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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The war of the tribes

As the heated debate goes on at youthcurry, I can't help sensing a deep tribal feeling among most of the participants. You are with us, or against us. Just consider how many tribes I should have feelings for: first of all is the country of my origin; the religion I was born into; the language group I belong to; the dialect I speak; the religious sect of my parents; the caste I was born into; the color of my skin; the political party I prefer; my school, engineering college, B-school; Hostels at these places, family of these institutions (IIM as opposed to IIMC)...WOW!!!!!

And I am supposed to be the 24/7/365 aggressive ambassador of each of these tribes - taking up a fight at the drop of a hat whenever anybody shows any hint of derogatory against each of my tribes. I also have to be proactive in throwing mud at the counter tribes. I have to share any benefits I can within the members of my tribes only (a year back many alumni from my B-school were furious that potential job openings were also disclosed to alumni from other B-schools). I have to get married to a profile which is the intersection of some of these tribes.

The tribes can be large (e.g. nationality) or they can be very small (hostel wings); but all the same, they are capable of rousing intense feelings. Some of these can cause genocide (between nations, religions, language groups) to street-fights (political parties, colleges) to verbal spats (hostels, corporations). But, there are some distinctions which rarely lead to tribal feelings (e.g. departments in colleges, year of graduation, humanity etc.).

All the same, I feel these are one too many tribes to be really serious about. But what if all people were to disregard all of these tribal affiliations and just be affiliated to the self (individual). I believe in that case the number of conflicts would increase significantly since everyone is only for himself and there is a potential conflict in every interaction with others. However, at the same time, the side-effect of any conflict would be rather minimal, limited to individual levels (as opposed to genocides, religious riots, wars etc.). The present situation comprises of people with intense tribal feelings and a few with lack of attachment to any. So while some get intensely emotional with such tribal conflicts, the disinterested ones are having all the fun.

1 comment:

Dhiman said...

This was precisely the topic that Amartya Sen had delivered the lecture on at Boston University. May be there is a way to get the transcript of the talk by contacting him.