THE TRIBAL GENE — Our Dark Nature

It goes like this. We are tribal creatures. Deep down in the recesses of our DNA we evolved with the propensity to associate in small groups and to regard them as our kin/family. We immediately perceive outsiders as a threat and are capable of annihilating them without remorse.  We do not see them as ourselves. Although they are like us, exactly like us, we are capable of de-humanizing them. We feel no guilt or remorse regardless of what and how we destroy them.  After all they are a threat to our existence and the existence of our tribe.  How do I know this to be true?  Look at the world today.  Look at the world yesterday, or a thousand years ago or probably since the inception of Homo sapiens sapiens.  And perhaps further back to our primate ancestors who we share with contemporary chimpanzees.  They, too, are capable of ripping apart fellow chimps found within their territory.  They, too, create military-like bands which fight to the death for their tribe.  The tribal gene was necessary for our survival.  Today it threatens the world.  Our tools are powerful, and the subsequent destruction they can inflict can destroy the planet.  But the instinct to use them runs deep within us.  When we teach our children to hate we merely reinforce their inherent tribal instincts to do so.  This is not about religion.  We point to radical Islam today, to Hamas inculcating hatred into their children.  We are shocked when Palestinian mothers dress their children in homicide bomb outfits.  But we should understand why and how this is so.  The tribal gene leads us to sacrifice our own lives for the sake of the tribe.  We see this in the heroism of the battlefield as well. We know that religion alone is not the culprit.  Hitler was successful in his creating of the German myth of tribal supremacy.  The Jews and others were clearly of another tribe and by definition a threat to be dealt with by any and all means. Racism is tribalism  but even within the same race African tribes annihilate each other by virtue of the same tribal impetus.  There is rarely a sense of guilt when members of the other tribe are destroyed.   And so it goes.  Is there any hope to at all?  The answer is yes.  The approach is shockingly simple.  We must recognize our true nature.  We need to be aware of this tribal imperative.  We need to re-define what a tribe is and our relation to it.  We need to recognize our common humanity and teach this to our next generation.  We are ONE tribe.  It is the Golden Rule expanded to recognize the biologic truth.  Our DNA speaks to it.  But we must fight the impulse to break down into small units.  Our tribal gene pushes us to find differences amongst each other.  Our neocortex provides us with the ability to think.  We need it to direct us away from instinctive reactivity.   Is any of this realistic?  Perhaps not.  But we have nothing to lose at this point by trying.

Leave a Reply