These were the words that entered my mind when I first heard about the mass shooting in Orlando. I tried all Sunday morning to write something I could share with you today. I searched for words that would remind us of our more noble and shared ideals. I tried to find ideas that could inspire us to examine gun violence without the polarizing rhetoric that frequently accompanies it. As I put thoughts on the page, they seemed hollow in light of another tragedy born from hatred and access–hatred the shooter had for a tribe different than his own and access to a weapon designed to quickly kill large numbers of people.
As I pondered all of this, the best I could do is reaffirm ideas that matter to me.
I still believe in tribal alchemy. I still believe that collective ingenuity can solve many of the woes we face. We must not succumb to those that would seek to eradicate human diversity and ingenuity through hatred and violence.
I still believe human tribes, of all types, are the fabric of human existence. For the better part of 100,000 years, we have flocked together in groups to find identity and safety. This “need” for shared values and action -with other like-minded people- is embedded deep within us. It’s not going away anytime soon. And the fact that we flock in tribes is not the problem.
What complicates our tribal life is the undeniable reality that different tribes see the world in very different ways. What is also undeniable is that throughout human history tribes have tried to eliminate each other out of fear and ignorance. This is not the answer. Tribes are here to stay. What must be eliminated is the fear and ignorance that lead a misguided fringe–within a tribe– to wreak havoc on the whole. Instead of trying to eliminate each other, tribes need to eliminate the fear and ignorance that allows hatred for another group to flourish.
To remove hatred for others from our tribes , we need to affirm simple ideas, like the following ones:
- Any element within a tribe that uses fear, intimidation and threat to demand allegiance to its ideals should be shunned and its ideals cut off from the larger tribe.
- Tribes must respect and honor the peaceful differences of other tribes. When hatred for others is tolerated– simply because they are different–we are knocking on the door of violence.
- Civil discourse, between tribes, is the path to peaceful existence. The words and tones of our discourse, matter. The first “wounds” between tribes are often verbal. There is nothing wrong with a vigorous and respectful discussion about differences. Healthy disagreements, in fact, can be a good thing and can lead diverse groups to more enlightened positions. But when “hate” is laced into the conversation, or tolerated within a tribe, it can move some to act out in physically devastating ways.
We are the only people we have. No one else is coming to rescue us. It’s up to us to continue the migration from tribal warfare to tribal alchemy.
One final thought: Everything here applies on both macro and micro scales. We can apply the ideas above to nations in conflict or tribes within an organization. We dare not let the epic scale of tragedy played out on television keep us from seeing the insidious way seeds of hate can affect our own groups on a daily basis. There is hope for a better future; it begins when we understand that the better future is dependent on the way we treat people who are different than us.