After reading Ishmael, the book I mentioned in another blog post, I’ve been reading another book by the author, Daniel Quinn. In this book, titled Beyond Civilization, he discusses how human beings can change society and live in a way that works better for not only the environment, but for us as well. There are so many insightful and profound things within just the first few pages. I absolutely love this author and cannot wait to read all he’s published.
In Beyond Civilization, Quinn explains how for the majority of human history, we lived in tribes. Once we broke away from that and built social hierarchies, that’s when he had our “fall from grace” so to speak. Not only have our societal systems, governments, and particularly capitalism led to the destruction of our planet, they have also created a culture of violence, apathy, drug abuse, and mental illness.
He uses circuses as a metaphor, likening them to modern day tribes. He explains that unlike big corporations like Amazon, a small circus creates an atmosphere of personal interest in the success of the group as a whole. At Amazon, the people in the warehouses most likely feel no personal attachment to the company as a whole. Nor does Jeff Bezos give a single fuck about any of his employees. Quinn explains that the members of the circus, while technically employees, work not for the money, but earn the money so that they can continue to do what they love and keep their group together.
As I was reading this explanation, I realized that I had been lucky enough to stumble into my own tribe! The job I currently have feels so much different than any I’ve had in the past. There are a lot of little things about it that contribute, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why it was so different until now.
At my small non-profit I can literally count all the employees on my fingers. While we do have an executive director, it doesn’t feel like a hierarchy. Everyone understands and respects the value and importance of each position in the organization. Thinking of this group of people I work with as my tribe makes so much sense. It feels more like a tribe than just a job. I couldn’t explain it exactly before. Explain why suddenly I don’t mind working late or going above and beyond what’s required of me. Why I desperately want to do a good job, not so I’m not fired, but so I can be an asset to my team, my friends, my tribe.
At all my old jobs, my goal was to do as little as possible without being fired. I was absolutely indignant if I had to work late or miss a break. It was painfully apparent that if I wasn’t being paid, I would not be there. At my job now, I look forward to being there. I no longer dread Sunday evenings. I am happy when I wake up to go to work. I truly feel like I am a part of something, rather than just another cog in a huge machine. I genuinely never knew it was possible to feel this way about work.
We’re conditioned to accept that for the majority of people, work is an unpleasant requirement of staying alive. It isn’t fair, it isn’t fun, but it is a necessary evil. I felt this way my whole life. And I’m sure I still would working anywhere else. What makes this job different is that it is such a small organization. We all know each other. We all care about each other. We all see the value and worth of what we do together. We are a tribe. We work to support one another and our organization, not for a paycheck.
Quinn has helped me understand that this is the way humans used to live. Things were smaller, more intimate, more meaningful. He believes we can change society so that we may all benefit from this type of system again. It is something I had never dared to dream. And while I still think humanity is too far gone at this point, I hope that he’s right. It feels so good to hope. And to experience a small piece of that life I hope everyone can have someday. I sincerely hope that you can each find a tribe of your own out there.