The Tribal Identity – Paradigm for the next Generation
As a species we are approaching a window of danger and opportunity; a time of upheaval which will shatter nations and superstates along fault-lines of geography, language, and group identity.
This is a socioeconomic experiment. You can be an observer, or an active participant. One way or another the venue is the real world.
As a species we are approaching a window of danger and opportunity; a time of upheaval which will shatter nations and superstates along fault-lines of geography, language, and group identity.
A socioeconomic reset is in order and in the works. The stakes are high. Positive outcomes are possible, but are by no means guaranteed.
We have a very limited time table to influence the outcome. We cannot afford to squander our efforts and resources on ethical anesthetics (artificial solutions).
We don’t control the system and we need to stop pretending that we do. It is counterproductive to debate over how to use power and resources that we do not have.
Voting the bums out doesn’t work. This is not just a question of a few bad apples, or a broken system. We have a paradigm problem. Those who haven’t come to terms with these realities, are behind the curve.
This is not the time to start fighting over what the ideal civilization might look like. Perfection is not on the table. The question is this: Can we do better? If so, we must try.
Take a deep breath. No seriously. Science tells us that the mere act of slowing down our breathing calms the mind measurably. The mind works better when calm, and we’re going to need the extra bandwidth, so take a deep breath and reset for a moment. Press pause if you need more time.
Alright, feeling better? Let’s take this to the next level.
The Modularity Principle
Systems are more stable, and easier to repair and update when they are built using simple, compact and minimally bundled components. In systems design this principle is referred to as modularity.
Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” to represent these minimal clusters in the realm of ideas. Ideas replicate with greater fidelity when they are simple, compact and minimally bundled. A meme is a modular component.
For an idea to survive it must be adapted to its environment. Ideological habitat dictates selective pressures. Modularity facilitates hybrid systems, and rapid adaptation. Applied to culture, it facilitates choice, and peaceful evolution.
Small clusters of ideas can bypass ideological gatekeepers (and avoid triggering cognitive dissonance) in ways that monolithic belief systems cannot. Once in the mind, new memes combine with existing memes and emotions transforming the overall system. This process can be positive, like an awakening, or it can be poisonous, like the metastasis race nationalism within a previously diverse group.
A virus of perception can begin with one person. However to spread, the meme has a replication imperative.
Modern humans are completely dependent on the flow of goods and resources from afar. Transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and medicine are all tied to fossil fuels. Cities and highways are designed with automobiles in mind. Food production, industry and office complexes moved farther and farther away from suburban sprawl. And all of it at the mercy of a debt based monetary system whose ebbs and flows we do not control, a system predicated on infinite growth on a finite planet.
- Rebuilding local resilience is imperative.
We must transition NOW towards local systems of production, exchange, and decision making. We must maximize efficiency, reduce inputs, waste and distance traveled. We must start with small, testable solutions that can be implemented right now without the sanction or assistance of those in power.
Local Resilience is a modular component (meme). It resonates. It is compatible with most world views. It is simple, self evident yet fundamentally transformative if applied.
But how would it be applied? How would we get from point A to point B?
When attempting to design, or redesign a complex system, humans have the tendency to start by formulating a detailed master plan, convincing a majority of the stakeholders to sign on to the plan, then implementing (or attempting to implement), the whole product in a linear fashion, like a car being assembled on the factory floor, leaving as a finished product, ready to be driven off the lot.
This approach is sometimes referred to as the “Waterfall Model”. It was termed “waterfall” because the design process was linear, it only moved in one direction. Teams would complete one phase, fully, before moving on to the next. The product wasn’t testable until the final phase. There was no provision for a fundamental redesign once implementation had begun. Water doesn’t flow uphill.
The waterfall model is well adapted to projects where all the variables are clearly defined and unlikely to change (such as the manufacture of a car, or the construction of a simple house), but is has a high failure rate on large, dynamic projects with changing requirements, limited resources, and unforeseen obstacles.
In the early 1990s the software industry faced what is often referred to as “the application development crisis” or the “application delivery lag”. On average it took three years to deliver a usable app. In some industries the process took decades. Within that time frame, requirements, systems, and entire business models had usually evolved. This caused many projects to be cancelled before they were finished, and since the linear model put off testing until the final product was ready, in the end the client was not often not happy with the result, even if it delivered precisely what had been requested.
Software developers attempted to protect themselves in this situation through comprehensive contracts. But projects were chronically behind schedule, over budget and buggy. Contracts provided legal protection, but not a happy customer.
Disillusioned by the status quo, a contingent of the development community gathered in 2001. They decided to radically adjust, and they put their intent into a manifesto.Though the ideas that they drew together had existed in other forms for some time, no one had yet unified those ideas with a sense purpose and mission. They did.
The ideas were simple: Rather than try to build according to a master plan that accounts for everything in the beginning, they would take an adaptive approach (aka iterative or non-linear).
They would first establish their abstract goal: describe what the product needed to accomplish in the broadest sense. They would then prioritize functionality, and build a minimal, stable, and USEFUL first version quickly. Test. Get stakeholder feedback. Reprioritize and adjust immediately. The process was non-linear.
Because of the focus on adapting quickly, the contingent decided to name the sense of purpose that they were bringing to existing adaptive, iterative non-linear processes “Agile”.
Their sense of purpose gave that word an identity. That identity caught on and was copied because it resonated. It was logical. It was an idea worth spreading. Their vision persisted because it worked: it provided tangible and immediate benefits.
This approach to project management improves outcomes in a wide variety of fields. For example, adaptive logic applied to food production, when the abstract goals are to increase efficiency, reduce inputs, waste, and distance traveled is Permaculture.
The Diversity Principle
Any idea worth holding must be worth testing. Unproven models must be tested at the smallest possible scale. Some will merit replication. Others will serve as cautionary tales.
More than one model can and will succeed. This should be embraced. At a macro-systemic level, diversity is inherently more stable than monoculture. This principle holds true in ecology, agriculture, economics and geopolitics.
The Tribal Identity
In the early 1970s social psychologist Henri Tajfel set out to study the minimal conditions required for discrimination to occur between groups of humans. In his tests he discovered that group identity could be easily formed in a very short time using trivial criteria (such as one’s musical preferences or the results of a coin toss), and that groups divided by such trivia would immediately display prejudice against those on the other side,and favor those in the same arbitrary category. He referred to this principle as The Minimal Group Paradigm. It’s the psychological root of tribal identity.
Homo Sapiens Sapiens is a social animal. Tribe the human analogue of a pack.
This instinct pre-dates humanity, and will persist. Failure to account for it, invites tragedy.
The pack instinct is a survival adaptation. It is triggered by physical insecurity. Those who are able to coordinate their efforts with those around them are able to accomplish exponentially more than those who attempt to go it alone.
Groups which define and maintain a strong shared identity are more stable than those which do not. This provides a selective pressure which will always come into play during times of upheaval.
The sense of belonging is a vital need, and modern civilization is in in throes of an identity crisis. This is the window of danger and opportunity.
Where there is opportunity there are always opportunists. Those willing to tell an angry crowd exactly what they want to hear, weaving stories that gives meaning to their pain redefining in-group against an out-group to be saddled with the blame.
When national identity becomes too weak to provide that sense of tribe, new group identities emerge to fill the void.
Identity vacuums cannot be ignored, or rationalized away. They will be filled, the only question is by who, and with what.
Either we fill that void with a positive vision, or demagogues, and prophets of hate will slice and dice, pitting us against each other over trivia.
Paradigm for the Next Generation
The next generation needs paradigm and code of identity that bind with a sense of purpose, community, and mission: An idea and a feeling that transcend superficial characteristics (like skin color, gender and orientation).
This vision must resonate, and inspire action; action towards concrete goals, minimal starting points that provide immediate and tangible benefits.
The code must be synchronized with reality. It must adapt to logic and evidence (the scientific method applied to the way humans learn, organize and live).
The code must be open source. It must be simple, modular (meme level), and compatible with a broad spectrum of existing ideologies. It must work with (rather than against) our instinctual psychology. It must be adapted to human biochemistry.
We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel.
We must learn from the lessons of history, and the innovations of the modern age. Take the best of the old and the new. Integrate what works and discard what doesn’t.
You’re never going to get every culture and subculture on this planet to agree on every aspect of the proper way to live, as such we will never eliminate in-group and out-group, or erase all borders of us and them. This understanding precludes one-size-fits-all, global solutions.
Grand socioeconomic designs defined in detail, to be imposed on all by the barrel of a gun, end in war and atrocities committed for the common good.
The ability to maintain peace and security within a group, and in relation to neighboring groups is vital. This duty is, and has always been our responsibility. However for generations we have outsourced these functions to other groups of humans, often thousands of miles away, who claim the monopoly on violence, money and truth within a given region. As the current system weakens, this responsibility must be picked up again on a community level. The transition must be guided by principle.
Most would agree that it’s “not right” to punch the neighborhood kid in the face and take his toy. But where does that feeling of “NOT RIGHT!” or “That’s NOT OK!” come from?
Some frame the concept of non-aggression as a moral principle, but moral principles could also be described as expressions of the tribal instinct. Such principles resonate deeply in the human psyche, and are easily reawakened because for eons they have facilitated the stability (and therefore survival) of groups which hold to them.
This assertion can be tested. Game theory has established that the most successful strategy in experiments modeled around conflict, is tit for tat: never attack, retaliate in kind.
Tit for tat was a mathematically consistent selective pressure. Instincts are adapted to that pressure. This is why every human culture has some concept of the right to self defense. It’s also why most societies condemn aggression, and why states always claim to be attacked when they want to start a war.
The retaliation instinct is counter balanced by empathy. Conflict resolution and consensus building improve outcomes by preventing long cycles of retaliation, and averting escalations before they start.
The Lines of Inclusion
Diversity and pluralism within a strong code of identity is a sign of strength, not weakness. However an inclusive identity can only be maintained if it is protected. For example: a single member attacking another tribe puts everyone in danger. As such, lines of inclusion must be clearly defined, and violators held to account.
Social validation is a biochemical incentive. If you incentivize something, you typically get more of it.
A code of identity which values conflict resolution, and consensus building, honors those who master those skills, and condemns those who initiate of violence, or call for wars of aggression, gives cultures which hold to it a much better chance of peaceful continuity.
Connect the Dots
We’ve collected the dots. Let’s connect them.
We can do better. It is imperative that we try.
The time is now. The next generation needs the path to be cleared, pragmatic examples to emulate, and an idea to spread like a virus of perception.
Local resilience, non-aggression, conflict resolution, consensus building, and adaptive action are logical starting points. These are modular components. They are simple, self evident, useful at the smallest possible scale. They are compatible with any sane ideology, yet fundamentally transformative if applied.
Local Resilience implies converging, forming coalitions, and teams, getting our local community involved. Non-aggression, conflict resolution, and consensus building will make the transition more peaceful. The adaptive approach will make us more effective.
Identity can form around any idea (humans can divide themselves on any characteristic they focus their attention on), but what holds it together is a feeling. The feeling of belonging. The tribal identity. This we can cultivate, reawaken. The code is written in our DNA.
Start small, work with what you have, set realistic goals, and take steps to achieve them. The evolution might begin with a gathering of friends, or garden in your front yard.
The Next Level
The following message is for those who get it. You see the stakes. You’ve connected the dots. You’re motivated to take action. You’re looking for some minimal starting points.
Did this make Your Brain itch ?
The key is to start with the right questions: Press pause and go get a pen and paper.
Ready. Write the following at the top of your page: “What can I do”
Each of you have different skills, assets, liabilities, time and geographic constraints.
Press pause and make a list.
Now write the next question: “What am I willing to do?” How much time and energy are you willing to invest into changing the world? What are you willing to sacrifice?
Press pause and write an honest answer.
As you are writing that answer, consider this: If you aren’t willing to make radical changes in your own way of life, how can you expect others to?
When you’re done write the next question: “Who do I know locally or online who would might resonate with the local resilience meme?”
Press pause and make a list. Next to each name take notes on when and how to initiate contact. You’ll find tools for working with contacts in our activism section.
Now let’s formulate some concrete goals. The specific variables will change, but the abstracts will apply across the board.
To make a difference, we must build local and online networks guided by principle. This is an abstract goal. The concrete goals will be adapted to the context.
Assess Your Radius
We can define local as the maximum distance that humans in a particular region can coordinate and meet physically without the use of fossil fuels. Geography will influence this distance significantly.
To establish your concrete goals you must to assess your radius.
Food, water, community and security dynamics must be accounted for.
If such resources and networks are few or non-existent in your area, it is up to you to either plant the seeds, make them grow, or migrate to a point of convergence that you resonate with.
For local resilience kits, visit our local activism section.
Some of you have technical skills (translators, programmers, graphic designers, animators/video editors ), and or time to contribute. To volunteer online or onsite visit our volunteer section.
The next generation will need radically different skill sets. They will need new strains of intelligence. They will need to adapt and innovate in ways that most can’t even imagine.
Those who want to get ahead of the curve and help others do the same; those who really want to change the world, have their homework cut out for them.
There’s a lot to absorb. Some of what you need to learn isn’t taught in school. Some realities are impossible to fully integrate just by reading a book. Study cannot replace experience.
The Pongovi Experiment
To apply the scientific method to the way humans learn, organize and live will require the socioeconomic equivalent of laboratories; physical testing grounds where theories stand, or are buried by results (Tribal R & D).
To impact the world beyond our local sphere, results must be open sourced to public domain. We must use the internet to disseminate these ideas while we still can.
It’s an extreme proposition, so to get the ball rolling we’re launching a prototype; a socioeconomic experiment. You can be an observer, or an active participant.
The experiment has a physical base of operations: a piece of land. You could also think of it as a laboratory.
Working with, and transmitting alternative approaches to production, exchange and social dynamics (while transitioning off of fossil fuels, debt based money, and vertical collectivism), are abstract goals. Each of these must broken down into sub-modules to be addressed in concrete terms onsite and online.
In the first iteration we built a shared kitchen, living area, bathroom and campground. Mountains had to be terraced, swamps transformed into ponds, permaculture everywhere.
This was our minimal starting point, the first deliverable: an off-grid adaptive learning center to host visitors, volunteers, and resident teachers.
We’ve beta tested. Participants are onsite. We’re going live.
Whether this project serves as an example to replicate, or a cautionary tale, is yet to be seen. What we can guarantee, is that it’s going to be interesting.
For more information, or to participate in the next iteration, look up the pongovi experiment.
All of the content produced by this project are creative commons. You have permission to download and distribute by any and all means.
You can download components used to make this film (and films to come) for use in compatible projects in our modules section.