Seth Godin is a marketing guru who works to inspire people to step up to challenges, get involved, become leaders. In 2008, he introduced the concept in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. A tribe, according to Godin “is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” It was his way nine years ago to demystify audiences, and inspire people to find groups, segments, people with whom their unique art, service or produce could/would resonate. Subsequently, it’s a term, as with many Godin terms, that has become more common. But, is it a good term?
Tribes, according to Wikipedia, are groups of self-sufficient people with some commonalities who are independent of a nation state. American Indians were considered tribal people. Other definitions range from clans to groups of kids from one family. Regardless of source, the term refers to people who have more in common than they have differences. And, therein may be the problem overall — tribes by definition are insular.
Republicans may be a tribe. Tea Partiers definitely are. Democrats may be a tribe. Bernie supporters definitely are. Americans are, by definition, not a tribe — rather a heterogeneous group of people living out a 250-year old experiment as a democratic society. Oh yes, and we’re also a nation. Or are we?
According to author and journalist Colin Woodard, North America is actually a continent of 11 different nation states. Not surprisingly, by his definition, portions of Mexico and Canada are included in the American state alignments as El Norte, New France, and First Nation among others. Curious what nation state is yours? Check out this Washington Post article about Woodard’s concept theory.
Although it’s comfortable to be among similar people, is it healthy? Is it a self-inflicted ghetto? Is it self-segregation? Does it lead to Palestinian and Israeli conflicts or North and South Irish disputes rather than peace and tranquility? Does the term “tribe” tend to help us identify our differences rather than our common humanity?
Recently, Krista Tippett, creator and host of the Peabody award-winning public radio
show On Being, interviewed Padraig O’Tuama, an Irish poet and theologian. Tippett describes him as a “social healer,” someone who helped Ireland overcome its own excruciating social fracturing pre-1998. Tippett felt that O’Tuama might have words of wisdom for Americans, who are experiencing their own social fracturing. Among O’Tuama comments: “…when it comes to having conversations about anything that divides us, that understanding itself is a really wise thing. Understanding doesn’t mean agreeing.”
Since we are currently a nation of strong disagreements, many are struggling to find ways to understand each other and re-glue ourselves as Americans. If you’re looking for glue in your own life and interactions, here are a few potential Hinge resources worth considering:
- Listen to the Krista Tippett’s interview with Padraig O’Turama (check links above). You can read the transcript, but it’s not as powerful or healing as listening to the poet speak with his gorgeous, meditative Irish lilt. Free!
- Purchase O’Tuama’s book of poems In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World ($14.99) or check it out of the library for free.
- Purchase any book of poems for some perspective self-care away from the world of politics. Recommendations include American Poet Mary Oliver, Persian poet Rumi, and, of course, Dr. Seuss. (average price $9)
- Study modern tribes with Seth Godin’s books including We Are All Weird: The Rise of Tribes and the End of Normal ($19.95 for one copy)to What to Do When It’s Your Turn ($17.74 for 2 copies — a new Godin distribution model).
Do we need to get worse to get better; can we heal before we are more wounded; can we be a heterogeneous nation without social fracturing? Some people are starting to post works of art on Facebook as a way to provide rest for the weary. Others have advocated for poetry Many have characterized the last American presidential election as one where you had to “pick your poison.” Post-election, perhaps it’s time to pick your poetry, or at least enjoy some poetic justice.