Right off the bat I should probably say that the title above may be a little misleading, because I honestly believe that tribal thinking is at the root of pretty much everything that is wrong in the world today. By making anyone who isn’t part of your tribe, those people who don’t look or think like you, into ‘others’ and laughing at them, discriminating against them or avoiding them out of fear, we make the world smaller and harsher for all of us. There will always be exceptions to this rule (of mine), by all means laugh at the people with huge privilege who wander around claiming that they are the ones being treated badly. Punching up with jokes is a survival technique for those of us who do not share those privileges, but for the most part thinking about the rest of the world as being full of strange and scary people will limit your opportunities and will probably make you (behave like) an arsehole. But I chose this title because, as human beings (I’m assuming that everyone reading this is human, if not Welcome! to our new Robot and/or Alien Overlords) we need other people. That last sentence makes me a bit of a hypocrite, not the bit about aliens and/or robots, I definitely do welcome them, but because my ‘tribe’ is tiny.
I learnt early on to be self-sufficient and that is a hard thing to undo. Discovering that you are not supported by the people who are supposed to support you can have profound and life long effects. For me it meant building defences but always learning lessons the hard way. Don’t feel sorry for me though. Finding out the truth of things for yourself means you are less likely to be fooled by the people who are out to trick or trap you. Developing compassion and respect for yourself enables you to feel those things for others, which reinforces their strength (I wouldn’t stand by and watch someone else being abused, so why should I allow myself to suffer it?) Discovering your own morals and ethics means that when life suddenly dumps crap on you from a great height you already have the foundations against which to plant yourself and cling on until you can raise you head and take a breath (covered in crap, but still alive).
It is also one of the most liberating feelings in the world when you discover that the sky does NOT fall in when you say no.
But, as I said way back in the beginning, human beings need other human beings. I suspect I could live the rest of my existence without speaking another word to another person, but life would be less comfortable, less colourful, quieter but less interesting if I did, and I want comfort and colour and interests. So I decided for myself where I would draw the lines that do not get crossed, but I made them far enough out that a few (very few) people are on this side of them. My tribe is tiny. The most loved people in the world are 160 miles down the road and 1 mile from home. My neighbours are friends that I help out when they need it, and who would do the same for me, but who also know that my home is my sanctuary into which they will probably not be invited. My friends live far away and are rarely seen, but when we are together our time apart melts away like ice cream (sweet and sticky and messy and fun and full of calories). I have blog friends who don’t even know I exist, but I read what they write and feel less alone in the world. It’s a tiny tribe, but it doesn’t contain a single annoying or shitty person, for I have designed it that way.
Rules for finding your tribe:
1: It is NOT selfish to care about yourself. If you learn to respect yourself you will respect others, and they will return the favour.
2: Do not accept crap off other people. If you can’t change something crappy in the moment decide that you will not allow it to happen again, THEN NEVER PUT YOURSELF INTO THAT SITUATION AGAIN (change your job, dump that person, find a new hairdresser…)
3: Stand up for people less able. IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO.
4: Vote, in every election you are entitled to vote in. People fought and died to ensure we have this right, don’t disrespect their sacrifices. Either get off your arse and be counted, or stop moaning because you’re not helping. This one is particularly important for women, don’t take it for granted, we’ve only had it a few years.
5: Tell people when they have done something well. Don’t assume someone else will say it, or that they know they have done well. Telling them can change their day, week, year or life.
6: Tell people when they have had a positive effect on you. By giving them credit for brightening your day or easing your life you are encouraging them to do it again and the world needs more of that.
7: Protect yourself. The world IS full of arseholes, but harbouring a secret desire to actually be part of it doesn’t mean you have to welcome in the worst elements of it.
8: Protect your tribe. Standing up for the people you care about, even if you have never met them, means you are more likely to stand up for yourself.
9: Challenge the norm. Express your disgust when someone says something racist or sexist or homophobic within your hearing, it is them that make it awkward, not you. This one is particularly for men…challenge the LOL’s, do not accept the locker room talk, argue against the jokes that punch down, tell your ‘mates’ that when they disrespect others they are including people you care about. IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO.
10: Find the people who fit in your life without causing you pain, discomfort or anxiety…dump everyone else.
Yes, life would be magnificently better if we could choose our own family…so do it.