The Individual That You Are (Not)


 

If you tell me your date of birth, where you were born, what your parents thought about politics and religion, and whether your relationship with them is sweet or bitter, I can predict a great deal about your values and beliefs.  This is because we humans are tribal creatures. Our foundational knowledge is transmitted from the tribal members who nurture and educate us. If we are happy and secure within our group, we share their worldview, reasoning, logically, that many generations of ancestors have considered the evidence to arrive at an optimal interpretation. It can be tweaked, but few individuals are motivated to contest the entire worldview they have inherited.

Some people switch social class, political allegiance, religious affiliation or national identity. A few are trailblazing free-thinkers. Most switchers are simply unhappy with the tribe they were born into and willing to embrace the worldview of a new tribe.

Switchers are often attracted by a charismatic leader and then encounter a group of like-minded friends. Once the new tribe has formed, intellectual justification for the new worldview follows.

 

Had any of us been born into a different family and body, our beliefs and values would be different.

One of the underlying causes of switching is the way our brains are wired with ‘sliders’. We all have the same hardwired control panel of values and interest.  Some of us are more resistant to change or more obedient to authority. Others are more spontaneous or more erotic. Our wiring is largely genetic. Therefore, most of us feel comfortable in our parents’ tribe although our individual sliders will produce small amounts of variety.  Occasionally a recessive gene will cause one child to look or feel like a complete outsider. The ugly duckling child will seek elsewhere until she finds the family and tribe where she feels she belongs.

All of these phenomena are well documented. Had any of us been born into a different family and body, our beliefs and values would be different. What we believe, and who we love, has far more to with external conditions than with personal decisions.

This does not mean that all beliefs, values and worldviews are equal, but it does mean they need to be scrutinized critically and objectively.  Believing something to be true because our friends agree, does not make it true. Before we attack the ‘false’ beliefs of our neighbours, we need to ask ourselves hard questions about how we came to embrace our own worldview.