Vexed by the Tribe (part one)

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 individuals 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 societal 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. Sadly, with every new generation of abuse the perpetrators show they are cleverer than the regulators.

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 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 things 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.

11 Replies to “Vexed by the Tribe (part one)”

  1. WOW! Steve, I don’t know that anyone could have better expressed the issues we are faced with today. This was the best article of its type I have read for absolutely years. On the one hand, it identifies where we are in the collective “tribes” if you will throughout the world. And on the other hand, it demonstrates the kinds of things that might happen to bring our world back into balance once more. I have read some of Maslow and very much liked his ideas and writing. I have thought too that if our “tribes,” particularly the larger ones in some countries, could ever try to work together to solve some of the world’s issues – developing better food resources for all the peoples of the world, developing better uses of energy, and joint exploration of alternative environments for the benefit of all, it might be good for the earth too, but that may be a true pipe dream as it were.

    Oh my gosh, I am going to read this again more than once and I cannot wait for the next post to come out. It may have already as I am so behind and trying to catch up with all the posts. I will definitely look for it. You know, despite the reality of the world today, this article gives me great hope for potential change. I was thinking as I read the article how in the book by George Orwell, 1984, how the people were sort of mesmerized to where they walked around like robots in a way. But though people are being mindlessly distracted today in so many ways, I am reading posts by others who are trying to find some alternative to the issues we face today. Thank you kindly once again. If I can figure out how to do it, I want to repost this article.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think because of what is happening, we need to look even more at the ancient ones over time and see what seemed to happen. Right now so much is happening on this earth – major global warming, which perhaps will bring about another great flood such as recorded in so many cultures as having happened. One of the things I have observed in life is that mankind does not seem to look at the past and see how certain things repeat themselves over and over and over, and how wars never seem to accomplish anything except that many innocent people who are not even fighting, including children and infants, end up getting killed.

        So the nature of mankind and what causes it to do the same things again and again is crucial in my mind as you also talked about. But I am not certain that even IF we begin to understand these actions, we will understand what causes mankind to change such as what is happening today. Every single day on this side of the pond, we have violent crimes, daily car chases, people murdering their children and tiny babies, and throwing live animals away in plastic bags. I have never known anything like these terrible things that are happening everywhere. It is no longer safe here to go to school, to go to concerts or even the most mundane seeming festivals like the Garlic Festival here in California where there was a mass shooting. And we could be doing everyday shopping at a grocery store and get shot.

        I have tried to follow the political things over the years, and all I can say, and I am not in favor of any party in America today for they are all immoral and doing nothing by, for, or of the people as was once at least stated. Everyone on this side wants to believe it is all one person, but it takes a society, or perhaps starts with a tribe for things to get this bad.

        I have been glad that I have The Silent Eye and the posts that you all make regularly to look forward as things are pretty dismal here for most of us too. And it is not just at the political or religious level. It is right down to our homes and our schools and every place one can imagine where we must go. The owners of my senior mobile home park are so crooked and so obviously so, and no matter whom I call who supposedly deals with these issues just gives me a run-around. There is actually a so-called mobile home ombudsman here in California, and I called that number and each extension I called put me over to the next numbers until I had been through all of them and still had no answers or anyone addressing the issue. I paid off my mobile home some eight months ago, and the park owners, both attorneys, have refused to give me my title and registration. The reason for telling this is to demonstrate that this disintegration of mankind seems to be happening at high speed now and at every level in society.

        Well, I look forward to reading Part II when I encounter it. I am meditating on things, asking a lot of questions of myself and others and reading the most positive things I can find, and just trying to put my mind back in a place where I can deal with these many issues. At least the peoples of the past we are studying had their stones, and their landmarks of many kinds. I honestly wish I could have at least those things. They have stood the test of time even if the people are gone.

        Thank you for the good writing. It really gives me a little hope, though I realize that no matter what, it will not happen overnight. Thank you kindly.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There seem to be cycles of insanity at the collective level. They begin at times of high tension and anger, and, if left unchecked, spread into a degree of societal breakdown. We need to see it as part of a bigger picture and accept that at times things need a ‘clearing out’. That doesn’t mean they aren’t horrible events to go through. Sadly, Mankind’s memory is short.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I think that is why things like stone circles and other lasting monuments were so important. They probably helped the people to remember, at least on their own lands. But I guess there have always been those who wanted more power, more control, and those are the ones that have created the issues. Even when the first men during and after the ice age were living, I read how a man hunting out in the ice was speared by others. So it IS an age old issue for sure, and it is sad, for mankind is our only hope that I can see.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. That’s a really good point, Anne. I wonder if Sue and Stuart have considered stone circles in this way. Sue is proposing we have a private visit to Stonehenge next year – the cost will be high: £100 ish for one hour, but we would get the wonder of the circle to ourselves…

              Like

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