On Finding One's Tribe

Percy Family Coat of Arms, circa 1067.

Twice now I have entered a random question into Google. And twice now Wanderlust has produced the result I needed. Last time I was searching to reset my inner compass. This time it was about finding my tribe.

It isn't so much about finding a group of people to hang out with, but rather to feel that my work is valued and not subjected to unwarranted criticism from people who live by their ideology.

I am talking about writing an article for a journal where the topic is controversial. The point of such articles is to stimulate debate. But only if that debate is in the "correct" direction as stipulated by the ideologues, it seems.

I had a similar situation in the examination of my PhD, where one examiner suggested that I resubmit my thesis that compared the impact of the institutional frameworks that govern communications technologies (the independent variable) with the outcomes in terms of penetration (the dependent variable) in Canada and Australia. My examiner suggested that my "new" thesis should be on why the NBN was the most innovative thing ever. My findings disagreed.

Then I had my other examiner who took my major finding, modified it, and published it before my thesis had even been accepted. At least it was acknowledged but WTAF? These people are not scholars. They are the same people who give my students 5/10 with feedback like: "A bit bland". I am getting sick of it.

And then to have two reviewers who obviously disagreed so much with my controversial ideas that instead of allowing the article to stand as a controversy, decided that they would write their own responses to my controversial article as part of my rejection feedback. 

I know that being rejected is par for the course but in this case it was so clearly a case of ideological difference that I won't bother submitting to this journal ever again.

So where to from here?

I have asked for some guidance from my mentors, and this has led me to reflect a little more on where I want to go. I realise that I want my work to matter in a practical sense and to contribute to my sense of a "virtue proposition", along the lines of my teaching practice, which has become more focused on developing my students' social capital. 

To do so, I will have to rethink where I associate. To find my own tribe, so to speak.

The first thing is to realise that where I get my ideas from does not have to conform to traditional left-leaning sources. Indeed, I am finding more and more solace in the great books of the western world the more I read for myself. Much like Harold Bloom, I am no longer interested in apologising for this approach.

Seneca would take it where he could get it. Here is his approach in Letters from a Stoic, Letter II:
My thought for today is something which I found in Epicurus (yes, I actually make a practice going over to the enemy’s camp – by way of reconnaissance, not as a deserter!). ‘A cheerful poverty,’ he says, ‘is an honourable state.’
I have often followed Seneca's approach subconsciously but there is a point where we either back ourselves, or continue to bend in the wind of others' stuff. I've had a long run of not trusting myself for whatever reason, at least intellectually, while at the same time stubbornly backing myself subconsciously and only realising afterwards I was reaping the rewards for sticking to my guns.

It is interesting that these issues have arisen at a time when I am encouraging my students to make their subconscious habits more conscious so they may live the Socratic ideal; or, the examined life. I tend to learn the most from teaching and this time is no exception.

As I approach the end of the semester where I will finish by encouraging my students to become "reflective practitioners", I find myself (yet again) learning my own lessons.

What strikes me about the advice on finding one's tribe presented on Wanderlust is that "trying new things" doesn't have to mean yoga or tree-hugging; it can mean trying a free market think tank. It can mean returning to my conservative roots challenged long ago and now but a distant memory. 

It doesn't have  to be politically correct and it can even mean listening to Jordan Peterson if I choose to.

While it may be a case of coming full circle, I realise that I have only one life. And the purpose of that life is to live it. I've tried the unicorns and lollipops way, and it is not for me. It pretends to do good while doing nothing. 

I've listened to others' views about how certain politicians are "the hope for our children" while these same politicians do nothing but complain. I've also seen politicians working themselves into the ground while keyboard warriors sit in the stands and troll and critique.

From now on, I am the man in the arena. And I will choose the arena. If the audience doesn't like it, that is none of my business.