Two Sides to Tribal Behavior

A tribe is a group of distinct people, dependent on their land for their livelihood, who are largely self-sufficient and not integrated into the national society.

Sounds an awful lot like the 1% of the U.S. population.

A community is a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.

Sounds an awful lot like the 99% of the U.S. population seeking community through the church, schooling, sports, or cultural interests.

The notion and use of the word tribe has entered our modern consciousness. Tribe is colorful. Tribe is ancient. Tribe is trendy. To belong to a tribe is cool. Mostly, I find my tribes in cyber space: writers, artists, poets, thinkers, activists.

I guess I could call them my communities, too. But then, a community is rooted in place. The notion and use of the word community convey the idea of sharing. Sharing in place. I live in a small town and I share my everyday life with other people, who happen to live here, too, in real time.

Tribe is rooted in people and Community in place.

With the spread of suburbia, the original idea of community has been lost. The residents may go to a different church, they may go to different schools, they may root for different sports teams, and they may have different cultural interests.

Therefore, the idea of tribe has replaced community. We form groups with like-minded people and stay outside community. Us versus them. It is growing.





  1. This is a real tip-of-the-iceberg topic: you could start a very energetic conversation at a cocktail party with this post! One could also say that tribes define themselves as being distinct and apart from those outside the tribe, while communities tend to be more easily inclusive. And I’m continually amazed (and dismayed) at how the very things we thought would unite us — the instant and continuous access to information, social media, and ease of communication through technology — instead of uniting us, often seems to splinter us further and further into segmented groups.

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