We Have Lost Our Tribes

“We have lost our tribes.”

This is a note I wrote to myself after having a conversation with my wife.  We were discussing all the different sodas, or pops depending on where you live, in glass bottles that they sell in the little cafe where she works.  They carry various brands and flavors that you don’t find in any one particular large chain grocery store or franchised mini mart.

My wife asked me if I remembered the brands and flavors they use to have at the church picnics we would attend when we were kids.

I remember them.  I remember the large galvanized metal wash tubs filled with ice and the eight ounce glass bottles shoved into the ice.  I remember the stands made of wood planks and saw horses with wood poles at the four corners and a string of lights strung from corner to corner to light up the stand as a warm summer’s evening turned into night.

I remember a piece of string with a church key tied to one end and the other end tied to a nail in the wood plank.

Sometimes I long for the taste of an ice cold soda in a glass bottle, especially the ones we didn’t have at home when I was a kid.

Remembering all this, I thought about how I would look forward to the annual summer church picnic.  I was fortunate to have two churches within earshot of my childhood home.  We could attend two each summer.

We would go to the picnic because all your friends and neighbors were there.  You got to see people from your area, who you only saw on Sundays at church or at other community events.

In small rural communities these social functions have slowly died out as the generation of organizers have passed on.

There were annual Halloween parties, Christmas parties, summer picnics, turkey suppers and social gatherings at the local schools and firehalls.

There was youth baseball for the kids and town ball for the men.  Some still exist but they are not like they were back then.  Youth baseball teams were comprised of players from the area and it was for fun and learning the fundamentals of the sport.  There was no recruiting of players from outside your town and for the most part it was civil.  It was something to do.

Town ball for the men or older boys was the same.  It was older boys and men from the town and nearby farms.  Sometimes you had to combine the towns to get enough players.

You knew each other.  You knew each other’s families and yes, you knew each other’s business, both good and bad.

I thought about all of this and realized how we were a tribe back then.

The stories and the histories of families in the area were all known to us and were passed on from generation to generation.  People talked, face to face.  People passed time interacting with each other face to face.

Through these dealings in person we learned, at least most of us learned, respect for each other.

Of course we had issues.  Some you buried deep away and some you shared.  We had issues with each other but you worked it out, you learned to just deal with it.  You had to because if you were going to continue to interact with the people it was going to be face to face.

Then I thought about today.

My sister moved 1500 miles away, my wife’s sister moved 1500 miles away and my wife and I moved 1000 miles away.

These moves happened more in my time than in the past, throughout all the tribes, scattered all over the country.  With these moves the roots of the tribe are pulled up never to be replanted again.

Now I am surrounded by neighbors on all sides and have virtually no interaction with them other than a passing hand wave or hello, maybe a brief conversation.  I know nothing about these people and the sad thing is, nor do I care to know.

The neighbor within seventy five feet of me, I have never talked to face to face since we moved in.  I have no idea who they are, what they do or where they come from.

This is why I wrote the note, “We have lost our tribes.”

Today we have what the latest generation may want to call a tribe, but it’s not.

Social media isn’t really social at all.  Most of us sit alone when we are “socializing”.  Most of us don’t see the hurt, anger or joy in someone’s face when we make an off the cuff comment.  We sit behind a wall and put out but get no real feedback except our own misconceptions.

The tribes, the small tribe I was a part of as a child may not have been the best thing.  You didn’t have many new ideas or cultures to be exposed to, but they did teach you how to get along with humans on a day to day basis.

You had to learn to speak, present your thoughts and communicate clearly.  You honed this skill as you interacted face to face with the tribe.

We have lost our tribes.  We have lost our bonds with people and places.

As expanded as our communications have become we have become more and more isolated behind a wall of electronics.

I realize how isolated I have become in a more populous environment.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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