Well, it probably doesn’t have to be My Tribe, I think any tribe will do – the main thing is that you feel ‘socially connected’.
Am currently reading Louise Samway’s The Twelve Secrets of Health and Happiness (1997) published by Penguin. I’m intrigued by Samways, she wrote this book after writing Dangerous Persuaders; An expose of gurus, personal development courses and cults, and how they operate. She told me that cults are effective at hoovering people in because they give new recruits key things that made them happy and healthy – namely, a sense of community, purpose and someone to love. The problem with cults, however, is they practice deceit and force you to reject your existing community, sense of purpose/meaning and loved ones in exchange for the new – so throwing out the baby, bathwater and all for a flimsy simulacra with a hand in your pocket. So I think the Twelve Secrets… is the other side of Dangerous Persuaders – a positive response to undermining the power of cults.
I’m particularly interested in what she says about the importance of ‘the “glue” that binds us’ – our social connections. Referencing Robert Ornstein and David Sobel’s The Healing Brain, Samways writes that ‘if people are single, separated, divorced or widowed, they are five to ten times more likely to be hospitalised for a mental illness or emotional problem and two or three times more likely to die than if they are married.” p.251
Now, that’s an argument for legalising same-sex marriage – though I’m sure single people are just as likely to die as non-single people!
Politics and grammar aside – it’s an interesting idea. She goes onto say that socially isolated people are more likely to commit suicide, more susceptible to disease and illness and less likely to seek medical advice . Even caring for a pet or pot plant can fulfill “that need to be needed”.
Another point Samways makes is that communally owned social assets like public hospitals, water supply, parks, public transport etc “give communities a sense of cohesion and common purpose,” and that our bond and sense of responsibility to society is weakened by privatization. This resonates with a lovely project in My Tribe called ‘Transport Tales‘ where people have shared their experiences and funny stories about being on public transport.
I’ll end with a quote that I think sums up Samways’ position quite neatly;
“We know that in order to be healthy and happy people, we need to be useful members of a social structure working co-operatively together, not just for the good of the individual but for the good of the community as a whole. Optimum health and happiness comes from a balance between a respect for individual needs, community needs and the need for individuals to be involved in something bigger than themselves.” p.259