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Wed 29 Aug 2018 by mskala Tags used: ,

Today I changed the motto on this Web site, and in my email signature, to read "People before tribes"; it formerly referred to "principles." Where it appears in Japanese translation, I've similarly changed 理 to 族. The intended meaning has not changed, but in the years since I started using it, the former wording has become too easily misunderstood, often as the direct opposite of what I intended for it to mean.

As human beings we naturally divide ourselves up into groups that purport to be about beliefs and ideologies, and we tend to hate those of other groups irrationally and on the basis of entire groups; we are inclined to lose sight of the fact that everybody is human and everybody's a unique individual not well described by their group membership. It's important to pay attention to individuals (people) and to actively ignore membership in identity groups (tribes). That is what my motto is about. But it's possible to misread the words if you think that "people" actually means tribes and that "principles" refers to important ideas - like the important idea of being blind to identity group membership, itself.

At the time I first started using this motto, it was obscure and uncontroversial. Nobody else was writing much about these things. Unfortunately, there's been a great rise in the popularity of the opposite of my position in the last few years, and it has become a topic of general discussion, to the extent that relentless one-sided chanting can be called any kind of "discussion." I've also become more acutely aware of the practical irrelevance of the literal content of belief in principles to groups that claim to define themselves by principles, and I want to talk about group membership directly when literal belief is not the real issue. As a result, it has become more important to make sure that I'm not misunderstood, and although it's a shame to lose the snappy alliteration of the old wording, this change seems important.

1 comment

Kinda sad that the English auto-translation of the jap version of your motto is no longer "people from management" because honestly that's the coolest corporate motto I've ever heard.
owen - 2018-08-29 15:46

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