Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thoughts on Tribal Behavior

I have noticed a certain set of behaviors in myself and others which I will refer to as "tribal" behaviors, because they are centered around the belief in the inherent superiority of one's own group or "tribe".

I first noticed this in terms of my own attitude and that of others in the bodybuilding tribe.  When I use the term "bodybuilding" here, I mean something rather narrow.  I mean competitive, sanctioned, official bodybuilding.  I don't mean hobbyist body shaping, or recreational lifting, or power lifting or cross-fit.

I spend enough time reading the various bodybuilding forums online, that I unconsciously started to adopt a supremacist view of bodybuilding as over against all other forms of physical activities.  Without even noticing it, I began to assume that everyone in any gym I frequent has the same body goals as myself, and that most are simply unaware of how to attain them.  This is of course, a fallacy.

Some prefer more "functional" kinds of fitness, such as cross-fit or even (dare I say it?) running!  And in my conscious mind, I realize that this is good and okay.  But in my unconscious mind, I began to forget this, and to assume a superiority of the goals and aspirations of my own tribe.  An example is this:  Whenever I see a new person in the gym, I assume that he or she is a prospective bodybuilder, and I begin to mentally craft a program that would take them in the direction of bodybuilding success.  I make a mental picture of what the person will look like after 3, 4, 5 years of bodybuilding training.

But this morning on my way to work, I saw a young woman running down the street.  She was graceful, fluid, light on her feet, and FAST!  I thought to myself (brace yourselves):  it is okay that she is not trying to be a bodybuilder.  She is perfect as a runner!

And from that brilliant little realization came all these other thoughts about my tribal thinking in so many areas of my life.

Nowhere is it more prevalent (in my case, at least) than in the car hobby.  I like old American cars from the 1950s and 1960s.  That's pretty much it, for me.  There are outlier cars I like, of course.  A few modern cars, a few European cars, a very few Japanese cars, etc.  I also like "old school" pre-war hot rods.  I'm narrow; I admit it.  I have identified a tribe, and I stick with my tribe ... because it's the best!

But my son's experience in the car hobby has given me pause to think.  His passion for the car hobby exceeds mine, and he belongs to my same tribe.  But he mingles extremely successfully with those of other tribes (the import "tuner" crowd, sports car types, the resto-mod group, the off-road truck tribe, and pretty much any other car hobby tribe that is out there).  He has a wonderful way of expressing his central passions without in any way negating the validity of the passions of those in other tribes.  I could learn a lot from him!

It is similar in music.  I like garage rock and psychedelic music from 1965 to 1971, and that's pretty much it.  That, and Anglican Church choral music.   And blues.  My son, on the other hand, can appreciate garage, psychedelic, and blues music, without limiting himself in that way.  He is friendly with my own musical tribe.  But he connects successfully with so many other musical tribes, such as Techno, Electronic, and Dubstep.

In thinking about my own tribal behaviors, I have tentatively come to the conclusion that it is okay to view the distinctives of one's own tribe as superior.  I mean, really, how could you not?  I think that it becomes a problem when we become so narrow-minded and petrified in our minds and souls that we cannot be happy for the beauty that others have found elsewhere.

I am still thinking this through, so I would value your comments on the subject!