Monthly Archives: February 2019

Need More Tribes? (!)

I’m a bit of a nerd. I enjoy studying social science type stuff—what makes societies work / not work, on down to the level of small group interpersonal dynamics. It’s probably one of the last great frontiers of unknowns, because human beings are so unpredictable (flaky) and when you get a bunch of them together, the result can often be exponentially increased flakiness.  And, the obvious current issue is polarization, a seemingly impossible dream of ever reconciling opposing views. It’s reached social crisis proportions.

I’m going to play with something here, most of it is so common sense it hurts. But let’s see where it takes us… it may be just a bunch of “duh” moments, in which case if it’s so obvious why isn’t it in practice? Or someone may uncover something profound buried in this. I sure don’t know yet!

Humans are social creatures, always have been. We band together for safety, togetherness, love—like-minded people who share basic values, ethics and perspectives form groups, communities, societies. If the shared values are strong enough within the group, they eventually become unspoken norms—the way members of the group are expected to behave without question, without a reminder.

A smaller tribe can get away with a gathering around the campfire to work things out—open, honest sharing of opinions and perspectives while looking each other in the face. If the tribe’s shared values are strong enough, there is a common vision or goal to agree on doing what is best for the tribe…the common good.

The larger and / or more diverse a group becomes, the greater the need for more formal structure and agreements.  Written “laws” may emerge and the troubles begin.  “One size fits all” norms are tougher to maintain, and making things more vague to fit more scenarios doesn’t get it either. So some form of “policing” emerges for those who do not “conform” to the group’s norms.

Group size eventually drives the need for some kind of more formal regulatory body, possibly chosen democratically with sub-groups of like-minded people choosing a spokesperson who shares their views. But what typically happens among the group of spokesperson decision makers is bickering, power plays, favoritism, special interests, shady alliances….the natural dark side of human nature?

You cannot use legislation to drive values / ethics / norms–the reverse must be the case. If there is a gap between the community members’ collective values / ethics / norms, and the legislation there is usually a huge mess of social issues as people cannot conform to something against their beliefs. To take it a step further…what if there is a values gap between the group and its designated leaders, including top leadership? But WAIT…how could that happen? And what is the resolution?

TO THINK ABOUT… Solution: Downsize?

What if communities become the foundational unit of democratic representation, comprised of smaller “tribes” with strong shared values / ethics / norms? Participatory councils with face-to-face open dialogue and sharing of concerns and ideas, decisions driven by the common good of the community? What if community councils had direct input flowing upward, and oversight power over the national congress of decision-makers? Would there be more accountability to be true to the will of the people?


  • Local non-partisan councils that place the greater good of their community before party affiliation, which requires community vision and shared values (Develop People Model);
  • More people with civics and current affairs savvy who are willing to be involved and make a difference. We need to educate the citizenry, with or without this little old pipe dream;
  • Communication loop grass roots / community to top / national congress;
  • Strong network of local communities to serve as the second tier of hierarchy;
  • Immediate accountability of top to grass roots of hierarchy—all lower levels.

To me, stronger grass roots democracy and an aligned hierarchy bottom to top with accountability is the true meaning of “of the people, by the people, for the people”. A chorus of Voices in harmony will always be heard over solo singers, especially if the chorus is non-partisan.  Community before politics…what a concept.

There is no need for a national organization of local councils—that’s an oxymoron and could be counterproductive to the whole “smallness” notion! Activists can advocate for a council in their own community, and the community would reap the benefits without a huge formal structure. Local elected officials would be wise to get on board and actively participate regardless of party affiliation…their jobs could depend on it.

There will always be some decisions and legislation that must be fully owned by the national congress. But bottom-up democracy has potential worth talking about…yathink?