Wednesday, September 07, 2005

When Two Tribes Go to Four

In my blog wanderings the other day, I came across William White's Eject! Eject! Eject! discussing the concept of two tribes of people. He dubs the emotion-led tribe Pinks and the logic-led one Grays. This springs from what he sees as conflicting reactions to such events as Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks.

Setting aside the pop culture significance of those terms, it's the binary thinking it shows that I find to be a larger problem in this society. The idea that everything should conform to perfect ratios and either-or arrangements did humanity no favors, even if the Greeks came out of it with some damn fine architecture. It has its place; it's misapplied outside of it.

I'm not denying such people exist, mind. I've seen examples of both in my daily life, and depending on the day in question, I could be seen to swap allegiances. This is where I start having issues with the whole notion of two tribes that are dedicatedly opposed to each other in approach. It's possible to see when it's time to play it gentle vs. knuckle down and work. If it's not possible to cross the line, there's a problem.

This leads me to Maggie Macary at Myth and Culture speaking of the need to restore imagination to a higher priority in Western culture. It is primarily considered the bailiwick of creative artists these days. In disaster planning, however, a lack of imagination gets us results such as the debacle in New Orleans. It contributed a great deal to the intelligence failures surrounding 9/11 as well. The commission report on those events made that blisteringly clear.

This led to my concept of a third tribe, one led by imagination. Drawing from logic and emotion to build a synthesis of the two, seeing where beauty and joy can lead as well as pragmatic simplicity. Making sure facts are the basis instead of mere dreams, but not letting binary logic control how they see either what-is or what-if. I can only dub this tribe Fluorescents. That might open a different can of worms, but it's the best word I can think of right now.

As I'm sure we've all seen, there seems to be a fourth sort in the human condition. They have emotionally driven behaviors springing from misapplied logic and a fantasy life that shows imagination, but not one based on facts. I think, to contrast with the third tribe, they could be called Burntouts. It sounds sadly final, but when their opposite is a longlife bulb, I'm not sure what else to use.

Analogies to Dumezil's four functions don't quite work past a certain point. Unless you want to talk about the benefits and risks of each sort of tribe member being in a first function job, anyway.

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