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Tribal Warfare

"We don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too" - Some dumb, old pub song A little less than two million years ago our ancestors made their first awkward, bipedal strides out of African rift valleys and into a cleverer and seemingly more complex world. I sometimes wonder whether this event was extelligently remembered and retold as countless Garden of Eden allegories. My point here, however, is perhaps we shouldn't have bothered. To leave the valley, that is; because in so many ways we're still there. Most great apes (us included - orangutans being the lonely holdout) are tribalistic. Evolutionarily it suits us. Our young are dependant until a disproportionate age -- as compared to, say, a gazelle which can be up and about and able to avoid predation within minutes of birth. Most apes aren't particularly fast or strong or agile. But we've got disproportionately large brains which equip us to problem-solve personally and cooperatively.

Imagine those first ancestors of ours straying farther and farther from the security of the trees in the valley, out into the grasslands where there were big cats. We could stand upright, so we could be taller than the grasses and scan for movement... or, at least, one lookout could while everyone else foraged. Safety in numbers. And that's what tribalism all comes down to. Safety in numbers. We're programmed for it, it has worked for us, so we've stuck with it... stuck together, so to speak. And bound together with common causes we've gone through a dozen phenotypes, ultimately resulting in Homo Sapiens and all the consequent triumphs and tragedies we've created. But, in the end, it comes back to the tribe. Our tribe vs. all those predators Our tribe vs. a harsh environment Our tribe vs. an unyielding crop Our tribe vs. that other one on the other side of the hill that keeps trying to steal our goats. Our kingdom vs. that heathen kingdom on the other side of the sea

Our nation vs. that nation of savages sitting on top of all OUR resources Our upstanding side of town vs. your filthy side of town Our sportsball team vs. your sportsball team Our rebreather vs. your rebreather (You didn't think this was about diving, did you? Yeah... it's all about diving. Always is.) We keep building these little tribes to define us. To tap into that ancient part of our brains and make us feel safe. We surround ourselves with like-minded people and give one another the confirmation bias we all so desire. That way we can take comfort in knowing that we are right. And to that end, there's safety in numbers: the more of us there are, the more right we are. So we join clubs. Or pursue certain dive agencies. Or we find this particular shop or that. Or we band together with other people who dive the same gear and all of us know... we just KNOW that we're so much better than everyone else. This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. A little healthy competition creates aspiration and, in due course, progress. Progress is a good thing. But this behavior has a well-documented dark side. I'm not going to start going on about wars or lynchings or inquisitions or anything of the like. But you know just what I'm talking about. When it becomes a hard "Us vs. Them" it never ends well. Ever. For anyone. Yet you see this play out even on our silly, little dive scale: Cave divers vs. wreck divers Tech divers vs. recreational divers Our shop vs. your shop Our awesome brand of regulator vs. your POS brand of regulator Our exalted and brilliant instructor vs. your criminally negligent instructor

Endless arguments online and over shop counters over who is a horrible moron and how only we and our buddies are capable of diving properly. And it's goddamn ridiculous. We really should be better than a bunch of monkeys with iPhones. We could be.

But we're not. Could've just stayed in The Garden for all that. I honestly don't know if a couple million years worth of evolutionary programming can be rewritten terribly easily. But I suppose if we are, at least, a little self-aware we can be on the lookout for when things start turning dark. It's just fucking diving. Be safe, have fun, protect the environment. Anything other than that is noise. There's a reason I'm happiest in a cave on a rebreather. No noise.

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