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Tribalism and the Switch
6/28/2012 9:59:45 AM by (kevinreeve)

In the Urban Escape & Evasion class, I teach the importance of being able to “flip the switch” from being an ordinary, law abiding civilian, to being a “survivor” or “evader.” There are a number of challenges associated with this issue.

When I say flip the switch, I am referring to being able to make decisions, life or death decisions, that I do not have to make in normal life. Like whether the person I am confronted by represents a severe enough threat to engage violently. In normal conditions, when the rule of law is in place, I would avoid these conflicts, call 911 and let the police sort it out. But when the grid goes down, and no police are available, in order to defend my life, I may have to resort to the use of force. That is what I mean by flipping the switch.

The biggest problem with flipping the switch is timing. If I flip it to soon, I will be a criminal. If I flip it too late, I may be dead.

In terms of human interaction, when an event occurs, (for our discussion, an event can be any Black Swan event that causes a disruption in the delivery of goods and services. It could be an earthquake, hurricane, riots, terrorist attack, or a yet to be imagined occurrence), there are certain predictable reactions in terms of human interaction.

Both during and immediately after an event, one can expect that most people will be cooperative with each other and willing to help those in distress. The exception may be in the case of a riot, where racial tensions simmer over. But for the most part, people behave civilly towards one another.

After the severity of the situation begins to dawn on people, they may become a little less cooperative. Once the realize that the case of bottled water they had in their house is the only water they are likely to see, they will stop giving it away to their neighbors. Once they realize the power won’t be back on for a while, or that the grocery store is out of almost everything with no re-supply in sight, then they move from cooperation to suspicion. Fear and concern are the by-words.

Once it is clear that the event is going to last a while, and that there is no immediate rescue coming, people revert to what we call “tribalism.” They isolate with their tribe, and begin defending their remaining resources, and in some cases, go out with their tribe to acquire resources. This is usually done at the expense of those least able to defend themselves; the elderly, the single mother families. Then the tribes move out from their own neighborhoods into others. Economies of scale will soon dictate that bigger tribes are more effective at acquiring resources than small tribes, and you will see cooperation again, but this time it will be in the assimilation of smaller tribes into larger ones. Strong leaders will unite tribes and become in essence, warlords.

When this begins to happen, urban areas are way beyond hospitable. If one is stuck in the urban world, exiting the area or laying low is the best strategy.

If one is swept up in an event in an urban area, and one must for whatever reason, stay in the city, one is going to have to flip the switch in order to protect one’s self and loved ones. It is obvious that flipping the switch in the cooperation phase is generally a bad idea. It is probably a bad idea in the suspicion phase, though there may be noteworthy exceptions. When things go tribal, however, your survival will depend upon it.

How does one know when the change into tribalism occurs? That is the rub. It is the million-dollar question. How do you know?

One of the biggest problems we face right now in our society is pluralism. We are already breaking down into tribalism, based on race, political affiliation, religion, or nationality. The US used to be a melting pot, but no more. And this isolation into tribes means that civil discourse is not possible.

Take the advocates for Sharia Law in England. They demand their form of law. Period. No compromise, no discussion. They want to have their tribal customs be acceptable and are willing to resort to violence to achieve it. The English expect to have civil dialogue and come to some kind of compromise. They expect to be able to REASON with their Muslim fellow citizens. However, reason has fled. There is no reason in tribalism.

So what we can conclude from this is that either the Brits will give in to the Tribal Demands, or the will fight over them. Northern Ireland shows what happens to a society that chooses to fight. To date, the Brits have chosen acquiescence.

What does this have to do with flipping the switch? Everything. The indicator that tribalism has taken hold is simply the inability to REASON with the tribe members. Once the tribe has decided that what they want is what they want, and they have the force to enforce that want, then it is time.

So knowing when to flip the switch is easier now. Look for indications of tribalism. Gangs of thugs, sweeping though an area, attacking targets. The gangs may be linked by race, neighborhood, religion, or any other grouping. But once that grouping has begun, the rule of law is over. The survivors will be the ones who joined the tribe, used necessary force to counter it, or were able to avoid it by stealth and cunning.

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