The over 1, city-states of ancient Greece never developed a notion like that of the Roman natio , or nationhood.
By contrast, many different peoples were bound by a common allegiance to Rome. Pan-Hellenism—the idea that the city-states were united by a common language, locale, and religion—never quite trumped Greek tribalism. That factionalism is why foreign-imposed dynasties and empires eventually conquered the city-states. Most of the Middle East and Africa remain plagued by tribalism. In Iraq, a civil servant sees himself first as Shiite or Sunni rather than Iraqi, and acts accordingly.
The result is inevitably the violence seen in places like the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Syria, or Iraq. The extreme historic remedy for tribalism is often the brutality of empire.
The Ottoman, Austria-Hungary, and Soviet empires were all multiethnic, but they were also ruthless in squashing factional rebellion by seeking to suppress or even destroy all minority religions, languages, and identities. Fear of tribalism and diversity is why much of Asia limits immigration. Certainly, an American, Mexican, or Ugandan who moves to Japan, China, or South Korea cannot easily proclaim himself a full-fledged citizen of his adopted country.
Yet most Asians are unapologetic about what Westerners might label chauvinism, if not racism. They have no desire for the melting pot and certainly not the salad bowl. Apparently they believe that the benefits of enriching the culture via different modes of food, entertainment, fashion, and art are more than offset by the costs of factionalism and disunity caused by diversity.
No wonder that the Mexican government treats illegal immigration as a felony offense.
Few African Americans or American whites could emigrate to Mexico and realistically expect to ever become full-fledged citizens of Mexico in social, cultural, and political terms. The United States is by and large the exception to the global rule that governments seek to maintain homogeneity, not cultivate diversity, whenever possible. It was certainly a long process as African Americans, Hispanics, southern Europeans, eastern Europeans, and non-Westerners were slowly incorporated fully into the state.
Along the way, they often met religious and ethnic discrimination and worse. But, again, the inherent logic of America was to transcend tribalism and focus on merit and citizenship. The result was twofold: the emergence of greater talent unimpeded by racial and religious barriers, and a constant awareness that individual identity should not trump political unity. If it did, such tribalism would lead to violence, insecurity, and general impoverishment.
There are historical reasons why identity politics has never sustained a state and eventually leads only to its oblivion. It is hard to maintain strict racial and religious purity in a nation of competing tribal interests—without resorting to apartheid, violence, or ethnic and racial ideologies subverting civility. In our multiracial society, mere appearance no longer guarantees easy tribal identification.
And barring that, through dress or assertion, a Ward Churchill or Shaun King can simply construct a minority identity on the premise that it is otherwise unnoticed by appearance. If being a member of a minority group is all-important, why is such membership not self-evident? Identity politics is anti-meritocratic and often illogical: The tribe resents anti-tribal bias, even as bias is what fuels the claims of the tribe itself.
One can easily observe, but is not supposed to speak of, the contradictions of affirmative action. For example, universities do not always admit students or hire faculty on the basis of merit because they value racial diversity more than talent alone, and feel that they can afford to be magnanimous in relegating merit in some areas while not in others. Why are too many Asians a worry at UC Berkeley if many professional sports teams do not worry about the dominance of African-American athletes?
Is university education less important than football? The hypocrisies mount in a rather insidious fashion when we look across the professions. We usually do not select neurosurgeons or nuclear plant designers by factoring in their religion, race, or tribe, but we do consider tribal affiliation in selecting our teachers and bureaucrats. But why do we lower our standards for these latter roles rather than relying on merit?
Is it because we think those jobs are less important and will not damage society all that much when merit does not govern hiring? The logic of identity politics is totalitarian and destroys individualism, past and present. When history is interpreted not as a tragic story of individuals caught up in bad and good causes, but simply as a deterministic melodrama of race or gender, then the record of an individual becomes meaningless.
People are reduced to anonymous numbers in a Soviet-like gulag. There were thousands of courageous, cowardly, compassionate, and mean-spirited pioneers who braved the nineteenth-century Oregon Trail. The social architecture of hope involves reimagining our tribal natures, in which tribes become learning organisms that help individuals and groups remain rooted to psyche, place, people and purpose, while still expanding their circles of influence and belonging. Moreover, tribes are not targets but antibodies; part of our planetary immune response is seeing them differently and connecting them with each other in ways that optimise the relationship between the active ingredients they are working with.
A richer of theory of change would try to answer a different kind of question. What is the deep code Bonnitta Roy or generator function Daniel Schmachtenberger of a new civilisation? However, my organisation Perspectiva seeks to be a lighthouse for those seeking cultural transformation who feel figuratively at sea, wondering if there is dry land to be found. We are working with clusters of networks who want to develop new ways of living and working at scale that are informed by spiritual trans form ation broadly conceived.
There is a sense in which these tribes do not exist yet, and we are wishing them and willing them into being in an attempt to create the social architecture of hope. In Marxist terms these are often groups in-themselves but not yet for themselves , or even for each other — that is the work to be done. Distantly inspired by the twelve tribes of Israel, and mindful of twelve being the number for initiating order, here is an indicative list of the kinds of tribe we need to bring into being and connect with each other.
In light of hand-held addictive devices and ambient advertising, many now view our capacity to control and direct our own attention as the key cultural and political question of our time. Many activists are disillusioned and burnt out and no longer convinced that campaigning strategies lead to lasting change. And yet, we have never had greater need of effective activism, so we need to transform the practise.
The combined effect of monopolistic data scraping and hoarding, artificial intelligence, machine learning, synthetic biology, virtual reality and robotics points towards a world that will be completely different. And many working in technology have no particular background or education relating to sociological imagination, so their instinctive reaction to emerging societal challenges is to think of how technology might fix it, which may be part of the problem. We need to work with designers to help connect our bio-psycho-social-spiritual natures to ever-shifting technology so that it remains our servant rather than our master.
Disillusioned social entrepreneurs, informed by goal-directed practices devised by management consultant companies are beginning to doubt their capacity to effect change at scale.
Meanwhile private sector organisations of all kinds are seeking purpose driven activity that goes beyond making profit. Capitalist logics make the tension between organisational purpose and societal purpose a living question. The truth is in trouble, partly because our media is fragmented and most information we received is strategic and motivated rather than impartial. We need a new media ecology that is financially sound and works in the context of the emotional contagions and epistemic bubbles of social media.
Capital flows shape the future, and financiers often look to each other to predict how quickly the world is changing — money signals the direction of travel and thereby creates it. Particularly on energy, we need to help tell the story of why it makes sense to take money out of fossil fuels and towards alternative energy. We are also interested in working with reflective philanthropists on their theories of change and impact.
The academic model based on disciplinary allegiance and peer reviewed publication for journal articles that are rarely read is arguably in its twilight years We need intellectual rigour and vision, but beyond the institutional sclerosis there are also epistemological challenges relating to what counts of true and useful knowledge. What is responsible scholarship today? What is fascinating today is that that those who are trying to renew their traditions are likely to have more in common with each other that those who share the tradition but are blind to its problematic mutations.
Within the three main western ethical traditions - utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics; it is the latter that has been neglected and overlooked and that needs to be revived to create a politics of the common good. How do we refashion qualities of citizenship, disinterested commitment to public good and learn to live and disagree together better.
What do you do with people who share passions or interest or concerns when they are together in a room? We need to get better at unlocking the emergent properties of groups, which recognises epistemic diversity, emotional data, and involve creative forms of inquiry. Metamodernism is a way of thinking and being that tries to integrate indigenous, traditional, modern and postmodern ways of knowing. As a way of thinking, it insists on reconstruction after deconstruction and helps move society beyond critique towards vision.
Metamodernism values dialogue rather than dialectic because the diversity that matters most is epistemic diversity - different ways of truthfully seeing and knowing the world, but we do not yet have the cultural maturity to host this kind of dialogue at scale.