Image © copyright Stephen Tanham

We’re visiting relatives. It’s friendly. We have a light meal and some cake to follow. But then someone mentions Brexit and a cold frost descends on the room…

My wife and I bite our tongues, knowing our hosts are firm believers that Britain’s post-colonial destiny lies in a renewed ‘Little England’ reborn from some poster of decades ago. Until my wife’s uncle says, “Besides, the EU isn’t democratic..”

If you know her, you can hear something snap. She leans forward to take another piece of cake and refreshes her tea from the beautiful Royal Albert tea service. “Who is your MEP (Member of European Parliament), Uncle Norman?” she asks.

“Well, I’m not sure… I don’t bother with that sort of thing,” he says, wrong-footed by the lack of the simplest fact. But the question was designed to show that the EU is as democratic as it’s possible to be… It ‘s just that Uncle Norman can’t be bothered to invest even that much effort in what it’s trying to do – what it has done, very successfully, since Europe emerged from the ashes of World War II.

But none of that matters. Nor does the fact that Vote Leave – the organisation behind Brexit, has just been fined the maximum possible for electoral over-expenditure. The mere twenty thousand pounds is a tiny expense to the billionaires who want to jerk Britain out of Europe so they can make even more money in a less regulated world.

The exchange is typical of a vicious polarity that has divided Britain down the middle (52% to 48%, plus or minus the fraud). Towns, counties and families find themselves on one side or the other of the great divide. Everyone knows something vast is happening.

Some people find it exciting… ‘It’s time for a change..’

Other people understand history… and manipulation… and don’t.

But all the above is just me expressing, as honestly as I can, one side of that polarity.

Someone on the ‘excited’ side of the equation will tell you that Britain has been ‘shackled’ by the EU (our main trading partner, and supporter of our poorest regions) for decades and that vast, new trade deals will be available to a plucky and rejuvenated England.. sorry, Britain… Donald Trump is excited about Brexit. He’s publicly stated that he has his eyes on our National Health Service…

It’s too late to change what Brexit has done to Britain. But it’s not too late to examine the fault-lines that led nation, industry and families to be ripped apart. In my opinion, this is critical, since we are being manipulated on a scale never seen before – and the Tribe is at the centre of it all.

In Part One, we looked at how an approach like that of the famous psychologist Maslow, could be used to explain ‘Tribal’ influences being preyed upon by political strategists seeking to implement radical changes in our political systems – leading to increasingly authoritarian governments within the western world.

Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs diagram’ Source: Wikipedia

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is reproduced above with an explanation in Part One. The pyramid diagram below is my own attempt to create a schematic for what I see in Britain, and also what seems to be happening in the USA. See Part One for the details.

We face an ultimate choice of society: the Tribe or the Individual

Western civilisation has taken a long curve to get to where it is today. Its ideal, at least until recently, has been freedom for the individual. The freedom to live a life as we each choose, supported by a state which offers a balance between individual effort and financial return, is central to this ethic. But, when 80% of the wealth belongs to 20% of the people, something’s going to break.

The old industrial regions of the north and midlands of England and the American ‘rust belt’ have a lot in common. They are both examples of peoples with strong backgrounds – and self-belief. Their identity is related to the landscape in which they live, the hard jobs they have traditionally done and the family values they inherited. Such people (and I am from the north of England, so this is not said negatively) have a strong ‘Tribal’ presence, in the way I described it in Part One.

Their anger seeks expression. They are fed up of buying into an economic system that has left them behind; fed up of political rhetoric that forgets its promises the minute the elections are done – because it never had any intention of honouring them, once it had won the vote.

Success, measured by the human heart, is hard and never quick. It takes a long, considered view and cares.. Anything less is someone else’s agenda for more power.

But people believe in instant fixes – given the right hero. So, when there comes an opportunity to give the system a kick in the teeth, they take it…

I cannot speak for the USA, but it is certainly true in Britain. The ‘will of the people’ (one of the new hypnosis words) arose and kicked out the villains… or perhaps not. What did happen is the ‘will of the people’ was cleverly manufactured by people who understood that the world had changed, but not that much; who understood that the twin powers of social media and good old-fashioned hatred of ‘them’ could be harnessed beneath a flag that promised ‘freedom’.

Tribes have flags. What could be easier in a complex world?

Even before Britain reaches the ‘final, final’ departure date from the EU (the last day of October, 2019), Britain’s car industry is in crisis… Companies like Nissan, General Motors and Honda, who had made huge investments in Britain on the basis that it was a civilised and educated ‘gateway’ into Europe have done or are in the process of doing what any business would do. There is no longer anything ‘too big’ to fail in the world of global business.

Complexity can be manipulated to thwart maturity

Which brings us face to face with the behaviour of the Tribe. I am born into a Tribe. Our individual, ‘private self’ goal is to break through this, taking what is good from our Tribe, but claiming our freedom to follow our own path… a path that may see us diverge from that taken by the unquestioning Tribe. This is the core dichotomy of the world to come: can we mature beyond the Tribe to real and powerful individuality?

That may be the most important question of our age.

The bullies – the aggressive ones with guns or equivalent, discard the facade of democracy and proclaim the time-consuming processes of real consent as ‘weak.’ All authoritarian regimes reject the individual quest. This should be sacrificed, they say, for the collective.

This is the cross of Socialism, whose fundamental lack of fit with ‘today’s’ world is individual, not collective, intelligence, despite its admirable and caring values. But political identities are constantly evolving…

I know the world of ‘Tech’ well. It used to be called either computing or technology. I have spent most of my adult life in this sea. Tech has become a force of power in politics because in allows massive reinforcement of what the Tribal values are at any time.

The most potent power in the Tech world is the ‘Like‘ button. I don’t need to worry too much about the working out of something if I like its colour. I don’t need to worry about the truth of what someone said if it is associated with an advert for my football team. If my favourite things weren’t there, it would be a harder medium to be in. And so, those of great intelligence have placed before me what I may easily like. In so doing, I can be linked to those of like mind… and lied to. I will not question it, because my friends are there…

All of these ‘Tech’ processes were used in both Brexit and America’s presidential elections. Cambridge Analytica, a UK company, pioneered the use of ‘extracted’ social media data to achieve the results their customers wanted. The results are history…. and our present.

In sport, when someone cheats, their gold medal is taken away. In politics we shoot the drug that gave them the advantage and leave intact the sport’s result.

All of this is summarised in the diagram below. Which show how our real maturity is an aspirational force pushing up our pyramid of self, Complexity is easily manipulated to exclude the ‘common man’.

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

Modern complexity is being fabricated. Education could be used to illustrate the lies. The effect of 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 both nationalism and populism, and the seeming ignorance of the historic basis for the repeated rise of fascism in our histories.

We still have the choice as to what we belong. We can belong to the values of our Tribe and be safe: “Well, we all did that…” Or we can belong to the truth, and seek it out with all our being. It is real, it has power, but it must be embraced, loved and understood – in a way that makes modern politics its opponent. But politics is just the will of the people, and, ultimately, though it may take a long time, that will not be fooled.

In Part Three, the conclusion of this series, we will look at the dynamics of polarity, and how opinion is not so black and white as we may think.

© 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

10 Comments on “Vexed by the Tribe (part two) – the fabrication of complexity

  1. Pingback: Vexed by the Tribe (part two) – the fabrication of complexity — Sun in Gemini – yazım'yazgısı (typography)

  2. The problem with both current divisive tribal and individual living is that they ignore the collective good–the “seven generation stewardship” of traditional Native American thought. We can’t isolate ourselves from our community responsibilities to take care of the things that are good for the continuity and support of all of life. Individualism too often ignores or refuses this responsibility. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

      • In the United States individuality means never having to think about anyone or anything else. I don’t see that changing in the present climate. Those who follow the tribe still think they are acting as individuals as well. Perhaps we need different words…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Words are always the problem, Kerfe (hope I’ve got that right?). I am primarily referring to spiritual individuality – the desire and will to find one’s own truth. This does not preclude the inclusion of others’ beliefs. Selfishness is not individuality, it is immaturity. But, again, these are things that make sense to me. They may not to others… good comments, thank you.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an excellent discussion (from the original writer and the comments), and I appreciate both. Today we are facing massive problems, and now I realize how it is on both sides of the pond. I feel ashamed that I honestly did not realize how bad it was on the other side of the pond; I live in the U.S., and trying to keep up with what is going on here without becoming immersed in it has become a true challenge. I lived (or so I thought) in an era when society was vastly different, and perhaps it actually was. But then, I was a child, and children find ways to make even the worst things in life when they can, into a sort of fairy tale, or they block it all out and do the best they can to survive in such terrible situations.

    I was born in 1941, and we all know what the war did to everyone. I wish I had known what it was like before that, but from things I read, it was pretty difficult then too. I know that sometime after WWII and perhaps after Korea (I cannot honestly remember right now), people began to build bomb shelters in their back yards, and there was a return to the kind of individuality I think you are talking about, Steve. We looked back years later when most of those supposed bomb shelters were no longer even ruins, but covered up and forgotten.

    Today’s individualism is comparable with George Orwell’s book, 1984, where people live for the moment. There is more anger and frustration in our society today than I have honestly ever seen, with police shootings (of and by the police daily), people carrying on all kinds of violence in the most unimaginable places that would seem safe like a Garlic Festival in a podunk town of California, and just total seemingless senseless violence of parents killing or maiming their babies and children so bad that the children will never be able to function in any meaningful way again. It goes on and on and I am sure you have it on your side of the pond too. I feel rather embarrassed because I have focused on the beauty and the tales of the land and the interesting things that Sue and Stuart write about. And it is not that they are not aware of these things, I am sure, but who among us would read daily such dreadful things, though in reality we all do, and in a sense, we DO all need to become aware that along with beauty and spiritual things, there exists that other side of life.

    Some of us look and wonder how could things have come to be this bad everywhere? I think I can say, and I think perhaps Steve is saying it in a different way, that they did not just happen. They have been happening little by little for a very long time. I can only speak for the USA side that people have lived lives blinded by new and better things – new technology, new and fancier and better cars, bigger homes, the latest fashions, who is sleeping with whom in the world of stardom, the latest drugs, and we have become a throwaway society here. We have also become apathetic related to voting, or we vote without realizing ALL the facts that a given party or person means. We see nothing of the things that person stands for, or who supports that person, and perhaps why. People in the U.S. were more concerned with whether Obama was born in the U.S. than I think any of them could have told you what he stood for.

    I am very A-political today and I think many others are too because none of them are supporting or acting in a way that our Forefathers might have thought was good because even in those times, there was disintegration afoot. It is not this party or the other that is causing the issues; it is the way mankind has failed himself in his thinking, or lack thereof.

    So to get back to Steve’s discussion, he has made some very good points. At one time in this world’s history, mankind did manage to function together. They built monuments and structures that stand today as a reminder of what is possible in this world. I am not fully certain what the answer is. Perhaps we need to develop spiritually, and in that I am not referring to religions or spiritual followings, but to a way of thinking that respects life and works to preserve it in the best possible way. And the people need to be in control of those things and types of people we are all exposed to through our youth and into adulthood, the things and people that shape who we become. We cannot get rid of them, but we have to maintain our integrity and develop a sense of something bigger than ourselves and those influences to serve.

    Thank you, Steve, and thank you to those of who you who commented. I wish I had all the answers, but I do not. I only know that integrity of ourselves and our spiritual life is critical. And that does not mean selfish or self-centered. It means that we can serve others and serve our communities in the best ways we can, without any goals other than to remain in integrity in all that we do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deep thoughts, Anne. When we are psychologically ‘ready’ and begin to be spiritually aware – conscious of the existence of higher truths; then we can re-assess our role in our incarnated lives: which is primarily to be AWARE. after that, we enter a world where ordinary logic does not always rule what we do. We begin to ‘listen’ differently.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much, Steve. That message is especially important for me. I understand what you are saying, and hope to be in that place soon. At times I can slip into a world that seems somewhat like what you are describing, but it is easy to get pulled back into it again. Perhaps we are always evolving into that existence of higher truths. I am so happy to be involved in my studies. It has given me a lot to think about – and for the good too I think. I have thought that there is likely nothing better I could be doing for myself and others in these, the winter years of my life. Thank you as always. I do think about the issues of life a lot, but until recently, it has been the way I have thought about such things most of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

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