Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Paradox of Tribalism

The industrialized First World has been seeping into the belly of the Third World, fragmenting tribal identities along the way. Factories, city tenements and smart phones homogenize ancestral ties; steel, cement, and electronic chips sever bonds birthed from Mother Earth.

For many ethnic groups, modernization brings a terrible loss. The African phrase, popularized by none other than Hilary Clinton, says it all: "It takes a village to raise a child." Sprawling city landscapes of highrise/lowrise apartments isolate people from one another as walls replace open doors.

At this juncture, our "global village" more resembles a jigsaw puzzle in disarray than a small planet with a few billion humans with more in common than not.

But herein lies the paradox. It is none other than the culprit of tribalism that causes wars large and small. This cultural amalgamation often breeds a mindset that "the other" or "the outsider" is different, and thus not as human as the "insiders." The very traditions that root people are also the very traditions that can uproot anything different or out of place. Like noxious weeds that overrun a fertile field, tribalism fosters a tendency to obliterate the other in the interest of the collective cultural self.

As with all paradoxes, there lies within the extremes a mid-point wherein one finds balance. Couldn't we use our intelligence wisely, to find a middle path between honoring our unique traditions - while understanding that a well-spring of human activity pours forth from the same source?

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