06 May 2014

The Price of Loyalty to the Tribe

Imagine generations ago, a member of a tribe realized that praying to the god of irrigation didn't make any difference but actually digging trenches from the nearby river did. He even worked out when the trenches should be dug and when they should be closed off, who would do the work, and how much this predictable irrigation would increase crop yields. This benefit would of course make the tribe healthier, support more children so the tribe became larger, and make this irrigation pioneer one of the great men in the tribe.

But of course his great insight was just as likely - perhaps more likely - to have left him alone on the plains, ostracized from the tribe for questioning the beliefs that held the tribe together.

Innovations might make life better but being in the tribe makes life possible.

It's kind of a miracle that anyone has the courage to speak out. Because being right is a consolation prize when you're standing out on the plains, facing the lion alone.

4 comments:

Thomas said...

I'm pretty sure non-believers like you are the reason the Irrigation Gods quit listening to our prayers.

Nevertheless, I'm not going to leave you to face a lion all by yourself. We'll either both get eaten or we'll find a way to tame him.


Ron Davison said...

Thomas -
ha! Thanks for your support. And by the way, as we're standing here, I wouldn't mock you for praying to the god of placating lions.

Taylor Pearson said...

The failure to understand how power and Influence works is a hurdle that a LOT of great thinkers never got over - Tesla and a handful of the guys Gladwell mentions in Outliers spring to mind...

Ron Davison said...

Taylor -
That's a great point. It is amazing how there is a tension between what gives you safety as a member of a group and what gives the group safety. Groups are healthier with lots of alternative theories and argument. Individuals risk becoming a pariah.