The ONE thing that both unites us – and separates us

ChimpI read a blog post by a friend today, entitled Why do we care what others think of us? While mainly it’s a personal commentary about how we, as individuals, see ourselves in the world, the core of the article is that we humans are by nature tribal. And that got me thinking.

Just imagine that humans were solitary animals, like tigers. Lone hunters which rarely interact for anything but sex, or to fight for territory or mates. We couldn’t possibly have survived. With the exception of orang utans, which are semi-solitary, tree dwelling apes, all the other great apes are terrestrial and live in family groups. Like us, they have comparatively poor vision, and not too much in the way of teeth and claws. But they do have large brains and a bunch of friends to help each other find food or fight off enemies.

The thing is, survival is a competitive exercise – always has been. If another tribe steals your food, your family starves, so you fight. Knowing who is part of your tribe is easy – you’re all more or less related. But as society became more complex and tribes became larger, individuals had to find other ways to recognize who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’. Everybody lived in the same village, or were beholden to the same lord, or lived in the same country, or spoke the same language, or dressed alike, or… Those relationships gave us strength and mutual support. And a reason to fight, or go to war. Even if we’re at peace, we can point our fingers at people with different coloured skin, another religion, a funny accent, a physical disability. It seems to me these are all extensions of our need to belong to a tribe, and exclude those deemed unsuitable, those who don’t ‘fit’.

I mentioned in an earlier article how human society breaks down into classes. Australians may try to tell you we have a ‘classless society’ but that’s simply rubbish. ‘We’re better than them’ is alive and well, based on income, education, where you live, what you wear, how you speak, what you do for a living etc. And within those classes (or whatever else you might want to call them) there are expectations. Probably the best known, highly regimented class structure is in India, where most people belong to one of four castes – and if they don’t they’re ‘untouchable’. This article gives a simple explanation of the caste system.

In my Morgan Selwood books, Manesai society is based on the Indian caste system, extended by genetic manipulation to prevent breeding between the classes. But just occasionally, people from different classes might meet and fall in love. I had this as a secondary theme in Morgan’s Return, where Jirra, who is Hasta, falls in love with Prasad, who is Mirka (and married). I had been asked what happened to them, and it’s a good question. It also gives me the opportunity to explore Manesai society a little more. What happens if a woman decides she won’t marry the man her family has chosen for her? What happens if a woman wants to be a chef, not a trooper or a security guard? What happens when a Vesha woman wants to rescue her mate from a Mirka prison?

Interested? Watch this space. I’ve started work on a new Morgan Selwood story, or should I say a Manesai story. Morgan and Ravindra will put in an appearance but Jirra will be the star of the show, along with a few new friends. I guess they’ll be forming their own little tribe, won’t they? Trying to work together, despite their differences. It should be fun.