18 December 2009

Adults in the Tribe - Essential Traits & Responsibilities

Today I will examine the adult archetype in a youth/adult/elder/ancestor view of tribes.

The essential traits of adults are:
  • Although they will (hopefully) continue to learn and grow intellectually and spiritually across their lifetimes, adults have synthesized their varied life and learning experiences in the youth phase of life and tribal membership into a relatively stable world view, spiritual practice, etc.
  • They are steadily employed or otherwise engaged in some productive practice of value to themselves and fellow tribe members.
The responsibilities of the adults to the tribe are:
  •  Provide the vast majority of the material needs for the tribe.  This includes creating and maintaing any and all infrastructure that supports the tribe, providing food and generating capital, etc.
  • Provide spiritual, political, economic and other leadership.
  • Provide for and nurture the youth; this includes mentorship.  Because many youth will be lost for direction or fumbling in their confidence, adults should specifically seek out these youth, those who Kate Bornstein might call "teens, freaks and other outlaws," and help them connect with a meaningful mentor.
  • Care for older members of the tribe who can no longer care for themselves.
  • Support the transition of youth into the adult phase of life and tribal membership and continue to provide support as needed until stability is found in this new role.
The responsibilities of the  tribe to the adults are:
  • The youth must respect the adults (and elders and ancestors) of the tribe, abide by their decisions and guidance and, where they feel an adult is transgressing what is fair or right, seek out the help of other adults to rectify the situation.
  • The elders must advise the adults in areas that will effect the tribe for generations to come.  For example, while adults are focused in immediate needs such as creating and maintaining infrastructure such as transit systems, if said transit system poses an ecological concern, than it is the responsibility of the elders to speak up for the concern of the tribe seven generations into the future, and the responsibility of the adults to heed this advice and act accordingly.
  • Ancestors hold a similar role of advising the adults (and elders); depending on the spiritual beliefs of the tribe, this will either be done by example of the past or through shamanic or other spiritual contact with the ancestors for guidance.
  • Elders, supported by ancestors, will provide support and guidance for a transition from adult to elder in the tribe.  Youth and fellow adults not yet transitioning, will provide material, emotional and spiritual support through this process.
As mentioned previously, it is problematic to think of these roles in the views of dominant culture; for example many adults, and especially queer adults, may not be raising children.  However, this does not mean that these do not have the same value to the tribe, or that the responsibilities to them or to the tribe are different.  First we must remember that these archetypes are not wholly bound by age; all children start as youth but not all youth are children.  Therefore, a large part of queer adulthood will involve mentoring queer youth and transitioning them to adulthood within the queer community, and likely within the larger tribe as well.  Non-parents adults might also be teachers, guidance counselors, participate in a mentorship organization such as Big Brothers or Big Sisters, etc.  Functionally, all other aspects of adulthood should be similar across communities.


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