So, last night I was working on a roundup of some of the cool blogs that have been recommended in the responses to our questions on science and science fiction, when I made the mistake of taking a break to check in on some of the blogs already on my blogroll. I was completely derailed.
DrugMonkey had a post up about the tribe(s) of science and action for the common good of the tribe. It was, if I’m reading him right (no guarantee), an introduction to some thoughts on applying humanity’s tribalist tendencies to achieve a greater good. It’s an interesting idea, and I agree with the goals…but he said, “tribal.”
I reacted. Nothing out of line, just a pure emotional response. So, of course, I have to break it down.
I don’t belong to any tribes. The whole idea makes me itch.
I belong to a couple of small, manufactured families, but at least in this day and age, that’s not the same thing. Knowing with whom I chose to spend my time doesn’t tell you much about me. Not the same way that being part of a tribe would. I like my families, but I don’t identify with them. I am not them. They are not me.
This isn’t true in tribes. The premise of a tribe is that the tribe’s welfare is your welfare. In order to make this real, the tribe’s identity also has to be your identity. You can have your own place, yes, but only as long as it fits within the tribe.
To take a nice, contentious example, I’m female (physically, genetically). I don’t communicate “like a woman.” I don’t solve problems “like a woman.” I don’t accept the roles of enforcing social norms or making peace or having or raising children. The majority of my allegiances are to men but are neither sexual nor power-imbalanced. I don’t fit comfortably within the feminine tribe.
I could do what others do and try to stretch the tribe itself to fit me better. There are no guarantees, though, that this will happen. Look at the resistance others get when they try. And even if I were to fail, the tribe would have demanded my cooperation during the trial.
I’ve lost the benefits of being part of a tribe along with the obligations, of course. After all, your welfare is also the tribe’s welfare. It could be a lonely type of freedom if I weren’t an introvert. Still, I think I prefer this to a lonely belonging.
There is a piece of writing advice that says to claim for yourself the identity of “writer.” It’s meant to carry the writer through the times when it doesn’t feel as though progress is being made–the middle of the novel, incoming rejections, having to practice and practice a particular skill to get it down. So far, so good.
There is also a bit of advice that says simply, “Writers write.” It’s very practical advice that says you’ll never have a finished product worth publishing if you don’t sit your butt in a chair and crank it out. Also good advice.
However, these two pieces of advice together have caused some serious heartache for people whose writing has been interrupted for long periods by, well, life. Being one of the few tangible rewards for most people who write, tribal identification is highly prized, but it slips away with every day not spent writing. I’ve seen an award-winning author ask, “Am I a writer?” because she writes slowly and in spurts.
So, no. I write, but I am not a writer. I geek out, but I am not a geek. I have U.S. citizenship and take an active role in politics, but I am not an American. I am not my school, my hometown, my local sports team, my hobbies, my career, my gender, my body shape, my political beliefs, my socioeconomic status, my health issues, my pet ownership, my musical preferences, my clothing choices, my operating system. These things are part of me. I am not part of them.
I belong to no tribe.