Events in Boston last week illustrate how technology shapes our personal identity. And how little we understand the process. Boston shows us a foretaste of the new tribalism that relies on ephemeral situations and adrenalin to create a sense of belonging. It will change what it means to be an American.
First, the definitions. We’ll start with new tribalism: an individual’s sense of self, belonging and loyalty. They’re defined by participating in communal activity responding to an ad hoc event or crisis. Here, it’s a new tribe following a terrorist bombing. This new tribe’s values can saturate or supplement traditional ones – at least temporarily.
Doubtlessly you are already asking, ‘Is it really new’? Rallies, concerts and civic festivals might be seen as the forerunners to today’s phenomenon. Certainly, the German regime designed mid 1930s Party rallies for this explicit purpose. Religious practice (which the regime studies and copied, per the discussions with Speer) a more structural, embedded variant. The now trite ‘happenings’ and ‘sit ins’ in the 1960s, as well as mass spectacles of Woodstock, etc. reflect better the ad hoc nature of contemporary on-line new tribalism.