“My Tribe Is Better Than Your Tribe”
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride
When kids in my generation became teenagers, we told our parents we needed to be ourselves.
Surprisingly, our unique identity seemed to be a carbon copy of every other teen.
The more we talked about being different, the more alike we became.
We dressed alike. We talked alike. We listened to rock and roll.
Today there is a new word game, and it is not limited to adolescents.
We say we value diversity, but we don’t seem to want true diversity.
We like it when people look different.
However, we aren’t so happy when people think differently, especially when they have different ideals and values than ours.
So, we divide up into our tribes.
And we collect members for our tribes as if we were on a human scavenger hunt.
“We need to find a single mother originally from Elbonia who works as a nightclub bouncer.”
But it is inconceivable that we would accept anyone who thinks differently.
We recognize this fatal flaw in the other tribes, but not in our own.
Anyone who steps out of line gets expelled.
We like to think we are open-minded, but we surround ourselves with people who think just like we do.
Our information about the other tribes is limited to stories about how foolish, narrow-minded, and misguided they are.
We’ve fallen victim to one of the classic blunders.
While these stories may be based on true facts, they lack context and nuance.
And they reassure us that we are members of the best tribe with the best fight song and the best uniforms.
But if we ever talk with individual members of the other tribes, we discover that they have a lot in common with us.
They are concerned about education, safety, and the cost of groceries.
They may have different ideas about how to fix these problems.
But different doesn’t mean wrong.
Most great ideas have something in common: they grew out of crazy ideas.
The leaders of our various tribes want us to stay isolated.
If the tribes lose their distinctiveness, the leaders will lose power.
But we will gain power — and probably a few new friends.
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