A recent article in the journal Naturelooked at the question of whether groups of chimpanzees, who have been known to gang-up and kill each other, do this as a result of some adaptive strategies that cause them to “gain fitness benefits by increasing their access to resources” or is it the result of some “non-adaptive result of human impacts”. I was more struck by the fact that they gang-up in the first place. I know they live in tight knit family groups, but forming gangs for, as it turns out, personal gain – well, that hits a bit close to home, don’t you think?
Human beings take great comfort in being included in a group. It is, I suspect deep-seated in our nature, perhaps related to kinship groups and some instinctive genetic survival strategy. When we consider the number of ways we group ourselves, it is rather astonishing. We divide ourselves by race, by nationality, by state or province, and by city. We join churches, gangs, lodges, and associations. We love our own team and hate another, we judge people by their appearance alone, and we somehow decide that God favors our side against another. We divide ourselves to such an extent that we must pass laws to prevent us from discriminating against those who are not like us. We even show hatred toward other groups to the point of war and, in extreme cases, extermination. Think “ethnic cleansing”.
In most cases, we consider our group to be superior to all other groups, so it is not surprising that humans, as a species, can also act as a group. There are humans, and then there are living things that are not human – the animals.
According Merriam-Webster, a tribe is a large family or a group of people who have the same job or interest. We all belong to multiple tribes. For me there is, of course, my main tribe – my family. After family, there is this important tribe:
And then there are all of these:
Some tribes are not so good. When I was growing up, it was the Mafia Families that were rumored to spend the winters in our Florida cities. Then it was the street gangs that still plague us today. And next, maybe that is what we see emerging in the terrorists of the Middle East. If you refuse to join their gang, they will blow you up or cut your head off. Wow – not even chimpanzees do that to their enemies!