“Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.” Oscar Wilde

God bless message boards, the bloggers inspiration, it’s all grist for the mill.

Typically, though not always, tribes are seen as localised in geographical regions (yes, even nomads), have common ethnic roots, share a common culture, have a structured organisation and are tied together by strong familial and social bonds, in essence, group identity. The society I belong to is definitely not a tribe in this sense, it is, as Oscar Wilde says, a mental concept. If everyone got amnesia, just imagine how many boundaries and distinct groups would disappear.

Long ago, the British Ilses were overrun with Goidelic, Brythonic, Pictish and, later, Anglo-Saxon tribes, but now they have all merged and the borders of their territories exist as countries and counties, if that. And the idea of “peoples” means little to people who regard the difference between such geographical regions as the difference between work (Sussex), home (Kent) and social life (Greater London).

Most concretely I have a birth certificate that tells me I was born in Britain and so I’m a British Citizen, as does my passport, with all the rights and responsibilities that that holds. That could be my tribe. But it says little of my ethnic or cultural background, I could be a Muslim with family from Bangladesh, like a few of my friends from school. It also says little about my familial or social ties. In such a large, anonymous and impersonal system, friends are lost and gained like so many leaves on a tree and families just drift apart in the vast anonymity of it all.

So now gangs of youths roam around unchecked in whatever haphazard way they can get away with and our “elders” are sent to nursing homes or their opinion so out of touch with the times it’s not worth listening to them (but they weren’t expecting so much change). One generation to the next can be as different culturally as two nations. My mum came from a Roman Catholic family and rejected that for a more Protestant faith. Her mum grew up in a Protestant denomination but married and became Roman Catholic. My dad grew up with Protestantism and later embraced Spiritualism. I had a Protestant childhood, a sort of Spiritualist adolescence and later went through an experimental NeoPagan phase that has become something that doesn’t even have a label for it. I call it my life journey, which has many influences on  it. Though if you look through the rest of my blog (hint hint) you might get a feel for what I’m about.

I grew up in Brighton (Hove actually) which is fairly cosmopolitan (compared to another place I’ve lived in England). I don’t know what to call my culture, except Multiple Exposure in South East England.  I know more about some American TV programs than my own Royal Family and its history. That is the effect of living in a multicultural and Western society I think. It’s a make-it-up-as-you-go-along culture, which has its advantages and disadvantages, as do all cultures.

To be honest, in this cultural atmosphere its easy to see how extremist groups emerge from this, they’re scared because what they thought was a very stable and well-defined world becomes a melting pot that gives way under their feet. Socially dependent individuals become very insecure  and may react violently and retreat into a smaller box than they were in before. It’s also understandable that people without a clue about who they are or what they are doing get lost amidst it all.

I’ve never identified myself as very English, partly because my grandad came from Scotland and also, as I was growing up, being English didn’t seem to be anything in particular, it seemed quite bland to be honest and overrun by international influence, particularly the US (did I mention TV programmes? And let’s not forget McDonald’s). My break from Christianity also broke me out of cultural identity, and I only embraced Spiritualism nominally. Later, upon finding Paganism, I jumped at it and started an active spirituality. In a way this was my chance to forge my own individual identity without the Christian identity of my mum and the Spiritualist identity of my dad.

Modern Paganism itself is not a single belief system or tradition, but an eclectic melting pot that, whilst including traditions like Wicca, Asatru, Druidry amongst others, it also includes bits from the New Age, Indigneous traditions, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Individuals with no-fixed-tradition are aplenty. It was a good atmosphere to look at myself without adopting fixed cultural trappings that might obscure my view of myself. I could have lost myself in this philosophical chaos, but I didn’t and the continuous focus of “nature-based spirituality” was what sustained me a lot of the time. It was always about nature and my connection with it, no matter what beliefs I was looking into and experimenting with.

That’s my group spiritual identity broken and my national identity is well on its way. Well, no, nothing is actually broken, it’s just expanded to include other things. My British nationality has expanded to become a part of the European Union, my geographical position is in Spain (or Catalonia, which might be a separate nation, or not) and I live with a Swiss family, one of which is my girlfriend. Would you like Tea and Toblerone with that Tapas?

So, where was I?

Oh yes, tribes!  What is my tribe? For me my tribe is not bound by cultural or ethnic roots, it has nothing to do with any social organisation I belong to, nor my supposed class, my geographical position, my family, my social circles, beliefs, spiritual traditions or any group affiliation.

To rephrase a well known saying, “Your tribe is where you heart is.” In the global melting pot of a mental concept that I call “my society” that’s the best I can do for a tribe. Well, actually that’s pretty good, and it works well for me.

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