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The Declining American Dream

January 31st, 2011 // 9:55 am @

We still hear about the American Dream. But more and more it seems we’re in a Matrix-like dream state where our perceptions are being manipulated. It’s actually a pretty common plot in cinema: The Minority Report, The Sixth Day, Total Recall, Inception, The Adjustment Bureau and others riff on this theme. We’re living in a reality out-of-synch with some truth we’ve lost, and we don’t even realize it. Somehow our collective memory and our assumptions of “normal” are slowly morphing, and our definition of the American Dream at present is so far removed from the original concept as to be a pretty fair Doublespeak[i] idiom.

Back when the Cleavers[ii] and even the Bradys[iii] were the icons of American families, what was the definition of “The American Dream”? What did it mean to be “middle class”? There are some features of it that were fairly well accepted once upon a time:

1. Home Ownership I

Perhaps the most traditional measure of middle class and the American Dream is the ability for every man to be the king of his own castle. In this the U.S. was a beacon to the world, and other countries even began to adopt the value that every person might aspire to own his own dwelling. The historical and sociological significance of home ownership includes the moral and political empowerment of being “landed,” and affiliation with the natural aristocracy. Homeowners were believed to have a deeper sense of responsibility to invest in their property improvement, an elevated pride in and loyalty to their neighborhoods and communities, and a higher commitment to the good of society in general.

2. Home Ownership II

Now we have to dig a little deeper into our genetic memory. Home ownership a generation or three ago meant not only that you weren’t renting from somebody else, but after a maximum of thirty years in your home you weren’t renting it from the bank, either. A 30-year mortgage left the likes of Ward and June Cleaver without a house payment right about when the grandkids started showing up, and they were able to be a boon to their young married children as they were starting out. If the idea of Home Ownership I as a definition of “The American Dream” is still generally accepted (and I believe it is), the Home Ownership II definition has been deleted from our collective memory. Not only do we have a 30-year mortgage that gets refinanced ad infinitum, but we have seconds on our vanishing equity—and our seniors are living on the funds derived from reverse mortgages.

3. One Income

For the Cleavers and the Bradys, Home Ownership I and II were accomplished on one income. Dad had evenings and weekends for leisure; mom could volunteer with the PTA and community service organizations. Both could participate in book clubs, bowling leagues, gardening and other vocations. The Women’s Lib movement sent the modern woman into the workforce by choice; now Home Ownership II is entirely out of reach for the middle class, and Home Ownership I requires a minimum of two incomes—and often multiple jobs for an individual worker—in order to be a reality.

4. Two Cars

The family had a car—and later two. They were American made with pride, and they were built to last. Paid with cash from savings, or with a little help from the local bank, they were paid off long before they were sent to the salvage yard. Some families even scandalized the neighbors by giving each of their teens a car as soon as they were legal to drive.

5. College for Kids

Part of the understanding for middle class families was that they would be able to pay for their kids to get a college education. Now all that’s left of that understanding is the guilt for failing to live up to it. No one seriously expects one-income families to be able to pay off the house and cars and simultaneously send several kids to the University. Scholarships, loans, grants and lingering debt into the career years are now the means for those who want a college education.

6. Discretionary Income

With all of the above, it was still an expectation that a married couple could live within their means and have savings, investment, yearly vacations with the whole family at some destination spot, and still have a few dimes to rub together at the end of the month.

7. Retirement

Ah, and after all this came the golden years. The Cleavers could now spend their expanded leisure time, afforded by an empty nest and the retirement from the company (complete with gold watch honors), in community service and nurturing the rising generation. They had savings, investments and retirement income to fall back on, a house and car paid free and clear, and the greatest resource: Leisure Time. They were elders in their community, and relied upon for wisdom.

The percentage of families enjoying these luxuries shrinks every year. Where did our American Dream go? Somehow, point by point, it has slipped away from us, and taken with it our definition of “middle class.” Would that we could wake up and reclaim the best of that dream; instead, we’ve awakened to a reality where our elusive American Dream is just out of reach; and these seven points that were once considered the legacy of any hard-working family are being deleted from our list of aspirations. If they are middle class expectations, the majority of America is no longer middle class.

[For a follow-up article on the how and why the middle class is shrinking, and how to reverse the trend, read Oliver’s article, “The Rule of Leisure,” featured in the February 2011 monthly newsletter for The Center for Social Leadership.


[i] See Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four.
[ii] From the 1950 – 60s classic sitcom about the traditional nuclear family of Ward and June Cleaver, “Leave it to Beaver”.
[iii] From the classic 1970s sitcom about the non-traditional nuclear family of Mike and Carol Brady, “The Brady Bunch”.

Category : Blog &Community &Culture &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Family &Generations &Politics &Postmodernism &Producers &Prosperity

The New Man

December 23rd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

I wrote in an earlier review of several recent articles and books on “the end of men.” Such writings sparked a lot of discussion on the national scene, mostly among women.

Men, it seems, aren’t paying much attention to such things. Where men do take exception to the predictions and statistics about man’s falling value to society, it has mostly come in the tone of irony.

For example, Colin McEnroe slaps back in the September 2010 issue of Men’s Health with arguments like:

“But listen up, ladies: The buttons on that remote aren’t going to push themselves.”

“They would miss us, right? There would be subtle repercussions. For example…jar opening, wasp-nest nuking, rodeo riding…knife fights in malls…”

“Women are still free to seek our elimination, of course, but my advice is to keep a small number of us—300 or 400—in some kind of zoo, for breeding purposes. Like albino alligators, we may play roles in the ecosystem that even we cannot see.”

And Jeff Wilser says the top seven man rules are:

  • Tip well;
  • You only recognize primary colors;
  • Know how to give a compliment;
  • Never say “blossom”;
  • Keep an empty urinal between you and the next guy;
  • Pack two pairs of shoes or fewer;
  • and Outperform the GPS.

Male joking aside, the man’s role is in serious question—among men and women. The use of humor often highlights the fact that this topic is definitely on the docket in the American dialog.

The New Man Rules

A few things are clear. During this post-economic-meltdown era, certain things are in, like brown dress shoes, a little facial hair, leather bands on watches, v-neck sweaters, cuff links, and sneakers that are simple and cool.

“Women may not take note of the hours you log working out, but they will notice if you wear sneakers outside the gym,” one column assures us. The Prohibition-era look (recession, but not yet depression) and early sixties fashions are in — a rebellious comment against the Establishment.

But the serious advice to men is worth noting: “Optimal living isn’t about saving time. It’s about seizing control over the ways you spend it.” Get more done by getting out of bed as soon as you wake up, take real vacations to reboot, and “buy a trip, not a toy.”

Men are also told that “The New Rules for Men” include standing for something that matters, unplugging from electronics when it’s time to do important things, customizing many of the things you buy in life to fit your real needs and wants, and accepting that you can’t control everything.

“Standing for something” was the title of a book by Gordon B. Hinckley promoting, among other things, being a real man by being a truly good person, husband and father.

The “ideal of unplugging” was taught in the seventies by John Naisbitt in the bestselling Megatrends; he called it “High Tech, High Touch.”

“Customizing” was predicted in the 1990s as a major growing trend in our times by business guru Harry S. Dent, and the promotion of “accepting that which we cannot change” (and taking positive action to change those things we can and should) are as old as the Cicero, Cato, Aurelius and the Stoics. But bringing them all together for our time in history is, I think, quite profound.

It seems that while some women commentators are noting the popular ascendance of women and relative decline of man’s power, others are quick to point out that the equality of women is still a major unfulfilled challenge for feminism.

And where some men are ignoring or brushing off the trend with humor, at least one significant thing is happening among men: A lot of them are talking about what it means to be a man, how to be a real man, and what being a good man is all about. That’s not a revolution or a reform, it’s an internal renaissance among men.

This trend started (mainly among religious groups and authors) in the nineties, but it is taking on an increasingly mainstream tone.

For example, Philip Zimbardo of Stanford and John Boyd of Google teach in The Time Paradox that men who want to keep up with the coming future take more risks, remain goal-oriented, have strong impulse control, and take time to enjoy the present more often. Sounds almost Biblical. Or Shakespearean.

Boys 2 Men

Men are telling each other to be good. Somehow, in some way, the Great Recession moved a lot of men away from the playboy values of the roaring nineties toward more grown-up ideals.

Current advice to men includes: Eat better, drink more water, add fruits and vegetables to most of your meals, listen to more relaxing music, stop smoking, get more sleep, and so on.

This sort of advice has been served up for a long time, and there is a lot of the play-while-you’re-single commentary still, but some things have a newer ring: Work out more often in chores like “chopping and splitting wood,” “planting trees,” and “operating a floor sander,” eat more eggplant and also kale.

Also: Read more often in the deepest books, express more gratitude to your significant other, go out on more dates with her instead of just hanging out, give more service to your charity.

Make your own fate. In a political discussion, turn things to solutions instead of attacking sides. Spend less at restaurants and cook for her more often. Clear and clean the dishes.

Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed to increase the quality of your sleep. Be yourself, and better yourself.

Do wild things that make you feel like a man, and do them smart. Start a business. Increase your education. Take long hikes (customize and make your own trail mix).

“What a fairy-tale, romantic version of a man,” my 18-year-old daughter said when she read this. “Where did that list come from?”

When I told her it was mostly from one issue of Men’s Health, she was shocked. “That’s sooooo cool!” she exclaimed.

“I know, right?”

Be strong, innovative and reliable—these are some of the main messages men are now sending to men. And many women seem to agree. Where teen heart-throbs such as the unshaven young Leonardo DiCaprio used to be the choice for sexiest man alive, the top three right now are 47-year-old Johnny Depp, 42-year-old Hugh Jackman, and 36-year-old Christian Bale.

C.S. Lewis once wrote an article titled Men Without Chests to argue that we need more leaders who stand up for the good and against the bad, even when it is unpopular or difficult.

Decades later, The Weekly Standard published an article called “Men Without Chest Hair,” noting that then-teenager Leonardo DiCaprio had become the new male icon.

Today the grown-up, and very-non-teenage-looking, 36-year-old DiCaprio is still high on the list of “sexiest man alive.”

Teenage-looking men, like Zac Efron or Twilight’s Robert Pattinson, are rarely listed. Only five of them are in the top fifty, and even most of these look like they’re trying to appear older.

The most popular drama on television, according to Emmy voters, is Mad Men, which features middle-age men as its “handsome” leads. A headline in the woman’s magazine Glamour reads: “From silly boys…to ‘mad men.’”

Manhood 2050

I don’t know if the age of man is over or not, but the world can only benefit if more men work to become better. Not as a government program, mind you, but as a self-led-personal-improvement stimulus.

As corporate keynote speaker Bill Perkins suggested, there are times when real men need to break each of these six rules:

  • Never get in a fight;
  • Never risk it all;
  • Never give up;
  • Never ask for help;
  • Never lose your cool;
  • Never look stupid.

There are things worth fighting for, times to take more risk, habits and behaviors each of us should give up, times we really should ask for help, situations that require our full energy and passion, and experiences where humility and being willing to look stupid are exactly the right thing. Done correctly, all of these are characteristics of strength. There are many others.

I think maybe we’ve reached a point where the concern is a lot less about the differences between men and women than simply this: How can I be a better person?

Conclusion

We can wait for government, society, another institution, the experts, some great artist or something else to help us reconcile the male/female debate and bridge the gap between the various schools of thought on how men and women should be.

Or, finally, we can just get to work on truly improving ourselves. In this particular case, we all need to say “I” a lot more than “we.”

  • I am improving the way I spend my evenings
  • I am reading more things that matter
  • I am spending more truly quality time with my kids
  • I am doing more just because it is fun
  • I am eating better
  • I am taking long walks with my grandchildren
  • I am making my work a real mission to improve the world
  • I am smiling, laughing and relaxing a lot more
  • I am finding so many fun ways of serving my wife
  • I am helping build things that really make a positive difference
  • I am working hard to…
  • I am changing the way I used to…
  • I am serving others in such great ways by…
  • I am improving myself so much by…
  • I am loving my new focus on…
  • I am…

Regardless of the experts, what each of us does in our personal life is the key to the future. (And are there really any true experts on being a real man, husband and father—except, perhaps, great men, husbands and fathers—and, of course, your wife.)

There are so many things we can do, as men, right now to become better and to improve the world. We can do so much that is fun, that requires strength, that makes us feel truly alive. We can add so much meaning to the world.

Whatever the experts say, I believe we are living in the beginning of a renaissance of manhood. If not, it is time to start one.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Community &Culture &Current Events &Family &Featured &Generations &Mission

The Education Crossroads

November 12th, 2010 // 5:18 am @

Education today is at a crossroads, and the options are fascinating.

Certainly the rise of the Internet has revolutionized most industries, and its impact on education is expected to be significant. But the change in technology isn’t the only major shift which is impacting schooling.

The end of the Cold War ushered in a new era of world politics — and of course, politics always impacts education.

Also, economic struggles have caused nations to put a premium on expenses, with the result that education is being asked to meet higher standards in order to justify its cost.

All of this would seem to indicate the need for broader, more inclusive and expansive education, with a focus on quality teaching and increased excellence.

Instead, these three trends have combined to create a surprising result.

Where increased Internet connections at first promised to bring more understanding, tolerance and cooperation between groups, the opposite has too often occurred.

Though we have the world at our online fingertips and the ability to interact directly with those of differing views, ideas and values, too many people are joining cliques that promote a narrow mindset and exclude and mistrust all others. The defensive posture occasioned by economic challenges and world events seems to increase this tendency.

Where is the Melting Pot?

The 18th and 19th century ideal of a melting pot doesn’t seem to be spreading enough online. In the 1970s it sort of evolved into the salad bowl idea, where differences were welcome as we all mixed together in a single serving.

Now we’re lucky if the clans in society agree to occupy a separate station at the same smorgasbord.

The danger to freedom is significant, maybe even extreme. James Madison taught in Federalist 10 that numerous factions would benefit freedom by keeping any one or two groups from becoming too powerful.

All decent groups would have a say in the world in this model, Madison argued. This benefit still remains in the Internet era.

But Madison also argued that people would come together when great cooperation was needed, that people and groups would put aside differences and collaborate on the important things.

Unfortunately, this powerful cultural model is unraveling in our time.

The reason is simple: As people increase their connections with those who agree with them on most things, they begin to fall into groupthink, a malady where most of those you communicate with agree with you on most things and disagree with you on little. Each member of the group learns how to more effectively argue the clique’s talking points, and nearly everyone stops listening to other points of view.

From Madison’s day until the Internet age, such natural bonding with groups was always tempered by geography. No matter how hard people tried to interact only with like thinkers, no matter how hard they worked to keep their children free from diverse views, neighbors nearly always ruined this utopian scheme.

The debate, the discussion, the conversations amongst diverse peoples all living in a free society — these helped individual citizens become deep thinkers and wise voters, and it helped ensure that negative traditions slowly were replaced with better ones. Without such progress, no free society can retain its freedoms.

But in the virtual age, no such checks or balances are in place. Youth and adults in all educational models and work environments are able to avoid deep conversations about important topics like politics, beliefs and principles with all who disagree with them.

This is facilitating a clique mentality. Social networks, email, cell phones and the other emerging technologies all strengthen this trend away from diverse and connected communities and toward homogenous and exclusive cliques.

The problem is that such cliques are by their very nature arrogant, overly sure of their own correctness on nearly everything, and vocally and even angrily opposed to pretty much everyone outside of their own clique.

Unfortunately, they too often spend a great deal of energy and effort demeaning other people, groups and ideas. Such cliques typically refuse to admit their own weaknesses while they label and vilify “outsiders.”

On the positive side, this is one reason there are now more independents than either Democrats or Republicans: a lot of people just got tired of too much hyper-partisan rhetoric.

But this problem goes far beyond politics, and impacts nearly every segment of our society. It is like adopting Elementary or High School culture among the adults in our world.

Dangerous Cliques

Since education is always an outgrowth of society, this trend is a major concern. The rebirth of tribes in our time, many of them online tribes made up of people who find common ground and like to work together, is the positive side of this same trend.

Indeed, using technology to interact and connect with people you like and learn with is certainly constructive. Leaders are needed to help increase the positive melting pot on line and in social networks.

Hopefully this will continue to grow. But its negative counterfeit is an increasing problem.

A first step in dealing with the growing “High School-ization” of our adult society is to simply identify the difference between the positive New Tribes and the opposing trend of growing cliques:

New Tribes Cliques
Tolerant, Inclusive, Friendly Intolerant, Arrogant, Exclusive
Respectful of Other Views Angry and Overly Critical of Other Views
Market by Helping You Find the Best Fit for You, From Them or Their Competitors Market by Tearing Down Competitors to Build Themselves
Respect Your Ability to Make the Best Choices for You Act As If You Need Their Expertise to Succeed and Will Fail Without Them
Offer to Help You Meet Your Needs Try to Convince or Sell You to Act “Now” in the Way They Want, or You’ll Fail

In short, the positive New Tribes offer you more freedom, empower you, and give you opportunities and options in a respectful and abundant way, while the clique mentality thinks it must “sell” you, convince you, and tear down the competition.

The New Tribes are relaxed, supportive and open, while cliques are closed, scarcity-minded and disrespectful of the competition and all “others.”

Ruining the Game

When my son was young he wanted to join a sports team, so I took him to watch a number of sports in progress. He ended up engaging karate, which became a long-term interest in his life.

During the visits to various sports venues, he witnessed an angry father at a little league baseball game. While most of the parents in attendance probably hoped their child would win, they seemed to find value in the game regardless of wins and losses; they apparently felt that the game was a positive experience for all the kids — for other children as well as their own.

One man took a different approach. He yelled and swore at each umpires’ calls that went against his child. He quite vocally demonized the other team and the other team’s coach. He stood behind the backstop when the other team was pitching and tried in many ways to distract the opposing pitcher.

He went after this 10-year-old pitcher from the other team like he actually wanted to hurt him. The boy’s coach had to go reassure the pitcher several times. I don’t know if the boy was afraid of the angry man, but he looked like it.

Most of the parents in the crowd were upset with this man, but they remained polite. After about 30 minutes of this, my eight-year-old son asked if we could leave. He was uncomfortable with the situation even as a mere spectator.

He never asked to go back to a baseball game, and we didn’t stay long enough to see if anything was done to help this man calm down. From the conversations in the crowd, it was clear that the man did this at every game.

I do believe that this man cared for his son and wanted to help him. He may have had many good intentions, and he certainly had some positive intentions. But he acted in the clique mentality. He did it without respect or proper boundaries.

(A new thought: I’m pretty sure he soured my son to playing baseball, but only now as I write this does it occur to me that maybe he also helped interest my son in karate for his own defense!)

A High-School-ization of Society

If you are this kind of a sports parent (or sports fan in high school, college or professional sports), you know who you are.

But do we not also see these clique behaviors too often in business, work, politics and even education?

Clearly the impact on education is significant. More to the point, the future of education can’t avoid being impacted by the High School-ization of culture.

Cliques are negative in many ways. And: they are just plain mean. They can do lasting damage even among youth; so imagine their potential impact when adopted by a significant and increasing number of adults of our society.

In short: the Cold War is over and we tend to look for enemies within rather than outside of our own nation; economic struggles of the past years have made most people less tolerant and more self-centered and even scared; and the technology of the day has made it easier than ever to connect with and only listen to a few people who tend to agree with us on almost everything.

The result is more frustration, anxiety, and anger with others. More people are thinking in terms of “us versus them,” and most of our society has stopped really listening to others.

Unless these tendencies change, things will only get worse. The future of education is closely connected with these trends, tendencies and perspectives.

In politics, the response to these challenges has been the rise of the independents. In business, it has been a growing rebirth of entrepreneurship.

And in marketing, it has been a focus on Tribes as the new key to sales. But in education, no clear solutions have yet arisen. I propose the principles of Leadership Education as part of the answer.

Modern versus Shakespearean Mindsets

The great classical writer Virgil provides some insight into the challenge ahead for education. In our day we tend to see the world as prose versus poetry. Some might call this same split the left brain versus the right brain, science versus art, or logic versus creativity.

Using this modern view of things, some educational thinkers see the future of education as the continuing split between the test-oriented public and traditional private schools versus the eclectic personalization of charter, the new private and home schooling movements.

Or we may see the intermixing of these two models as traditional schools become more creative and new-fangled education becomes more test-focused.

In an earlier age, the Shakespearean world tended to divide learning into three categories: comedies, tragedies and satires.

Comedies show regular people working in regular circumstances and finding love or happiness in regular life.

Tragedies pit people against drastic challenges that test them beyond their limits and bring major changes to their lives and even the world.

Satires emphasize the futility of our actions and show us the power of fate, destiny and other things we supposedly cannot control.

Applying this mindset, one would expect to see a future of education with all three outcomes. Comedic approaches to education try to make sure everyone gets basic literacy and that all schools meet minimum standards. No child can be left behind in this education for the regular people — and we’re all regular people.

In contrast, some will seek for a truly great education and to make a great difference in the world. If they fail, the tragedy is the loss of their potential greatness to the world. If they succeed, the world will greatly benefit from their leadership, contributions and examples.

All education should be great, this view maintains, and all people have potential greatness within. If I thought the Shakespearean worldview was driving our future, I would be of this view.

A satirical stance would argue that some people will get a poor education and yet do great things in their careers and family. Others, according to this view, will get a superb education and then either fail to accomplish much of anything or do many bad things with their knowledge.

Education has little correlation with life, the satirist maintains. Fund education better, or don’t; increase standards, or not; emphasize learning or just ignore it—none of this matters much in the satirical view. A few will rise, a few will fall, most will stay in the middle, and education will have little to do with any of this.

I disagree with this perspective, and I believe that history is proof of its inaccuracy. There are, of course, a few exceptions to any system, model or rule; but for the most part a quality educational model has a huge impact on the freedom and prosperity of society.

But I do not believe that either the modern or the Shakespearean mindsets will influence our future as much as that from and even earlier age — the era of Virgil.

I am convinced that Virgil’s understanding of freedom eclipses both of these others. Virgil witnessed Rome losing many of its freedoms, and he saw how the educational system had a direct impact on this loss.

In the Virgilian model, education is not modeled on the conflict between left and right brains nor on the battles and interplay between comedy, tragedy and satire.

Instead, he saw learning as the interactions of the epic, the dialectic, the dramatic, and the lyric.

In our post-Cold-War, Internet-Age, financially challenging world, our learning is deeply connected with all four of these.

Epic education means learning from the great(est) stories of humanity in all fields of human history and endeavor, from the arts and sciences to government and history to leadership and entrepreneurship to family and relationships, and on and on.

By seeing how the great men and women of humanity chose, struggled, succeeded and failed, we gain a superb epic education. We learn what really matters.

The epics include all the greats — from the great scriptures of world religions to the great classics of philosophy, history, mathematics, art, music, etc.

Epic education focuses on the great classic works of mankind from all cultures and in all fields of learning.

Dialectic education uses the dialogues of mankind, the greatest and most important conversations of history and modern times. This includes biographies, original writings and documents that have made the most difference in the world. It is also very practical and includes on-the-job style learning.

Again, this tradition of learning pulls from all cultures and all fields of knowledge.

It especially focuses on areas (from wars and negotiations to courts of law and disputing scientists, to arguing preachers and the work of artists, etc.) where debating sides and conflicting opponents gave rise to a newly synthesized outcome and taught humanity more than any one side could have without opposition. Most of the professions use the Dialectic learning method.

Dramatic learning is that which we watch. This includes anything we experience in dramatic form, from cinema and movies to television and YouTube to plays, reality TV programs, etc.

In our day this has many venues—unlike the one or two dramatic forms of learning available in Virgil’s time. There is a great deal to learn from drama in its many classic, modern and post-modern modalities.

Lyric education is that which is accompanied by music, which has a significant impact on the depth and quality of how we learn. It was originally named for the Lyre, a musical instrument that was used for musical accompaniment during a play, or with poetic or prose reading.

Some educational systems still use “classical” (especially Baroque) and other types of music to increase student learning of languages, memorized facts and even science and math.

And, of course, most Dramatic (media) learning is presented with music.

Epic Freedom

With all this as background, I think the future of education is very much in debate. My reasons for addressing this are:

  1. It appears that far too few people are engaged in the current discussion that will determine the future of education.
  2. Even most who are part of the discussion are hung up on things like public versus private schools, funding, testing, left versus right brain, minimum standards for all (comedic) versus the offer of great education for most (to avoid tragedy), teacher training, regulations, policy, elections, etc.
  3. I know of very few people considering the future of education from its deepest (what I’m calling Virgil’s) level.

Specifically, our current technology has changed nearly everything regarding education, meaning that in the Internet Age the cultural impact of the Dramatic and Lyric styles of learning over the other types threaten to undo American freedom.

In short, freedom in any society depends on the education of the citizens, and when the Epic and Dialectic disappear, freedom soon follows.

And make no mistake: The Epic and Dialectic models of learning are everywhere under attack. They are attacked by the political Left as elitist and contrary to social justice; they are attacked by the political Right as useless for one’s career advancement.

They are attacked by the techies as old, outdated and at best quaint. They are attacked by the professions as “worthless general ed. courses,” and by too many educational institutions as “irrelevant to getting a job.”

But most of all (and this is far and away their most lethal enemy) they are supplanted by the simple popularity and glitz of the Dramatic and Lyric.

I do not believe that the Dramatic, Lyric and other parts of the entertainment industry have an explicit agenda to hurt education or freedom—far from it. They bask in a free economy that buys their products and glorifies their presenters.

Nor are Dramatic and Lyric products void of educational content or even excellence. Many movies, television programs, musical offerings and online sites deliver fabulous educational value.

Songs and movies, in fact, teach some of the most important lessons in our society and many teach them with elegance, quality and integrity.

But with all the good the Dramatic and Lyric styles of learning bring to society, the reality is that both free and enslaved societies in history have had Dramatic and Lyric learning.

In contrast, no society where the populace is sparsely educated in the Epics has ever remained free. Period. No exceptions.

And in the freest nations of history (e.g. Golden Age Greece, the Golden Age of the Roman Republic, the height of Ancient Israel, the Saracens, the Swiss vales, the Anglo-Saxon and Frank golden ages, and the first two centuries of the United States, among others), both the Epic and Dialectic styles of learning have been deep and widespread among the citizenship of the nation.

If we want to remain a free society, we must resurrect the use of Epic education in our nation.

Six Futures

Using Virgil’s models of learning as a standard, I am convinced that we are now choosing between six possible futures for our societal education—and freedom. Our choice, at the deepest level of education, is to select one of the six following options (or something very much like them):

I. Epic Only.
Since all societies adopt Dramatic and Lyric methods of learning, this model would make Epic education official in academic institutions and leave the Dramatic and Lyric teaching to the artists. Such a model is highly unlikely in a world where career seriously matters and has only been applied historically in slave cultures with strong upper classes.

(Theoretically, this model might be offered to all citizens in society instead of the more elitist model of history. But without career preparation, some in the lower and middle classes would be lacking in opportunity regardless of the quality of their Epic education.) This model is very bad for prosperity and freedom.

II. Dialectic Only.
Again, such a society would have non-school Dramatic and Lyric offerings and schools would emphasize career training, job preparation, and basic skills for one’s professional path.

Business, leadership and politics would be run by trained experts and citizens would have little say in governance. Like the aristocracies of history, this model is not friendly to freedom — though it can support prosperity for a short time.

III. Dramatic and Lyric Only.
Only tribal societies have adopted such a model, and they were easily conquered by enemies and marauders. This model is not good for prosperity or freedom.

IV. Epic and Dialectic Together.
Again, the Dramatic and Lyric would still be part of the society but not a great part of the schools. Unfortunately, without the Dramatic and Lyric taught together with the Epic and Dialectic, the Epic is greatly weakened.

Societies which have tried this, like modern Europe and North America, have seen the Epic greatly weakened and the Dialectic take over nearly all education. This is bad for freedom and long-term prosperity.

V. All Four Types as Separate Specialties.
In this model, young students would receive only a basic broad education and would focus on a specialty early on. Each type of learning could be very well developed, but each person would only be an expert in one (or, rarely, two).

This was attempted by many nations in Western Europe, and to a lesser extent Canada and the U.S., since World War II. The results were predictable: freedom and prosperity suffered for all but the most wealthy (who got interconnected Epic, Dialectic, Dramatic and Lyric education in private schools).

VI. All Four Types as Interconnected Learning.
This combines great Epic, Dialectic, Dramatic and Lyric learning together—for nearly all students in society.

Moreover, all four options are available to all students in public schools and the laws also allow for numerous private, home and other non-traditional options with parents as the decision makers.

An additional natural effect of this system is that the adult citizens of society are deeply involved in learning throughout their lives — using all four types of learning and applying all knowledge to their roles as citizens and leaders. This model has been the most beneficial to prosperity and freedom throughout history.

The choice between these types of education is being made today. During the Cold War, especially after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, American leaders determined to de-emphasize Epic education and focus on the Dialectic.

Then they further weakened this choice by dumbing down the textbooks and workbooks when they removed much of the actual dialogues which formed the basis of each field of human knowledge.

Later, facing the increasing popularity of career-focused schooling, states and school boards took much of the Dramatic and Lyric out of the schools. Indeed, the last two generations of students were mostly educated in a shallow version of the Dialectic Only.

The consequence to freedom has been consistently negative for at least four decades. It has also widened the gap between “the rich” and “the rest” and reduced general economic opportunity.

Today, we must make the choice to resurrect truly quality education. If we make the right choice, we will see education and freedom flourish. If not, we will witness the decline of both. Indeed, we simply must make the right choice.

We must also realize that this is not a choice for the experts. If the educational or political experts make this choice alone, it will mean that the people as a whole have not chosen to be educated as free citizens.

We must all do better in studying all four styles of learning, and in engaging the technology of our day to learn from diverse views and spread important ideas far and wide — to all groups and people, not just some narrow clique.

It is time for a new type of citizen to arise and earn our freedoms. As Virgil put it long ago:

Now the last age…
Has come and gone, and the majestic roll
Of circling centuries begins anew;
Justice returns…
With a new breed of men sent down from heaven…
Assume thy greatness, for the time draws nigh

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Community &Culture &Education &Family &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Generations &History &Leadership &Tribes

Types of Tribes

October 6th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

NEARLY ALL OF THE WEAKNESSES I listed here are found in many traditional tribal cultures.

In our day new kinds of tribes are emerging with huge potential influence, power and popularity.

Indeed, the 21st Century may be the era where tribes become the most influential institutions in the world.

The trends are already in play, and nearly every major institution, nation and civilization is now made up of many tribes.

In fact, more people may be more loyal to their closest tribes now than to any other entity.

There are many types of tribes in the history of the world. A generic overview will obviously have its flaw and limitations—as will any inductive study, from personality typing to weather forecasting.

But with the necessary disclaimers and apologies, we can still learn much from the generalizations as we seek lessons to apply to ourselves.

There are several significant types of tribes in history, including:

  1. Foraging Tribes
  2. Nomadic Tribes
  3. Horticultural Tribes
  4. Agrarian Tribes (communities)
  5. Industrial Tribes
  6. Informational Tribes

Each is very different, and it is helpful to understand both the similarities and unique features of these types of tribes.

Note that the fundamental connecting factor which kept these tribes together was their means of production and their definition of wealth.

Families usually sacrificed to benefit the means of production. On a spiritual/emotional level, one way to define a tribe is a group of people who are invested in each other and help each other on an ongoing basis.

All these types of tribes meet this definition.

Level One Tribes: Everyone Knows Everyone

First, Foraging Tribes were usually established by family ties—sometimes, small family groupings and in other cases, larger groups with more extended family members. In marriage a person often left the tribe to join a new tribe.

Foraging tribes lived by gathering and hunting together. Their central means of production were legs: the ability to go out and find food for the family.

Children were the greatest source of wealth because they grew and provided more legs to the tribe.

These tribes were often female-centric, and their gods were fertility goddesses and earth goddesses who provided bounty of food.

Nomadic Tribes hunted and gathered, but also pillaged in order to survive and prosper. They traveled, some within a set area and a few more widely ranging.

They were nearly all herding societies, using animals to enhance their ability to hunt, gather and pillage. Their means of production was their speed, provided by great runners or herd animals.

They usually traveled in larger groups than Foragers, and intermarried within the tribe or from spouses taken during raids. Marriage meant joining the tribe of your spouse.

Nomadic Tribes were usually dominated by males and often practiced plural marriages. Herds were the central measure of wealth.

Third, Horticultural Tribes planted with sticks, hoes or hands, and tended crops to supplement food obtained by hunting.

Because hoes and sticks can be wielded equally by men and women, these tribes were often female-centric. Men hunted and women planted and harvested, bringing an equality to production.

Hands were the central means of production, used either in hunting or planting. Children were a measure of wealth, and deity was often a goddess of bounty.

These first three types of tribes make up the first level of tribal cultures, where nearly all tribe members worked each day to feed themselves and the tribe.

In the second level, specialization created free time for many to work on matters that have little to do with sustenance—from education to technology to arts and craftsmanship, and even extending into higher thinking of mathematics, logic and philosophy.

Level 2 Tribes

Agrarian Tribes began, as Ken Wilber describes it, when we stopped planting with sticks and hoes and turned to plows drawn by beasts of burden.

The change is significant in at least two major ways: First, pregnant women can plant, tend and harvest with sticks and hoes, but often not with plows, cattle and horses. That is, in the latter many pregnant women were in greater danger of miscarriage.

In short, in Agrarian society farming became man’s work. This changed nearly everything, since men now had a monopoly on food production and women became valued mostly for reproduction.

This was further influenced by the second major change to the Agrarian Age, which was that plows and animal power produced enough surplus that not everyone had to work to eat.

As a result, tradesmen, artists and scholars arose, as did professional tax-collectors, politicians (tax-spenders), clergymen and warriors.

Before the Agrarian Revolution, clergy and politicians and warriors had nearly all been the citizen-farmers-hunters themselves.

With this change came class systems, lords and ladies, kings and feudal rulers, and larger communities, city-states and nations.

The store of wealth and central means of production was land, and instead of using whatever land was needed, the system changed to professional surveys, deeds, licenses and other government controls.

Family traditions were also altered, as farmers found that food was scarce after lords and kings took their share.

Men were allowed one wife, though the wealthy often kept as many mistresses as their status allowed. Families had fewer children in order to give more land, titles and opportunity to the eldest.

Traditions of Agrarian Tribes, Communities and Nations are surprisingly similar in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and many colonies around the world.

While small Agrarian communities and locales often followed basic tribal traditions, larger cities and nations became truly National rather than tribal.

The fundamental difference between the two is that in tribes nearly all the individuals work together frequently on the same goals and build tight bonds of love and care for each other, while in nations there is much shared history and common goals but few people know each other or work together regularly.

As society nationalized, most people still lived and loved in tribal-sized communities.

Whether the ethnic communities of European cities, the farming villages of the frontier, church units of a few hundred who worshiped but also bonded together throughout the week, or so many other examples, most people during the Agrarian Age were loyal to national government but much more closely bonded with members of a local community.

When life brought difficulties or challenges, it was these community tribal members that could be counted on to help, comfort, commiserate, or just roll up their sleeves and go to work fixing their neighbors’ problems.

Community was also where people turned for fun and entertainment.

For example, one great study compared the way people in mid-century Chicago watched baseball games, attended cookouts and nearly always went bowling in groups, to the 1990s where most Americans were more likely to watch a game on TV, grill alone and go bowling alone or with a non-family friend.

Level 3 Tribes

Indeed, by the 1990s America was deeply into the Industrial Age.

Industrial tribes (no longer really Tribes, but rather tribes, small “t”) were built around career. People left the farms, and the communities which connected them, for economic opportunities in the cities and suburbs.

Some ethnicities, churches and even gangs maintained community-type tribes, but most people joined a different kind of tribe: in the workplace.

The means of production and measure of wealth in Industrial tribes was capital. The more capital you could get invested, the better your tribe fared (at least for a while) versus other tribes.

Competition was the name of the game. Higher capital investment meant better paychecks and perks, more job security, and a brighter future—or so the theory went.

While it lasted, this system was good for those who turned professional education into a lucrative career.

With level three came new rules of tribe membership. For example, individuals in industrial societies were able and even encouraged to join multiple tribes.

Where this had been possible in Agrarian communities, nearly everyone still enjoyed a central or main community connection.

But in the Industrial era, everyone joined long lists of tribes. In addition to your work colleagues, Industrial professionals also had alma-maters, lunch clubs like the Kiwanis or Rotarians, professional associations like the AMA or ABA or one of the many others, and so on.

With your kids in soccer, you became part of a tribe with other team parents; same with the boy scouts and girls clubs.

Your tribes probably included a community fundraiser club, donors to the post office Christmas food drive, PTA or home school co-op (or both), church committees, car pool group, racquetball partners, biking team, local theatre, the kids’ choir, lunch with your friends, Cubs or Yankees fans, and the list goes on and on and on.

In level three, the more tribes the better!

The two major tribes that nearly everybody joined in Industrial society were work tribes and tribes of friends.

Between these two, little time was left for much besides work and entertainment.

But make no mistake, the guiding force in such a society, the central tribe which all the others were required to give way for, was making the paycheck.

Families moved, children’s lives conformed, marriages sacrificed, and friends changed if one’s work demanded it. It was not always so, and this morality defined Industrial Age culture.

One big downside to Paycheck Tribes is that they cared about your work but not so much about you. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why Industrial tribes weren’t really even tribes.

The other major reason is that you had only a few close friends and most people didn’t truly count on any non-family group or neighborhood or community to really be there for you when you needed it.

That’s why this is called National society, because it’s not really a tribal community of bonded, connected people who truly love you and will take a stand for you.

Of course, there are some who build and maintain fabulous agrarian-type relationships, friendships and communities during Industrial eras.

It is just harder and less naturally occurring than in the other types of tribal periods and places. The main reason for this may be simply that capital is less naturally connective than legs, hands, family, church or a caring neighborhood.

This is not to say that companies can’t care, love and connect. In fact, I think that is exactly what they’ll have to do to truly succeed in the Information Age.

However, during Industrial Ages connecting and caring and building relationships is less valued by many. Those who put family, friends and other vital relationships first find much happiness and community connection during any period of history.

Fortunately, we live in a time when the new e-tribes are growing and increasingly available.

Level 4 Tribes

The sixth type of tribe is the Information-Age Tribe.

We are all still struggling for the perfect name. The term “e-tribe” is too narrow, since many of the new relationships are not online.

I’ll settle for calling them the New Tribes, and let the future show us exactly how they turn out.

The New Tribes appear to be a whole new (fourth) level of tribe, for a number of reasons.

To begin with, people are joining many of them like during Industrial times, but also limiting them somewhat to reflect what is truly important to them.

For example, where in levels one and two people belonged almost exclusively to one tribe and in level 3 they joined dozens of tribes, now most New Tribers are active members of a few, important tribes, usually at least four per person.

In addition, many members of New Tribes want to be leaders in tribes, and many leaders of New Tribes want the members to all lead. That’s a huge improvement on levels 1-3.

Also, members of New Tribes seem to care about each other much more than Industrial tribes but also even more than many ancient-style and agrarian tribes.

I think this is because people had little say about who their tribal and community members and neighbors were down through history, but in the New Tribes you can make your very best friends your daily confidantes.

The interaction is powerful, and it can and does create deep bonds of friendship and caring.

The Future of New Tribes

Few people realize how widespread the New Tribe revolution has become.

The many examples of online New Tribes show how rapidly this trend is growing. But there is even more to it than that.

One cycle of business growth says that all new things go through four levels:

  1. They are ignored.
  2. They are laughed at.
  3. They are opposed.
  4. They are accepted as obvious.

The growth of New Tribes is at the Obvious stage.

For example, tribal currency is now the most widely used money in the world. That may surprise some people who believe that the dollar or the yen or some other national currency is most used.

But try this experiment. Pull out your wallet or planner, and see how much money you have in government-printed currency.

Then see how much you have available in private bank currency (checks or debit cards).

Finally, how much are you carrying in tribal currency (from, say, the Visa or Mastercard tribes, or Discover or American Express)?

While it is true that these private currencies exchange into government money, the truth is that your credit account is most likely a niche or tribal account rather than a government account.

And I dare say that more than a few readers are befuddled by this example, as they transact very few purchases by pulling out their wallet, with the actual plastic in hand; they most often buy over the phone or online—further making the point.

The significance of this is huge. How much wealth are you carrying in sky miles, for example? Or hotel or travel points?

The reason companies issue loyalty cards is to get you to stop being in the traveler niche and instead join the Delta or British Airways tribe.

While you still have your wallet or purse out, look through it to see how many tribal membership cards you carry. Costco? Sam’s Club? Trader Joe’s? An automobile club? What else? Do you carry a church card, or a school card?

The point of all this is that New Tribes are here to stay, and indeed that before the 21st Century ends they may well take over many roles that were traditionally governmental.

For example, the phrase “I’ll fedex it” has replaced “I’ll mail it” in many corporate circles, and toll roads are becoming more popular around the world.

Just like government railways were phased out by private airlines, look for the rise of many more tribally-led industries and services in the years and decades ahead.

For New Tribes to fully achieve their positive potential, it is helpful and perhaps essential for them to learn from the best lessons of the tribes throughout history.

Both leaders and participants of tribes gain much wisdom by studying the best practices and traditions of the world’s tribes.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Community &Economics &History &Information Age &Tribes

Basic Tribal Culture

October 5th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

THERE ARE AT LEAST THREE MAJOR CULTURAL TRADITIONS of the world’s history, which can be described as Warriors, Farmers and Competitors.

 

Warriors

Warrior cultures believe in enemies, battles, winners and losers, us versus them, strength, courage, victory, personal skill, honor, resiliency, and a bias toward action—among other things.

They tend to see the world in terms of “our tribe” above all else. Many in history called themselves “the people,” or “the chosen.”

The tribes which became the nations of Norway (Norse), England (Anglos), France (Franks), etc. were from this tradition; other examples are found around the world.

Farmers

Farmer traditions valued security, hard work, frugality, sexual morality, responsibility, loyalty to community, savings and assets, land ownership, integrity, education, honesty, steadiness, family loyalty, neighborliness, and prosperity defined by abundance of food.

They built communities, simultaneously promoted individual freedom and conformity to community norms, and considered themselves successful when they produced bountiful harvests and saw their children married well (to spouses who embodied the values of the community).

Competitors

Competitor traditions saw the world as (usually) friendly competition between children at play, youth at courting and adults at work. Even the elderly competed to brag about the best lives, worst pain, most accomplished son, most neglectful daughter, most talented grandchildren, and whatever else came up.

For example: “I have two sons who are doctors and a daughter who is a lawyer,” versus “My grandson is a star quarterback who just won a state championship and his sister just got a scholarship from a national competition she won in Washington, D.C.”

People in such societies like competitive entertainment to escape from the pressures of their competitive schools and jobs.

A lot more could be said about these three major traditions, but the key point here is how they relate to tribes and freedom.

Warrior societies are tribal by nature, and they grow by conquering and colonizing other societies. They see life as a big battle, and raise their children and spend their days in battle mode.

They believe that life is about either conquering or being conquered. They see those with farmer and competitor traditions as victims.

Farmer societies are also tribal, but see the world as a big desert that needs to be turned into a garden. The more people who will adopt their values and join their quest to beautify and expand the garden, the better.

To them, the warriors and competitors are savages and wild outsiders who should be avoided and kept away from their society.

Pitfalls of National Culture

Competitor cultures are National (as opposed to tribal): interested in education for career, working moderate hours in order to enjoy daily entertainments, uninvolved with neighbors unless there is some other relationship to pull them together, and selfish with their free time.

They see the world as a big race, and individuals want to be the winners instead of the losers. In fact, they generally look down on “losers” and avoid them lest losing somehow “rub off” on them.

They see warrior and farmer cultures as quaint and backward, at best, and often with a more critical eye. Clearly, those cultures aren’t winning the race.

Competitor cultures divide their competitions into those that matter and those that don’t. They join tribes for the ones with little at stake, but stay individually focused on the ones that matter most.

Career and money are the competitions that matter more than any others in these cultures. Even family relationships have to take a back seat to most career considerations.

In other words, competitor cultures appear tribal by habit, but are nationalistic when they feel something is really important.

National cultures therefore desperately need the lessons taught by traditional tribal cultures.

But there are also pitfalls and negatives typical to tribal cultures, and we want to learn what they are and avoid them.

The American founders took on a deliberate process of statecraft, weighing the merits and failings of forms, models and ideals from societies throughout history.

I would assert that such a considered approach to our future as a nation and society is called for today. The goal is to adopt the best from national, tribal, warrior, farmer, competitive and other cultures, and at the same time reject their flaws and weaknesses.

With this in mind, let’s discuss what the tribal ideal really is.

With the assumption of local governance under the direction of concerned and involved citizens who were invested in one another’s success and security—basically a tribal council at the community level—the American founders established constitutional forms to create a cooperative and interactive union of states.

We have lost too much of the tribal foundation that was the animating spirit of American culture—the underlying weave of the fabric of freedom—and it is hard to overstate the case for recapturing it.

The Tribal Worldview

Just as there are religious worldviews, secular worldviews, materialistic worldviews, etc., there is an overarching tribal worldview.

Just like there are many views and differences within, say, the religious worldview, there are many different tribal perspectives.

And just as there is an overarching religious worldview (there is a higher power, and I should live in harmony with it/Him), there is also a profound and powerful tribal worldview.

One of the best ways to begin to understand any worldview is to ask, “What is the world, and what is the purpose of life and the universe?”

This is a complex question, of course, but it can be answered in simple terms and the early answers are often the most important. By understanding tribal culture at this basic level, we understand a great deal about ourselves.

The Universe

As I have studied tribal cultures from around the world and throughout history with these questions in mind (What is the world? What is the purpose of life and the universe?), I have categorized recurring themes, forces and societal roles; the labels used here are my own.

In generic tribal thought, the universe is made up of certain vital entities. For example, first come the Obeyers; these do their part in the universe unfailingly. They include suns, moons, planets, rocks, canyons, rivers, mountains, valleys, etc.

Many ancient religious temples and writings are full of these Obeyers. Obeyers set an example to all others, and they are the basic building blocks of everything. Many ancient stories center around references to and morals learned from valleys, rivers, mountains, etc.

Next are the Growers: the trees, grasses, plants, fruits, and so on. They build the universe by growing. Their growth feeds the others, bringing the power of the sun into assimilable form.

Many ancient religions and philosophies are built around the Growers and grower symbols.

The Movers include animals, fish and birds. They move around the world, spreading minerals and seeds from the Obeyers and Growers as they travel.

Many tribes consider some of the Movers, especially birds, to be messengers, teaching us as we interact with them in the world. They also provide food to others, and feed the Growers when they die.

The Movers are a key part of the universe, as are the Growers and Obeyers.

The Fishers are an interesting group. They change the environment by building dams to fish like beavers, or storing nuts like squirrels. Bees and others fit this category. They somehow raise and harvest food, not just wander and search for it.

In some traditions they are called farmers, and in others spiders (which weave webs to capture food). By their fishing, storing, farming, weaving, etc., they benefit the environment and all of life.

People are expected to learn from all of these parts of the universe, and to follow their good examples. Each type of entity is judged by how well it promotes and benefits life, which Obeyers, Growers, Movers and Fishers all do.

Next come the Lovers. Lovers benefit life to the extent that they love. When they don’t love, they hurt life and all the other entities.

The Lovers include all humans and also the spirits (or God, gods, and/or ancestors, depending on the tribe). Humans exist to love.

The Shadow Side

In addition to the good parts of the universe that benefit life, there are those that attack life. These include the Thieves, Murderers, Manipulators and Destroyers.

Thieves take one’s implements of life because they think it will benefit their life. They are mistaken, and cause pain for all by wrongly attacking life.

Murderers take life in order to promote their own life, and in so doing increase total pain. Murderers are seen as worse than Thieves.

Manipulators are an interesting category, often considered to be much worse than thieves and murderers. Manipulators set up systems that steal or kill, but in a way that the thieves and murderers aren’t directly blamed and in fact get away with it more often.

Such systems include anything that skews the natural way things should be, such as class and caste systems, manipulative and deceptive laws and governments, tricky lending and business deals, etc.

In this worldview, the only thing worse than Manipulators are Destroyers. Destroyers are those whose very nature has changed, who no longer are fallen Lovers, but are truly motivated only by hate and pride.

Note that while Movers, Fishers and Humans can be Thieves and Murderers, only humans can become Manipulators or Destroyers.

Since the very purpose of humans in the universe is to bring as much love as possible into the world, it is a colossal tragedy if a Lover becomes a Manipulator or a Destroyer.

By the way, in many traditions only Manipulators become Destroyers.

Now, with all this said, imagine how people in this culture feel about those who set up abusive, forced, corrupt and controlling governments, economies and laws: They are the worst of the worst.

Even those who support, condone or allow such manipulative governments, laws and economies are doing the work of the Destroyers and attacking life and all that is good.

This is one reason that tribal societies so adamantly mistrust most national cultures and people: It seems to many of them that the very basis of national culture is manipulations and exploitative systems.

It is also why it would be so valuable for them to learn the constitutional principles of freedom and how to apply them. But our purpose here is not to admonish the tribal cultures, but to learn from them.

Major Weaknesses of Tribalism

At this point, we should note that while traditional tribal culture does have much to teach us from its idyllic simplicity, it is far from perfect. Studying its pitfalls and common flaws is also instructive.

When tribes are run by small councils of all adult members, these weaknesses can be mitigated.

But when tribes don’t follow the leadership of councils of all adults, they turn against themselves; whatever other form of government they adopt, it becomes corrupt.

When this happens, various problems arise. The problems that follow are the normal for tribes that are not led by councils of all adults.

Economic Control

Tribal culture generally gives a great deal of economic power to tribal leaders.

Interestingly, most tribes distribute political power well between the executive (who gets power only in the face of external challenges and only for the duration of the challenge), the judicial (often a shaman and in many cultures left to families⎯both of which are usually independent of the executive and legislative), and run by the legislative (sometimes councils of elders, sometimes the combined adults of the tribe, sometimes both).

Of course, there are tribes that fail to follow these models, but the freest tribes use these basic systems.

Still, even with political freedoms, few historical tribes have economic freedoms.

The trust of the chief, the head elder (male or female) or the shaman is often absolute.

And, indeed, such leaders often adopt a sort of royal mentality where they believe that what is good for the leader’s finances is good for the whole tribe. In this form, nobody sees undue control of everyone’s finances and ownership as a negative.

But often, it creates the loss of political freedom—including parental choices, like who should marry whom—and a strict caste system with no economic or social mobility.

Many tribes face long-term poverty for most members of the tribe. Such poverty never persists in a truly free-enterprise model, which includes both freedom and opportunity.

Often tribal leaders see this as a threat to their power and, by extension, the tribe’s security and viability.

Emerging tribes with a charismatic leader who seeks control over individuals’ and families’ finances are cultish, and history is littered with the tragedies that such arrangements can lead to.

If a tribe wants to sell things, that’s great. But trying to pool resources or give up control of personal property should of course be met with serious suspicion.

This discussion also exposes a national-culture flaw: the idea that in learning from other cultures we should not judge their systems, traditions and behaviors.

Perhaps this is true when the goal is to maintain purity and academic objectivity in anthropological studies, but it certainly not true when our purpose is to learn and apply the best of tribal (and national) cultures to the tribally-nationalistic-globally-connected societies of the future.

If some calamity changes the world drastically, the same lessons will need to be applied in the new local societies that will be forged.

We need to measure the parts of each culture by how well they promote and support an environment of freedom, prosperity and happiness for all.

Interpersonal Politics

In a small group, political power is often swayed by personalities, likes and dislikes, trysts and history, baggage and personal weaknesses. Nothing can keep this from happening, and in a free system and voluntary tribes it doesn’t matter much.

In a local or official tribal system where the government has actual power over life, death, imprisonment, finances, etc., systems should always be established that keep this from happening.

By “systems” I mean written constitutions with separation of powers, checks and balances well-structured.

Class Power

Most tribes are aristocracies. This is a problem, because the class system is usually established by those in power and dominated by certain families.

In a local structure, or any model where the tribe or community is non-voluntary and/or actually has government power, the solution to this is to establish a legislature of all adults in the tribe.

As the tribe grows in size and geographical scope, local councils representing perhaps no more than 150 households continue to govern themselves, and may send representatives to a regional council to manage affairs of mutual interest to the coalition of local councils.

Conformity

Tribes often flounder economically and fail to grow because the people become too socially conformist. When tribes demand sameness on many levels and in nearly every aspect of life, they shut down creativity, leadership, wisdom and progress.

This is natural to any group, and in national cultures it is often called “groupthink.”

It is important for any group to continue learning, thinking, risking and trying.

Of course, certain violent and anti-social behaviors from rape to murder and so on cannot be tolerated. But stopping criminal behavior is far different from scripting people’s lives and socially enforced hyper-conformity.

This also translates to a socially-enforced closed-mindedness with respect to new ideas and a lack of tolerance for diversity, which lead to a stagnation of creativity and a tendency toward thought-policing.

Lack of Diversity

These conspire to cause narrowness of thinking, along with many of the other problems listed above. On the one hand, the whole point of tribe is joining together based on commonalities.

But the thing which makes tribes flourish is truly caring about each other, connecting, bonding. And connections based on both commonality (such as the shared value of freedom of choice) and diversity (such as the shared value of freedom of conscience) weave a much stronger fabric than one based on sameness.

Conclusion

The New Tribes of the 21st Century would do well, of course, to avoid these pitfalls. As stated, nearly all of these go away when a tribal society is governed by small councils of all adults in the tribe. If the tribe is too large for everyone to have a voice, smaller sub-councils are needed.

Historical tribes do have their weaknesses, but these also have much to teach us. Our generation of citizens needs to understand the good and the bad from the great tribes, nations and societies of history.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Community &Culture &Economics &Politics &Tribes

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