I have mentioned many times the importance of the tribe to the people of the Omo Valley. Each tribe has a critical ritual related to the path from adolescence to adulthood often involving some kind of proof of commitment to the tribe. Some of these are very painful as in the wearing of lip plates by the Mursi women, and yet they are accepted as a positive event because of the importance of belonging to a tribe. In the Omo Valley life revolves around the tribe and the sense of community is very strong, they look after their own.
I have talked to a number of friends and colleagues lately about the difference between belonging to a tribe and its importance in society compared to how our community is evolving. We seem to be going in a different direction, valuing the accomplishments of the individual in sport as much and in many cases more than the team. In the business world success appears to be oriented around the individual, who is the CEO of that successful company be it Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc, etc. All this seems to drive each of us to excel individually.
I have noted in conversation that this is a more recent phenomena, looking back at how we used to live, for example with close knit villages where everyone knows everyone else. This was very evident in a village in the Southwest of England where my brother Steve used to be the policeman and in the North of England where Sue, my wife grew up. Is this going away? Are we losing our sense of community in our virtual world where we have wider networks but not necessarily closer ties?
I wonder which society is more healthy and well developed in terms of community, the tribes in the Omo Valley or the society we live in?