Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Transforming the Tribal Mentality of Man

Meditations (Spirituality) - From Martin LeFevre in California

Transforming the Tribal Mentality of Man

The most important thing is wholeness. When people lived in more or less isolated groups, the tribe or clan represented wholeness for each people. But the old ways are gone or going fast, and nothing is replacing them.

The wholeness of culturally and linguistically distinct tribes or clans was limited to membership in the group. Belonging to particular groups has always been the cornerstone of human social organization. But that basic pattern has become dysfunctional in the global society.

Belonging to particular groups is the essence of the tribal mentality. It still holds sway, whether with a few hundred people living in the African bush, or with a few hundred million people living on the North American continent.

Nationalism is glorified tribalism, writ large. The tribe is inherently separative, and the tribal mentality has become the single greatest factor in the fragmentation of humanity and the earth.

The primary identification with particular groups is the root of human division, conflict, and fragmentation. Tribal identification is not just what remains of tribes in the poorer corners of the world; it is the mentality behind ‘my family,’ ‘my people,’ and ‘my nation.’

These are different forms of the self. In the West, the tribal mentality has largely devolved to individualism, the smallest possible unit of identification—that of ‘me, myself, and I.’

The old ways are being wiped away everywhere in the world by the global economy, by the sheer numbers of humanity, by instant communications, and by the overwhelming march toward individualism.

The fact is that in both the developed and developing world, the modern/post modern and the indigenous worlds are collapsing and eroding apace.

The notion that the tribe provides security, much less that it is akin to the essence of life, is absurd. The tribal mentality has produced untold thousands of wars, both before and after the beginning of so-called civilization.

War is the only thing that has ‘evolved,’ not the human being. We have gone from spears and arrows to nuclear bombs; from tribal conflict to state-sanctioned murder; from civil war to ‘stateless actors’ willing to commit mass murder in the name of their global caliphate.

The ‘us vs. them’ orientation is as old as man, and as deeply rooted in our mental and emotional life. Invoking it, national leaders rally their people to war, even when there is no actual war, just a botched police action called ‘the global war on terror.’

Many people, including progressives and activists, set out a false choice—either the State or some other agency brings about a new society, or traditionalists must fill the vacuum. That is a Hobson’s choice—it is not a real alternative.

The romantic notion that the indigenous or tribal way of life will re-emerge and re-invent itself to bring about a new civilization is wishful thinking of the highest order. Indigenous ways of thinking and organizing human life, while they should be respected and sustained where given groups of people want to maintain them, cannot survive without radical change anymore than modern states can.

Is it the State’s responsibility to put forth a new society that takes the place of the dying traditions and tribal ways? The State is at best an institution responsive to the will of the people. At worst (and far more often the case in human history), it is an oppressive and corrupt institution favoring the few.

Empty ideas such as pan-Americanism or pan-Africanism or pan-Europeanism have been tried and failed. But if neither the tribe, in its most elemental form, nor the State, with all its powers of propaganda and technology, are the regenerative factor in human evolution, then what will bring about a new human being and a new society?

Clearly, the individual must radically change and bring about a new society, where there is equality, justice, fairness, and a decreasing rather than increasing gap between rich and poor.

Like the planet itself, man is dying at man’s hands. The 100,000-year-old human experiment is coming to a head. A new human being, with a genuinely global (that is, whole) consciousness, can and must emerge.

Radical change begins with the individual human being—which is a totally different premise than individualism. A hundred true and transforming individuals, questioning together, can transform the world.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Binoy Kampmark: The Major Questions Doctrine: The US Supreme Court Blunts The EPA
The US Supreme Court has been frantically busy of late, striking down law and legislation with an almost crazed, ideological enthusiasm. Gun laws have been invalidated; Roe v Wade and constitutional abortion rights, confined to history. And now, the Environmental Protection Agency has been clipped of its powers in a 6-3 decision.
The June 30 decision of West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency was something of a shadow boxing act... More>>

Ian Powell: Are we happy living in Handy's Age of Unreason?

On 19 June the Sunday Star Times published my column on the relationship between the Labour government’s stewardship of Aotearoa New Zealand’s health system and the outcome of the next general election expected to be around September-October 2023: Is the health system an electoral sword of Damocles for Labour... More>>

The First Attack On The Independents: Albanese Hobbles The Crossbench
It did not take long for the new Australian Labor government to flex its muscle foolishly in response to the large crossbench of independents and small party members of Parliament. Despite promising a new age of transparency and accountability after the election of May 21, one of the first notable acts of the Albanese government was to attack the very people who gave voice to that movement. Dangerously, old party rule, however slim, is again found boneheaded and wanting... More>>

Dunne Speaks: "Let's Get Wellington Moving" Yeah, Right
There was great excitement in Wellington recently when the government finally announced – after much procrastination and indecision – its intentions for the ever so over-optimistically titled “Let’s Get Wellington Moving” plan... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Roe V. Wade Blindsides National

Momentum is everything in politics, but it is very fragile. There are times when unexpected actions can produce big shifts and changes in the political landscape. In 2017, for example, the Labour Party appeared headed for another hefty defeat in that year’s election until the abrupt decision of its then leader to step aside just weeks before the election. That decision changed the political landscape and set in train the events which led to Labour being anointed by New Zealand First to form a coalition government just a few weeks later... More>>

Digitl: Infrastructure Commission wants digital strategy
Earlier this month Te Waihanga, New Zealand’s infrastructure commission, tabled its first Infrastructure Strategy: Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa. Te Waihanga describes its document as a road map for a thriving New Zealand... More>>