Modern Tribes and Battles

With the Super Bowl coming up, this description of modern tribalism from EO Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth seems timely:

Modern groups are psychologically equivalent to the tribes of ancient history and prehistory…

People around the world today, growing cautious of war and fearful of its consequences, have turned increasingly to its moral equivalent in team sports. Their thirst for group membership an superiority of their group can be satisfied with victories by their warriors in clashes on ritualized battlefields… The fans are lifted seeing the uniforms and symbols and battle gear of their team, the championship cups and banners on display, the dancing semi nude maidens appropriately called cheerleaders. Some of the fans wear bizarre costumes with face makeup in homage to their team. They attend triumphant galas after victories. Many, especially of warrior and maiden age, shed all restraint to join in the spirit of the battle and the joyous mayhem afterward.

1 Comment

  1. I love this, James. I just had a very similar conversation the other night (albeit I was less eloquent than Wilson) and meanwhile got myself uninvited to every Superbowl party ever. Woops.

    Sounds really melodramatic, but I can’t help but imagine: What if we replaced the action on the field for something truly heroic and beautiful–fighting to see the oppressed be set free? Cultural and history bending towards justice right there and then?

    And then, the bigger fantasy: We still saw the same amount of energy, fervor and passion coming from the stands. Weekend after weekend, year after year.

    Makes me hopefully that we are capable of feeling so much and committing so deeply and for so long.

    If we could only direct that energy in a new way…

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