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Tribalism, politics, nature and the shopping mall -Finding right brain balance in a left brain world

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

June 27, 2019 and updated since then

In certain situations, like visiting the local shopping mall, I think of myself as an anthropologist.  (In truth, I am likely visiting because my wife or kids need me to do an errand or meet) As a “mall anthropologist,” I observe and try to understand human behavior. Behavior of people as willing participants in an economic and socially contrived environment. But also someone who feels separate, not really understanding why people could find fulfillment in this environment.  The lights seem harsh, the sounds discordant, the edges constrained in Euclidean rigidity, and the human interactions seem scripted and less consequential. Why not just go online to buy stuff!

Perhaps this is why my sense of fulfillment comes more from nature. Being in the deep woods or even in my backyard, beholding the trees, bushes, animals, bugs, water and streams. Thinking of the bacteria participating in various states of life enabling decomposition.  Imagining the unseen mycorrhizal networks enabling plants to learn from and help each other. Appreciating the gift of oxygen from the carbon dioxide plant scrubbers that make life possible for us mammals. The environment is defined in all its Fractal beauty, in its self similar and non integer dimensional space.   

This is my happy place, a place where I feel in balance and connected with the world. 

A place my right brain is free to integrate with the large and beautiful world, and my left brain is quietly supportive.


I’m reading Zach Carter’s The Price of Peace about JM Keynes. A thought provoking book. 

In it, a reference is made to Vanessa Woolf, Virginia Woolf’s sister and member of the Bloomsbury Set with Keynes. 

“Vanessa remained sincerely and ardently apolitical....”

“Politics for Vanessa was just another site for human drama, a field of literary aesthetics rather than a test of sin and salvation.”

I find a common bond with Vanessa. I, too, am apolitical.  While I find interest and some fascination with politics, I do not get drawn from an emotional context. 

For me, I suspect, it is not so much a personal decision as a condition of my biology. 

Even when I was in grade school, I noticed my lack of tribal instincts. While I like and enjoy people, I did not feel the need to join a clique or be part of a particular group. I liked to move between groups as interests evolved or conditions otherwise suited. 

I suspect this has to do with my own biology, associated with different neurotransmitters concentrations emitted in response to emotional stimulation. This is as related to tribal biology and neurological evolution. Perhaps I represent a small evolutionary mutation, one representing less need to act tribally as our society evolves; where tribalism is less needed to survive and thrive....

Connecting the dots, this may partially explain my prior comments related to the “mall anthropologist.”  Perhaps a result of my biology and predilection concerning social groups and my lacking need to socialize in a mall setting.

In work settings, I do appreciate the value of being on a team. I understand the synergistic value of  collaboration. But with that said, if that collaboration becomes less valuable or there is a better suited opportunity elsewhere, I am likely to disengage. Also, I find myself drawn to consulting, probably because I find the collaboration of a single company stifling. I appreciate consulting because the exposure to many ideas outside my own consulting company.  Also, the business of consulting is driven by ideas, which is helpful to satiate my natural curiosity. 

Because we have tasted

the bitter swill

of civil war and segregation,

and emerged from that dark chapter

stronger and more united,

we cannot help but believe

that the old hatreds shall someday pass;

that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve;

that, as the world grows smaller,

our common humanity

shall reveal itself.



(Mentioned in Isabel Wilkinson’s book, The Warmth of Other Sons )

Optimistic and likely true, but will take a long time to counter the effects of tribalism hard wired into our neurobiology. The question becomes, how can we accelerate the process of evolutionary biology. We know tribalism is no longer necessary for species survival, and, ironically, may hasten species decline. 

March 1, 2021

“Jancsi (John von Neumann) quickly outgrew children's games, the two friends recall, and took to observing those around him with the disquieting, detached manner of an anthropologist.”

- Ananyo Bhattacharta biography on John von Neumann

Perhaps I have a similar personality as that of von Neumann. I discuss my personality in the article Connection between Carl Jung / Meyers Briggs and the functional operation of the cerebral cortex. Perhaps von Neumann was an INTJ as well!

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