We are all diaspora

Sanne Burger

12 October 2021

In the old days, we were bound by time and distance. It was not possible to travel great distances, let alone cross oceans. It took a long time to go from one place to another. At first, the only means we had was our feet. We walked. Then we trained horses. Wow, what freedom we must have felt back then, riding on the back of a galloping horse. Later on we developed carriages and boats. Amazing inventions. But compare this to cars, trains and planes – planes in particular – and you understand that life was very different back then.

My tribe is my home
Because of the fact that we couldn’t cross long distances, we were much more bound to the area we were born in. We were naturally part of a tribe, of the group of people who lived in the same place as us. Usually we didn’t move far away from our territorial grounds. We didn’t want to either! Our tribe was our safety. Our tribe was our home. We belonged to our tribe. We were part of it.

Always together
How different life was back then. Less adventurous, maybe, but certainly more harmonious. We knew everybody around us. The people, but also the animals, the trees and the landscape. As indigenous people we named everything, even our mountains, and considered them part of our tribe. There were no strange faces or places, like today in the city, where we barely know our neighbours. We only had to leave when there would be a drought, or a lack of food, or when other, stronger tribes would attack us; but also in that case we would leave as a tribe. with our horses and carriages. We would become nomads, but we were still together.

Scattered across the globe
Only very, very recently, because of technology, inventions like the car and the plane, we have been able to travel further and faster than ever before. Also, there have been countless wars, who scattered people all over the world. Many indigenous tribes have had to leave their home grounds in the past. Not only the Jews are eternal refugees, but most of us are. Under pressure of countless crusades, religious wars, military intervention and other crises, we have been scattered, driven from our home land, many of our tribe murdered and separated. How many natives are still living on their home lands? Hardly any. Most of us have had our home grounds destroyed, our tribe scattered and our origins wiped from our memory.

World citizens
How long has it been, I wonder? I think it’s been no more than a hundred years that people have been criss-crossing the globe. At first it was mainly under pressure, but the last decades it has also been for fun, just because for the first time in history it was possible to jump on a plane and explore every exotic place on earth for a few 100 bucks. Now we have a whole backpackers community, a new network of intercontinental, interconnected people from all over the world. This is awesome, just imagine how many more people you can meet than let’s say a century ago. However, it is also confusing, because it makes it more difficult to know where we actually belong. It has become almost impossible for many of us to know who or where our tribe is.

Relationship and family units
We have romanticized relationships to the degree that our partner becomes representative of our long lost tribe, but this is doomed to fail, as we are not looking for ‘the one’, we are looking for our tribe! We are not wired to be part of an economic unit called ‘the family’, consisting of two adults and one and a half child. This is not good for you, your partner or your children. We have many more social, emotional, biological and physical needs than what the partner or the family can provide. That is not their fault. They just can’t be a 100 people at the same time.

Where is my tribe?
We only feel truly safe and happy in an environment with around 150 people, who are all familiar faces. A tribe where we know we are welcome, where we know all of our needs will be met by the different members, where we know we will be protected and where we know we can contribute with our unique skills. This is what we really are looking for. This is what we yearn for, because this is how we are biologically wired. We all carry long forgotten memories of a time where we were part of a tribe, before we started to live isolated from each other in our concrete cages, trusting no one, locking the door when we enter and locking the door when we leave, carrying the key to our prison in our own pocket.

We are all diaspora
The tribe has gone. We are all lost. We are all diaspora. We are all desperately looking for our tribe. Often, we don’t even remember where we come from, because our ancestor lines have become so damaged and mixed up. There is a fair chance nobody ever told us our family history, the dramas, the losses, the blessings and the miracles. There is so much trauma. This is why the old African ritual of family constellations has become so popular in the West, because it resonates with our deepest yearning: to find back to our roots. We want to find our way back home!

Where do I belong?
I really wouldn’t know where I belong. My father was born from Dutch immigrants in Indonesia, my mother was born from a Catholic family in the south of Holland, but I don’t even know where my grandparents come from! I know there were a lot of sailors and missionaries on my father’s side, so who knows? Besides, I grew up with my stepdad. How does his lineage fit in? I know I am not a unique case. We are all a mixture of tribes. It has become virtually impossible to find back to our origins, because we are scattered all over the world. Because our tribe is scattered, our soul is scattered.

Random tribes
What happens nowadays in modern culture, after the strong bonding factor of religious ritual has disappeared, is that we create random tribes with random people in clubs, festivals, retreats and other places. This is better than religion and definitely better than nothing. It works to a certain degree, but eventually it can make us feel even more lonely, as deep down we know these are not our people. We instinctively sense there is no real commitment or love there. We are out as soon as the party is over, the hormonal intoxication wears off or the drugs are finished.

Not all people are our people. This is not because we are discriminating or because we are entitled snobs. It is not because we feel better than others. It’s just because true connection is particular. It’s like music, or flavour. It’s chemistry. Some people you feel at home with and other people you do not feel at home with. You can’t force this. It has to come naturally, or it is not real.

We all want to go home
These days we are becoming painfully aware of the fact that many of us feel miserably lonely and have no one to turn to in difficult times. We are deeply longing for our tribe. We all want to go home. We are no longer content with the exchangeable, temporary tribes. We are no longer happy with our isolated, anonymous lives in the cities, where nobody knows us or cares for us. We are finding out that our family units and relationships are not enough. We want to return to our original state, to how we were meant to live. Many of us have no idea how that would look like, but we just know this is not it.

One country, one mirror
I have this recurring image of many islands in a vast ocean, many miles apart, which are slowly floating towards each other, to finally form one country again. And another image: I see fragments or a mirror moving towards each other and finding their righteous place again, fitting perfectly, with no cracks, in order to form a smooth surface, a whole reality, again.

I know you!
We are finding our way home. We are finding back to each other again. Isn’t it magical to meet people whom you have never met before, where there is this immediate recognition, a feeling: ‘Yes! I know you! I feel safe with you. You understand me, you see me, you love me as I am. You would fight for me and I would fight for you. You would never betray me. You would share your last food with me and vice versa. There is no question. I don’t need to be different than I am and I don’t need to adapt to any ridiculous rules. I am part of your inner circle and you are part of mine. I just know this is so.’

The time of the tribes
I have a feeling this is happening more and more. Maybe the time of the diaspora is over. Maybe the time of the tribes is reoccurring. I hope so, because without our tribe, we are weak. Alone, we don’t stand a chance against the overlords. That’s why our tribes were scattered in the first place. But as a tribe, we can join forces. We can nourish and heal each other and as such, we will be invincible.

Sanne Burger


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