtues of Western Civilization (those being competition, science, medicine, property rights, consumer society, and the work ethic with competition, property rights, and the work ethic being the big losses).

That being so, we need a traumatic event to shake us from our slumber and bring about a great awakening. Not some fanciful “Age of Aquarius” nonsense, but a real fundamental shift in the collective consciousness of the zeitgeist. For thirty years before the end of the Romantic Era people in academia were laying the foundations for this hell on Earth. So it seems reasonable to assume that the best way forward is to lay some new foundations. If we fail, then we may well see the end of Western Civilization as a worst case scenario and the best case, should we fail, will come the Age of Ares.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Story of Us

I have come to the belief that one of the great casualties of post-modernity is us. Here’s what I mean by that. The human brain is the most complex computer in existence. This particular computer comes with preinstalled software developed about 50,000 years ago. This brain has the ability to perceive roughly 100-150 other humans as being unique individuals; everyone else is just them. You can use other terms to describe them, like randoms, non-player characters, or simply the extras and supporting cast in this film which is your life. The human brain draws this very clear distinction between us and them. I call this the UvT (Us versus Them) Mentality.

The problem is that a basic tenant of post-modernity is that there is no us or them; we are all part of one great, big global village. So the archaic tribal brain is at odds with the post-modern social conditioning. We are trying to force a round peg into a square hole and this denial of reality may prove to be our doom.

Okay. That may seem a bit extreme, but I am not so sure. Some rules of nature are pretty obvious, like jumping from height will be painful or lethal. Other rules are more subtle and the results of violating them are more gradual. It’s kind of like smoking. One cigarette is innocent and harmless enough, but after a pack a day for twenty years the habit takes its toll. The sin is not the cigarette, the sin is the lifestyle. It’s these subtle long-term violations of natural law that are the most dangerous. The denial of the UvT Mentality is just such an insidious sin against nature.

Human social organisation has been pretty consistent over these past 50,000 years. Every living creature is driven to procreate. Among humans, males and females join forces to procreate, feed, and nurture their young. It is advantageous to produce as many off-spring as possible in case some die and to help support the family. These are the first three tiers of human society: the individual, the couple, and the family. But what about these children in the family? They need to procreate as well and keeping it in the family is not the best genetic option. Families need other families. This collection of families constitutes the tribe, the fourth tier of human social organisation.

There is another group that fits snugly in-between the individual and the family; call it tier 1.5. This occurs when a small group of men break away, either literally or metaphorically, from the tribe to seek their fortune and thus become a gang. If successful, gang members do eventual take wives, form families, and either establish a new tribe or re-amalgamate into their old tribe.

The tribe is the key. It is the mental template for human organisation. There are a few key features of note that need to be understood so that we can see how this template works and how it is applied to the higher tiers of human organisation.

The generic tribe that I am describing here is the typical form of human organisation taking into consideration the past 50,000 years. For the sake of perspective, imagine that the modern human brain has only existed for one hour. Agriculture and the city-state emerged in Egypt and Mesopotamia about ten minutes ago and the modern nation-state formed half a second ago. As far the human brain is concerned, non-tribal organisation is bucking the trend and by no means the norm.

The first key feature of the tribe is that it claims a defined territory that it exploits and defends. This is universal. The popular myth that Native Americans, for example, had no concept of land ownership is simply nonsense. All tribes recognise the territory used and defended by the tribe. This creates the fundamental delineation between us in our space and them in theirs. The UvT Mentality begins in this physical space. Within its defined space the tribe develops culture. This includes language, beliefs, rituals, history, and stories. This creates a second border that transcends the physical plane to become conceptual. We are different from them.

The tribe exists for one purpose. It exists to flourish. The first part of flourishing is survival, and then as survival becomes easier the tribe looks to prosper. These are the seeds of human morality. Killing, robbing, or lying to members of your own tribe runs counter to the tribe’s purpose because such acts diminish the tribe’s ability to survive. However, in order to prosper it may be necessary to kill, rob, or deceive members of another tribe. So a double-standard develops. Thou shalt not murder your own kind, but you can kill outsiders. There is one standard for us and another standard when dealing with them.

Likewise behaviours considered to be virtuous have their origins within the tribal context. There is an innate sense of co-operation and mutual concern for the well-being of others in the tribe. A man may willingly and happily sacrifice his time, energy, and skill to do a favour for a fellow tribesman. Similarly, he may readily obey a tribal leader directing the actions of the tribesmen for the good of the tribe because he knows that by helping others he is indirectly helping himself. This has to do in part with the interdependency among its members. Abstract concepts like duty, honour, altruism, and human value all stem from the physical necessities for survival found in tribal existence.

It is important to note that the UvT Mentality is not inherently hostile towards those outside the tribe. You may trade with them, ally with them; be friends with them; live among them, and you may even marry from them, but they are still them.

The next tier of human organisation is the nation, a collection of tribes sharing common language, history, culture, beliefs, values, and virtues. This commonality leads to the pervasive belief that the tribes comprising the nation are one people.

To us the step from tribe to nation seems small, but it represents a huge leap in consciousness. The key features of tribal existence are practical and immediate. The members of the tribe live, work, fight, produce, and endure together. Think of it like a family. Imagine two brothers who go their separate ways and form families and you are a child born of one of these families. You grow-up on an isolated farm among your brothers and sisters and led by your father and mother. You work your farm and defend it from outsiders. Then one day an man appears that your father introduces as being your cousin and therefore part of the family. This does not make any sense to you. How can this outsider be part of your family when he is a stranger? To understand this you have to make a cognitive leap and redefine your concept of family to include distant blood relatives who have their own farms where they live, work, produce, and endure with their immediate family, but are still part of your family.

It’s a common phenomenon in history where an invading army conquers an area by picking-off one tribe at a time. These tribes shared a common language, culture, and beliefs, but never united against their common enemy because they failed to make that cognitive leap from the practical tribal identity to the conceptual national identity.

The first four tiers of human organisation, from individual to couple to family to tribe, are straightforward and based largely on immediate and observable necessity. With the advent of the nation and conceptual national identity, human organisation starts to become more abstract. The birth of national identity marks the beginning of a process of transference in which many tribal features move to the national level. The final three tiers of human organisation, the nation, the nation-state, and multiculturalism, are phases in this progression.

The driving forces behind this progression are technological advances in travel times and communication. In eight hours a man can travel 24 miles, a horse 40 miles, an 1850’s steam train 280 miles, a car 480 miles, and a modern passenger jet 4,400 miles. If the nearest tribe or village was fifty miles away, then you could reach them in two days by foot or ride there in one day. With industrialisation you could be in the next town fifty miles away in less than two hours, and today you could drive fifty miles to the other end of the city in less than an hour depending on traffic. The same applies to communications. A letter once travelled as fast as man or horse could carry it but today it moves at light speed.

The early nations were a confederation of largely autonomous tribes residing in fixed locations. Over time more power shifted to a ruling central authority administering a much larger territory and the tribal territories evolved into villages and towns.  As more and more people participated in the governance of the nation we see the beginnings of the sixth tier, the institutionalised nation commonly called the nation-state. The United Kingdom became the first modern nation-state in 1707 followed by the United States in 1783 and France in 1789. In the nation-state, we see a transference of the practical tribal features, such as common territory, mutual interdependency, and common culture, beliefs, language, virtues, and values to the national level and a more institutionalised sense of “us” than we see in the nation.

The basic tribes does still exist, but in the form of villages, small towns, neighbourhoods, and communities within the larger structure of the nation-state. As with the nation, the tribes are united by a shared belief in the unity of the people, their nation-state, and a shared purpose. This is commonly called patriotism among the insiders and nationalism to the outsiders. They still retain a local sense of tribe, but it has more to do with things like interpersonal relationships, sentimentality, and local pride than the urgency of survival and prosperity that we see in the basic tribal model.

The nation-state, like the nation itself, is the product of a shift in consciousness in which the individual’s concept of “us” is expanded to include strangers that we presume to be like us. Conceptual identity is a tricky thing. I may say that I am proud to be an American, but my idea of America may be different from another American’s. There is a presumption that we are part of the same tribe, but that presumption could be based on nonsense. This is why the nation-state needed to function like a giant tribe with clearly defined physical and cultural borders that defined us as being a distinct group.

Call it patriotism or nationalism, but either way the nation-state constantly reinforced tribal identity and tribal morality. In the film Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, a British soldier during the Zulu War observes, “Here is better than home, eh, sir? I mean, at home if you kill someone they arrest you, here they'll give you a gun and show you what to do, sir. I mean, I killed fifteen of those buggers. Now, at home they'd hang me, here they'll give me a fucking medal, sir." The scene is funny because we can no longer conceive the tribe-oriented code that says that it is morally right to kill them to advance the tribe, but immoral to kill us. We cannot conceive it because we have moved into the seventh tier of human organisation called multiculturalism.

High speed travel and communications, the complex, varied, and specialised division of labour, and changes in family law have drastically altered the context of human existence. Multiculturalism is an attempt to expand upon the presumption of commonality found within the nation-state to a global scale to include all humanity as one huge tribe of 7 billion people with different, and sometimes conflicting, cultures, beliefs, values, and virtues.

The post-modern individual still needs other humans, but they are nameless, faceless others. They are strangers scattered across the globe who make our clothes and stock our supermarkets. It is now possible for the first time in history for a person to live without family, friends, or tribe, independent of any community. There is no sense of mutual dependency to bind couples together till death do they part since they do not really need each other anymore, and kids don’t need their parents either. Emotional ties may still bind them, but these relationships are not needed for survival as in the old days. Without concrete mutual dependency the tribe becomes so abstract that it becomes subject to personal whims. The couple, family, gang, tribe, nation, or nation-state still exists because people will it to exist and not because it needs to exist. So we find ourselves trying to navigate a place where the tribe remain a psychological necessity, but not a physical imperative, and so it becomes an emotional luxury.

At the start I illustrated how many abstract values are rooted in concrete necessity. For example, in a conflict where you are protecting the territory from which your tribe derives the resources required for mutual survival, loyalty and honour become vital abstract tools necessary for concrete survival. The absence of loyalty from your fellows or a negative reputation could lead to disaster, but today the cure for disloyalty or a bad reputation is as simple as changing your circle of friends or moving to another part of town. When our morality is no longer rooted in practicality, it becomes little more a vestigial organ with which we feel only a sentimental attachment.

Where villages, small towns, neighbourhoods and communities once fulfilled the human instinctual need for a tribe we now see cultural consumption as the primary delineator of groups. These are usually recognised as subcultures, lifestyle groups, supporters of sports teams, political groups, or hobbyists. These post-modern tribes satisfy our superficial need for community without the sacrifice or permanence that makes it a real tribe.

In the tribal context the individual had value among the people who had known him his whole life. If he wanted to be a craftsman, artist, performer, scholar, or warrior he could be and people valued him for his contribution. In the nation-state you could attain national notoriety but today we demand global notoriety, anything less is just local and therefore deemed not as good or simply amateur. We might argue that we are getting the best of the best by demanding global quality, but the trade-off is that a lower percentage of people can make a living doing what they enjoy and be valued for doing it.

Despite the fact that the current global context is not conducive to tribalism, humans are still hardwired to be tribal creatures and this leads to social divisions and exploitation. For example, looking at the stereotypical Right/Left political paradigm we see the Right operating on a sixth tier model of the independent nation-state sharing common culture, value and beliefs, fixed borders, stressing family and community, and recognise one rule for us and another for them (if one American dies it’s a tragedy but if a thousand Iraqis die it’s a statistic). Any threat to that worldview is seen as an attack on the nation-state and therefore the tribe.

The modus operandi for the Left is more seventh tier as they attempt to apply the pre-programmed tribal model universally. A tribe takes care of its own, therefore we must ensure that no one goes without social support, including people living thousands of miles away in Africa. Multiculturalism and diversity must be promoted regardless of the values and virtues that they promote since all cultures and beliefs are deemed of equal value. Since all humans are part of the same tribe, all human life is sacred and morality must be applied across the board regardless.

So here’s the problem. The right-wing view that I presented here runs counter to the current context in which we live and the only way to change that is through drastic action to save the indivisibility of the nation-state. However, the left-wing view runs counter to the UvT Mentality inherent in human nature, and therefore is also destined to fail without drastic action to force conformity. Both sides need a hammer to pound that round peg of ideology into the square hole of reality but are unable or unwilling to use it.

Another arena where the UvT Mentality is exploited is in the business world where companies attempt to mould their employees into a tribe rallying behind the corporate banner. What they fail to recognise is that the days of life-long employment with a single company are over. Most employees are mercenaries selling their skills to the highest bidder – and rightly so.

So who is your tribe? I have spent most of my life trying to answer that question as I searched the world looking to find “my kind”. I finally found my answer in a quote by the French philosopher Voltaire. “All people are equal, it is not birth, it is virtue alone that makes the difference.”

A virtue is a positive habit and is often linked to values, those things a person acts to gain or to keep. Each of us looks at the world and decides what is worth acting for and which actions are positive (good) and which are negative (bad) in getting them. Collectively, these choices constitute our lifestyle and therefore compose our identity. We are what we do.

Ultimately, what separates one person from another; what makes one man or group of men better or worse than another; what unites a tribe and divides one tribe from another are virtues and values. The virtues and values that a person subscribes to were once primarily the product of social conditioning within the family, tribe, nation, and nation-state. This is still true to a degree, but a primary feature of our multicultural state of post-modernity is the absence of a single dominant ethical system of universally accepted virtues and values. Truth is seen as subjective and therefore little more than opinion.

This condition leaves each of us trying to find a tribe that shares our ideas of what is virtuous and what to value. We possess an innate instinct to be a part of that tribe wherever it might be. Some people happily accept the standard that they were given in their social conditioning. Others want to change the world the fit their standards. Others still just want to find their community and shut the rest of the world out. There seems to be a growing number of people who secretly long for socio-economic collapse and a forced return to tribalism. All that I can answer to that is each person must discover their own standards and be true to their beliefs.  These days the members of your tribe or nation include anyone that you choose to include as your people within that mental construct called us.