Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Renaming the Tribe

I have already mentioned my desire to rename what I have been calling the Arts & Humanities Tribe. While the name has the right feel to it, it does not enclose the group as neatly as I would like. It does not mention the social science folks who make up a large portion of the tribe, and it suggests a connection between the humanities and political liberalism that is permanent rather than temporary. There is some of the same problem with the phrases “classical liberal” and “liberal arts.” The meanings these phrases once had now fit political liberals inexactly.

Humanist tribe and Postmodernist tribe have both been suggested. Both terms capture something of both the connotation and the current population of the tribe – more exactly than my own title, in fact. Yet postmodernist completely misses the historical roots. Humanist does better on that score, because it historically comes in both Christian and secular flavors. The downside is that the word now carries an entirely secular intent, and is too often confused with “humanitarian” in popular use. Because the tribe has changed, it is difficult to find a descriptor that is both historically and currently accurate. What I am searching for might be described as “what used to be called the Humanist Tribe, but is now the Secular Humanist Tribe.” This seems rather unwieldy. NPR Listening Tribe would be fairly accurate, as it captures the truth that many conservatives and moderates still have some tribal loyalty to it. NPR Listening Tribe also works in the suggestion of folks who at least try to consider other points of view, even if they aren’t really able to understand them. But I don't want NPR to be taking the blame for this.

Some members are the artists, psychologists, and journalists; some are poseurs or dilettantes. As with all tribes, members have different areas of expertise, and rely on the others for opinions in other areas. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s why we have tribes to begin with. Efficiency. Division of labor and all that. We’re all dilettantes or poseurs sometime. Why this would be a particular problem with the A & H crowd, I’m not sure. Yes, it is true that many are mere receivers of A & H culture, or attach themselves as a sort of social climbing, but I don’t want that to be the focus.

Perhaps if I can name some of the other tribes, the best name will just jump out at me. The Science and Technology Tribe needs a name; I think I’m going to expand the African-American tribe into the DIversity tribe, in honor of the enormous similarity of liberal activists of all stripes - plus the few black conservatives don't fit there; Heartland, Southern Honor, Silent Majority, God and Country, and Religious Right tribes – there’s enormous overlap there, but enough differentiation to be worth separating out. Mexican tribe, Other Hispanic Tribe, Other Immigrant Tribe – hard to know where the lines are there. We all probably have more than one membership.

I think I’ve got a new project going. One that will require actual research rather than just talking off the top of my head. I’ll need help here. Spread the word. Too much information and random ideas are not a problem.

12 comments:

GM said...

AVI, you have done a great service in bringing the whole "Tribes" question into focus. So, I'll blog about it and send readers to this post to discuss what the A&H Tribe should be called.

Woody said...

Perhaps tribes need to be defined as to thinking processes rather than where their thinking processes got them. On a broad scale, I discuss left-brained (logical) vs. right-brained (emotional) people. I'm not suggesting Myers-Briggs to name the tribes, but how people perceive the world probably has as much to do with how they process information as it does their environment. Oh, yeah. One more difference. Smart vs. stupid. So, the classic conservative is left-brained and smart while the liberals are the other.

terri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
terri said...

woody.. I was thinking along the same lines. The A and H tribe could be labeled as the Feelings/Emotionally Led tribe. That doesn't really have much pizazz as far as names go. Maybe they need a less literal name....hmmm.(thinking)

Smart v. Stupid...unfortunately there is no shortage of stupid to go around in either classsification.

Jonathan Wyman said...

Does anyone have research that the right-brained vs. left-brained thing is real? I've never seen a convincing proof that people actually utilize different parts of their brain in this way. But being left-brained, I'm open to empirical proof....

Woody said...

How about these to contrast A&H with normal people?

Knee-jerk vs. Analytical
Art films vs. Talledega Nights
Wine & Cheese vs. Beer & Chips
Smokers vs. Non-smokers
Idiots vs. Sensible
Feminine vs. Masculine
Philosophy vs. Baseball
French vs. American
Druggies vs. Coffee Drinkers
Draft Dodgers vs. Responsible
Them vs. Us
Maybe best, instead of A&H simply call them:
A H
s o
s l
- e
- s

Woody said...

I might need to back off of that Feminine vs. Masculine distinction. The point is that Democrats are like the mommies of our nation while Republicans are like daddies. I don't want to make any conservative women mad.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You guys are having way too much fun here.

I was also tempted by the feelings vs. information, anecdote vs. statistics division, but I don't think it holds up. Way too many folks on our side are just as susceptible to that sort of sloppy thinking. Certainly the worst of the A & H Tribe would fit that categorization, but I don't want to brand them all that way. There is something about who they accept as authorities that enters the mix.

Anyway, I'm also seeking suggestions on what the other tribes are and what their strengths and weaknesses are as well. I want to have a handle on my own tribe's failings when I'm done. Division by thinking processes is good, but I also want to include tribal culture in the final product.

Woody said...

AVI, give us a recap of the tribes that you have identified so that we can have a common starting point.

One other distinction that is valid:

Idealist vs. Realist

It's absolutely funny that people on the left say that they are reality-based.

Woody said...

Some more:
Group-think vs. Individual
Dependent vs. Independent
Herd Mentality vs. Independent Thought
Theoretical vs. Actual

As far as authorities:
Government vs. Private
Professors vs. Accomplishers
Compassionate vs. Get-off-your-rear
Chamberlain vs. Patton
Providers vs. Non-interferers
Give me a fish vs. Teach me to fish
Government Control vs. Free Market
Keynes vs. Friedmand
Power Driven vs. Money Driven

Liberals love to feel "important" and will work for free if you say that they are making a difference with their "activism." Most are on an ego trip.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

See my latest post about The Other Tribes

ScurvyOaks said...

Speaking as a member of the Business Tribe, I look at A&H and think: the Functionally Innumerate Tribe. Ever noticed that NPR is all about anecdotes -- "the power of a narrative" -- not data?