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Psychology | Clans and tribes

Science continues to give doctors more tools to help them understand how the human body works and even the human brain. Scanners now help researchers understand what different parts of our brains do. Some of our behaviour is hard-wired into us. Babies don’t need to learn how to cry, it comes naturally.

It seems that other behaviour is ‘born in us’ too, but some behaviour is learnt. Family and friends are very important to us. They help us survive and survival is our main purpose in life. Our family looks after us as children, but family continues to be important to most people even when they reach adulthood. We are social animals and so we make friends and form allegiances. We do things collectively rather than individually. We do compete against each other though, for possessions and for mates.

Tribalism

This inclination towards tribalism, can lead to bullying especially in children. There is a tendency to require all members of the tribe to conform to a ‘norm’. Anyone who appears different can be shunned, bullied or even given the ‘silent treatment’. Appearance is very important. The ‘beautiful people’ are considered healthy and to have good genes and so are more suitable as mates. We are very primitive in our behaviour when it comes to choosing mates. We tend to have a distorted image of ourselves and so always tend to choose someone who is seen as more attractive than us by the social group. All the guys tend to chase the prettiest girl and all the girls want the handsome successful guy. This leads to a lot of rejection and disappointment. Some people don’t measure up to what the tribal leaders expect of them and can be shunned by the whole tribe. They then become social outcasts. Frequently they are tolerated, but labelled as outcasts. Terms like ‘nerd’ are labels for the less attractive and popular tribal members.

Begging

Social outcasts are often abused. They can end up homeless and as beggars on the streets. Society itself is a tribe and anyone who doesn’t appear to fit in can be ostracized and treated badly, even inhumanly. This can include people who are sick, disabled or simply unattractive.

Social Health

The social health of a society can be judged as offering everyone equal opportunity to access goods and services critical to being able to function as a contributing member of that society. When people are so poor that they can’t become socially involved or don’t have educational or employment opportunities then the tribe is shunning them and making them outcasts. Many people need the tribe to include them and accept them as they are with their disability or difference. Society also has to accept that not everyone can contribute to the welfare of society equally. Some people can contribute more and so should do so for the benefit of the whole society and not just for their own benefit or that of their family.

Crime, depression and anxiety

Making people outcasts leads to many social problems. They are perceived as different, as unacceptable and so their behaviour becomes even more unacceptable. This can lead to crime. Outcasts become less social and will steal from the tribe and have no respect for tribal members or leaders. They will tend to become depressed and withdrawn and so will be able to contribute less. Anxiety caused by rejection is common and anyone in the tribe can be rejected, even the tribal leaders. Weakness tend to be frowned upon in a tribal environment. Physical strength is admired and so are qualities that show psychological strength, like determination; even stubbornness. Even cruelty can be seen as a positive attribute when there are conflicts, especially between what might be seen as rival tribes.

Primitive conflicts

We tend to think of ourselves as sophisticated and frown on primitive behaviour. Some people however, revel in primitive behaviour. Sport is an example of primitive behaviour, but some sports are more primitive than others. Golf is seen to be more sophisticated than team sports that are often seen as primitive and tribal. There is a conflict in many of us between the desire to be cultured and sophisticated and the need to be primitive. We like to think of ourselves as ‘higher’ than the animals. When people are given access to the higher things, like music and art they tend to fit into the tribe better and be more social. When they are denied enough goods and services for social health; they behaviour more primitively; like animals. They tend to be aggressive social outcasts or suffer from a mental illness that consigns them to a lonely social wilderness.

What do you think? Are you primitive and tribal or sophisticated? Please share your thoughts in the comments box. You can also follow me on Twitter  for updates.

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