Friday, January 14, 2011

Tribes and Nations

            What are tribes and nations? A dictionary says:
Nation: “1. People in land under single government: a community of people or peoples living in a defined territory and organized under a single government 2. People of same ethnicity: a community of people, who share a common ethnic origin, culture, historical tradition, and, frequently, language, whether or not they live together in one territory or have their own government” and so on…

Tribe: “1. social division of people: a society or division of a society whose members have ancestry, customs, beliefs, and leadership in common 2. Family: a large family (informal) 3. Group with something in common: a group of people who have something in common such as an occupation, social background, or political viewpoint” and so on…
(Definitions obtained from Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation)
Taking those definitions into account I feel confident in saying that nations exist in our minds; they are abstract ideas, which only exist because we say they do.
            Some People live in these units for the advantages they get as a member of one. Others, if given the choice would rather not be confined in such a collective situation. Still, others are under the impression that particular nations are endorsed by a higher power or that certain heads of state have been ordained by God. These reasons and others I’ve neglected are dependent on time, location, and the individual in question. This essay and my thoughts follow the secular reasoning of one who is a willing member of such a union for its advantages.
            When early humans came together in bands to share the burdens of life it was, in my view, a beneficial move. These bands later evolved into clans, tribes, and nations. Throughout history dissatisfied and disenfranchised people have been known to flee their lands in order to found societies of their own. There’s nothing about the past that makes such unions more legit than others founded later in time. It makes sense to secede from an oppressive or defective state if change is not possible. Collectivizing within a state to ensure the needs of neglected people are met is, in my opinion, a sensible move.
            In reality we are individuals, but in our minds we are races, ethnicities, clans, tribes, nations and communities. I propose that willing individuals rethink the designations put upon them by their ancestors and form new associations which would be based on modern day knowledge and progressive values.
            There is a small movement of people who are rethinking these ideas and have decided to form intentional communities. This movement is a great source of inspiration for me personally. Some intentional communities are also known as communes. Many people have a misinformed view of these organizations and this negative stigma keeps many people from considering them as a viable alternative to the mainstream.
            Intentional communities come in many forms. Some are based on spiritual values while others are secular. Most are based on ideals of cooperation. Co-housing communities, ecovillages, even housing co-ops (not to be confused with Co-housing) are included under the definition of intentional community. Other types of intentional communities exist as well, but the focus here is in line with the aims of egalitarian communities.
            Egalitarian communes run on a non-hierarchal system where decisions are made by consensus. Some hold environmental, feminist, or vegan values. Many have collectively owned businesses to fund their communities.
            People join these communities for many reasons. One may want to live by the values they hold. Others join them to experiment with new lifestyles or to live in a community of like-minded people. In the case of egalitarian communities, some people including myself feel these communities can show others how alternate systems work, and perhaps reveal the benefits of egalitarianism.
            [To learn more about Intentional communities check out ]
            With capitalism the means of production are privately owned. In spite of the countless poor and homeless the United States still worships the dollar. In order to eliminate or at least lessen poverty the shortcomings of our capitalist system would have to be seriously examined. There are little advantages to being destitute in a society that has no obligation to ensure the wellbeing of its members. One needs money to make money, this fact makes getting out of poverty nearly impossible for most people. Monetary gain is put over the welfare of those in need, so why should the poor have any loyalty to a society that forsakes them?

            Many poor people are willing to reject policies that would directly help them because those same policies would also help people with different complexions. Political leaders and pundits subtly advocate group division based on superficial physical differences and nonexistent genetic variation. Racial identity is so ingrained into most Americans that even the most well intentioned people cling to these ideas. The very concept of race is inherently racist and unfortunately these ideas are still here.
            The reformist political system of the United States offers no real way to combat the ills of capitalism and racism. [Before I continue, let me make it clear that I do Not advocate violence as an alternative to making necessary socioeconomic changes.] One reason for not relying on the reformist electoral system alone is because the US government is bought and paid for by capitalists [the rich]. The mainstream media is also funded and therefore also own by the same people. Examining the negative effects of capitalism would most likely cut into the profits of these capitalists. As for racism; well, race would have to be the ultimate wedge issue. This concept keeps the proletariat at each other’s throats rather than working together. I would never discourage voting, but seeing that the system belongs to the capitalist, one shouldn’t expect significant changes to be made by voting alone. Capitalism and racism are such integral parts of our society that I don’t believe they can be removed through normal reformist methods. If one truly wants to change things then alternative [Non-violent] methods are worth considering.
            In 1948, after years of struggle, many like-minded people declared themselves a nation and named their nation Israel. Of course I’m leaving out the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the formation of the state of Israel, but they aren’t relevant to this essay. The individuals who founded Israel shared a common religion, and the belief that they had a common ancestry. Whether the biblical accounts of their ancestry were true or not, they believed it, and that belief motivated them to create the modern day state of Israel. This is by no means an endorsement of the tactics used in the formation of Israel, or its policies. The point is that people can build, and have built nations.
            In nature, national boundaries and the laws of man obviously don’t exist. In our minds though, these things can be as real as the morning sun. We carry out the rule of law making it real. When it comes to space and time, we divide them up in our thoughts creating borders and time zones. We then organize our lives around these temporal rules and enforce these border laws. We then define ourselves and our societies by these land claims.
Land claims though, aren’t needed by all communities, tribes, or nations. To my knowledge, some groups don’t rely on ideas of land ownership nor do they have to be in the same geographic location to maintain their status as a people.
Mainstream culture takes great pains to discredit all nonconformist thought. Often ideas are dismissed before they are fully explained or understood. Simple notions like cooperative work and sharing responsibility in a meaningful way are looked at as too radical to be considered. Whereas, competing over vital resources is somehow promoted as beneficial to society. The idea of individuals with common goals adopting each other as brother and sister isn’t bad, although it may not be everyone’s preference. If we open our minds we might see that we have the tools needed to create the system of our preference, at least in part. Of course creating such a system would also require a lot of hard work.
Race, ethnicity, and nationality are all imaginary and these concepts can be re-imagined. The ideas expressed here are radical in the context of current societal norms, but in theory still possible.

[Edited on 8/17/2011. Please let me know if you spot any mistakes, and please keep in mind that I'm not a writer.]

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