How does Your Tribe Respond to Terror?

This week’s blog was going to be about how to avoid getting into a values mismatch and what to do when you discover you are in one. Good stuff that we can revisit at another time.


The explosions at the Boston Marathon changed that plan.


Like most of the world, we at CultureSync are heartbroken at the losses and angered by the devastation that occurred in Boston on Monday afternoon. There has been too much devastation. What do we do?


The answer to that question is directly related to the cultural stage of your tribe. It’s easy to envision what tribes do at Stages 1 through 3, because we see those responses present around us every day. These tribes are taking actions that are consistent with the world that they see around them.


At Stage 1, the “life sucks” tribe seeks revenge for the purpose of revenge. The drive for revenge is so great that it might not even matter if the person(s) who are retaliated against have ever caused the tribe any harm. We saw this type of retaliation in August 2012 in suburban Milwaukee, WI when Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others in a mass shooting at a Sikh Temple. Page, a member of a white supremacist group, was engaged in his own personal racial holy war.


At Stage 2, a tribe’s response will be to further isolate itself from the larger world, to pull back from the dangers present in moving about in daily life. A tribe like this might stop traveling internationally, or even outside of its own regional area. It might keep its children home during the day to avoid all risk. It might even completely isolate itself from the larger world.


At Stage 3, the “I’m great” tribe will find itself taking actions that glorify its own place in the world over the place of other tribes. Domination and control are themes that emerge. These tribes seek to create safety for themselves at the expense of others. This tribe waves its banner, trumpets its song, and takes a no holds barred approach to making progress for itself. In a crisis, this tribe may even fall into smaller tribes as some members slide back into Stage 2 actions, behaviors, and relationship structures.


How do Stage 4 and Stage 5 tribes respond to the devastation and to future dangers? They do so by defining a new vision of the future and then taking actions that are consistent with that vision.


At Stage 4, the “we’re great” tribe takes those actions within and on behalf of itself. At Stage 5, the “life is great” tribe embraces community, creates connections throughout the world in service of a shared vision that is much greater than itself.


Patton Oswald has written an amazing response to these events where he points out that people were running into the bomb blast to help others. This was a Stage 5 tribe in action. Like most Stage 5 tribes, they came together for a brief moment rooted in shared core values. They were responding to an immediate purpose larger than any single person or tribe.


It’s a huge leap from Stages 1 through 3 to Stages 4 and 5; it is even a big leap from Stage 4 to Stage 5. To make those kinds of leaps during a crisis may seem unthinkable; and certainly there are people who’ve responded to Oswald’s post that have taken that position. The reason to stabilize yourself and your tribes at Stage 4 is so that when the crises come, and come they do, you and your tribe are prepared to move forward into Stage 5 action. This is exactly what we witnessed as individuals became a team of rescuers – racing and reaching back to pull one another forward into a vision of a world not decimated by terror.


We invite you to create a new vision for the future and to share it with us all. In these coming weeks, how will your tribes respond and what future vision of the world are you creating? 

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