February 2019 – What Is Your Tribe?

January 2019 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

What Is Your Tribe?

  Monday, February 18, 2019
  7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

Are tribes just groups of indigenous people or Middle Eastern clans? Or do our ethnicities and interests define a modern cultural tribalism? Can Packers fans co-exist with the oft-disappointed but always hopeful believers in the Vikings? Do our “tribes” unite us into something better or divide us from others? Can humanity be a mega-tribe or are social groups limited to a finite number we can actually know–be it 150, 231, or 290 depending on the anthropologist of choice. Or are we so alienated that a tribe is too much organization for us as we sink into urban anonymity and anomie? Isn’t even the most primitive tribe better than this?

In his book Tribe, Sebastian Junger offers a definition of tribe or community as the group of people one would both help feed and help defend. This is similar to poet Robert Frost’s statement that home is the place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Outside family perhaps how many people are so close to us to offer sustenance and protection as an obligation? Maybe our tribes are all on line now. Are internet communities tribes? Are rock concerts the new locale for tribal gatherings? What about sports events? The local bar? Political rallies? Where do we find modern tribes?

Is tribalism good? Do those who wish to make America great again diminish it? Do we shatter into religions and ethnicities with Catholics against Protestants or Serbs against Croatians? Does the success of one tribe depend on dominance over all others? Should each tribe have its own quota for jobs and benefits? Has our country been made better or more chaotic by the many tribes that have come here? Or are these the old tribes and in the new melting pot we form others? Besides if we are part German, Norwegian, English, and Welsh, what is our tribe exactly? Are Southerners, New Englanders, and Californians all different tribes with their own peculiar cultures? Where do we look for identity?

Are tribes a starting point for building a greater whole? After all tribes of pre-Columbian North America had a trading network that extended from Alaska to Panama. Do tribes cooperate and combine for mutual support? Do they make us more interesting rather than an anonymous island in an urban sea? Is the Earth really one country and all humanity its citizens or family members? Do tribes represent a barrier or a safety net that tells us who we are? If we have no tribe, do we have an identity? Do tribes represent order or rigidity? Do we make our own or are they imposed on us at birth? Can we have a little of both?

What kind of tribe member was the Good Samaritan? He belonged to a group antagonistic to Jews but aided a wounded traveler when the man’s own tribal leaders would not. Did he ignore his tribe or was altruism something his tribe expected such as the hospitality nomadic people give to any visitor? Do shared experiences and kindnesses create new tribes? Are these shared actions part of the “mystic chords of memory” Abraham Lincoln believed bound all Americans North and South together? Can we be a good tribal member and a good citizen?

On Monday, February 18 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will ask for tribal identification but also if we are more than that. Agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality will hopefully warfare from breaking out. No matter your tribe there will be treats!