The English Premiership Football season started today. My side — I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan (through marriage) going back 30 years — won! Though they played a dull first half, in the second half, the Spurs looked more Spurs-like. They pressed, they out-hustled, they attacked relentlessly. Our new guy (Ndombele) was great and Harry Kane who almost never scores in August, scored two goals! If you’re not a Spurs supporter like I am, that probably means nothing to you.
I understand. Spurs aren’t your tribe. You might be an Arsenal supporter (in which case piss off!) or you love Chelsea or Man U or Man City. I’ve got a good friend who supports West Bromwich-Albion (relegated last season to the League Championship, a tier below the Premier League). You might not even like footie. You might prefer American Football. Or hockey or baseball.
You might be a Lakers fan or a Dodgers fan — in which case, so am I. It’s not a problem for me (or anyone really) to take off their Spurs kit and put on a baseball cap or football jersey instead. One knows one can support several teams at the same time. One can belong to those tribes, as it were.
A fan base for a sports team — or even a singer — that’s a tribe, too. When you’re at a concert, surrounded by people who adore the performer as much as you do — you feel a sense of community with them. You’re both members of the same tribe.
For humans, being tribal is a survival instinct. We’re social creatures. Our success as individuals depends on our ability to cut it as part of the group. It’s a sad, horrifying fact: how one does in life is connected to how one does in middle school. If you socialized well in middle school, you should do fine in life. If you sucked socializing in middle school, you have a chance now to get your socialization right — with all the success and popularity that come with it. The trick is in which tribes you strive to become part of.
In middle school, of course, success depends on finding the one tribe that will have you. If you’re lucky enough to find, join and be accepted by that tribe, nothing else matters. Regardless of what happens to you, you’ll be fine in the end cos you’ve got your tribe.
Life works the diametric opposite way. Success depends on how MANY tribes you see yourself as part of.
When the Spurs game finished this morning, the Spurs and Aston Villa, their opponents, shook hands. The players all shook hands with the refs. The Spurs tribe on the field and the Aston Villa tribe on the field stopped being opposing tribes and became, instead, a tribe of footballers who all play well enough to be in the English Premiership. The players as a group stopped (for the most part) seeing refs as strange interlopers and saw them as a different breed of soccer professional — a different branch of the same tribe as them.
The fans at Spurs new, beautiful stadium, all cheered loudly for their conquering heroes. Eventually, they’d all finish celebrating, get their stuff together and head off into the streets — still Spurs supporters but also Londoners, too.
Those Spurs supporters never stopped being Londoners, of course. At the same time that I’m a Dodgers and Lakers fan (while remaining a Spurs fan), I’m also an Angeleno. I see other Angelenos as my tribe. I see people in my neighborhood as my tribe. I see Californians as my tribe. Excepting for Trump supporters (they’re racists), I see Americans as my tribe.
The problem with white supremacists (like there’s just “one” problem with them!) is that they see white people as their tribe. That’s it — just white people. Even when they say they’re Americans, you don’t get the feeling that their idea of the “American Tribe” and ours are the same thing. Their idea of “American” is them. If you’re not them, you can’t be in their tribe. You can’t be white (of course) and you can’t be American.
If I didn’t despise them for thinking how they think, I’d feel sorry for them — same reason. They’ve gotten it backwards.
The genius of America is that anyone can be American — provided they’re willing to work their asses off and work well with other people. Likewise, Americans moving to America from all over the world embrace diversity because they come from diversity. Diversity has always been what makes America truly exceptional.
Diversity demands finding kinship with as many different tribes as one can. The more diverse your circle of friends & acquaintances, the more diverse your tribe is. Before long, you begin to see human beings as your tribe.
Imagine that — seeing other people as your tribe just because they’re people. I hope the condition is catching. I really do.