I am reading (and enjoying the hell out of) Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Virtues. That book and its arguments are much bigger than this tiny blog post, but a minor point in the book (the alleged fragmentation of modern, that is to say bourgeois-town based-capitalist-liberal, society) triggered for me a point of curiosity.
I know that I belong to many communities (let’s call them tribes). Can I count them? What are they?
I majored in Near Eastern Studies and stopped taking math after Algebra 2, but hey, I’m a child of the Enlightenment, so for discussion’s sake, I’ll define a tribe by the presence of two characteristics:
- A tribe is a group of 10 or more people, all known to me, and most of whom know each other.
- A tribe has regular (not necessarily constant) and current communication.
- I’ve left out tribes too big for all members to know each other (residents in the State of Utah, American citizens, members of the New York Bar).
Pretty scientific, n’est ce pas?
Okay, so here’s my best list of the tribes to which I currently belong, more or less in the order in which they occurred to me:
- The Butler family (my dad’s side)
- The Lindow family (my mom’s)
- The Sorenson family (Emily’s mom’s side)
- The Holsingers (Emily’s dad’s side)
- My congregation and neighborhood (I live in a place where those are basically synonymous)
- Graduates of Timpview High School
- Graduates of NYU Law
- Past and present employees of Clifford Chance
- Past and present employees of Micron
- The Numonyx team
- Acumen Learning
- WordFire Press
- The Utah writing scene
- The Colorado (Front Range) writing scene
- Italy Milan LDS Mission missionaries
- My (unnamed) boardgaming community in Treasure Valley
- The Story Monkeys and their families
- The Space Balrogs and their families
- The Utah-centered filk music scene
- Aldershot Ward
There are probably other tribes, but that’s a good start. Is that fragmentation? Maybe. Several things strike me. First, though I regard myself as shy and an introvert, my life has been enriched by many communities, large and small. Second, the people who have had my back when I needed it have come from a surprising array of these different tribes. Third, I’ve passed through some very large institutions that have left almost zero social footprint on me (my undergraduate college, for instance). Fourth, for all the features of social media that go immediately into my “hate” column, I have to acknowledge that social media has made it very easy for me to stay in contact with these, my fellow-tribespeople.
All of which, I guess, a propos of nothing in particular. But if you’re in one of my tribes — thanks.