Human evolution has been a journey of survival. We are the survivors –through our ancestors- of great earthquakes, countless disease epidemics, extreme weather conditions, famines, human-wildlife conflicts and some nasty wars.

Central to our survival story has been the need to adapt – shedding baggage and acquiring the wings to take flight towards the bright new horizon.

One and half a century ago, Charles Darwin developed a theory published under the title ‘origins of species by natural selection.’ Through this theory we learn that variations that occur randomly within a species can confer advantage or disadvantage thereby determining survival or the extinction of a species.

Natural instincts must have developed as part of the natural selection process. In this regard we can safely assume that all instincts initially had some positive value. The motherly instinct, procreation, fight or flight responses and territorial-ism are instincts that helped our cave-dwelling ancestors to survive the savage contingencies of their age.

The coming of civilization has rendered certain human instincts at once irrelevant and harmful. Revenge, anger, greed and tribal loyalty are incompatible with civilization hence men led by intellect have formulated laws which negatively reinforce these primitive tendencies by severe punishment culminating in suppression, disuse and programmed attrition of retrogressive behavior.

Tribal loyalty has seen better days: When communities positively responded to their instincts of fighting over resources such as water, food and grazing land. Those were the dramatic days of ‘survival for the fittest’. ‘In the incessant inter-tribal wars of those days, heroes were as thick as the flies that throve on the battlefields they created for their glory.’ (Bindeh’s gift by Sarif Easmon). 

To survive in these perilous times, political organization around a common language and common culture was of unquestionable primacy. The tribe was born. Tribal loyalty became established and has since outlived its welcome and gate crashed our golden age of cooperation, nationalism and globalization.

Tribal loyalty is at the heart of many human conflicts. It is the hidden driver of the Israel-Palestinian crisis. It was partly responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It is this same instinct that led to the Nazi policy of expanding its lebensraum (living space) partly resulting in the second global war. Many human lives have been lost over an identity that is as abstract as they come.

Will human intelligence triumph over this dark primitive instinct?

Tribal instincts like racist instincts are firmly entrenched in the human psyche. Embracing tribal instincts is as easy as gliding downstream the happy river to destruction. Defying the natural tendency demands one to run ahead in evolution. This attempt to aid evolution can itself result in violent conflict between the person and his society.

If the laws of evolution were left in place and nature allowed its course, tribal instincts would meet their extinction between 200 to 300 hundred years from today. There is no certainty that this journey will be marked by tranquility.

Education and civilization have given us the power to defy nature. Why should we wait for 200 to 300 hundred years to bury ‘the tribe’ that was proclaimed dead at the birth of civilization and independence?

Every human being has the power to destroy his own tribal instincts. On a large scale, this could form a new survival story based on artificial selection and reaffirm the place of Homo sapiens in history as a truly intelligent organism.


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