Unschooling Part 3: Identity

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted part 2: Success is Broken and Part 1: Why Unschool.

Here is my overdue Part 3: Identity.


Toby LaVigne

Founder and Chief Prosperity Pathfinder

The Vaikido Hero Unschool

Unschooling Part 3: Identity

To School means to habituate to certain practices or beliefs.  It also means to congregate together, as in a school of fish.

Humans are naturally social.  We began our existence working together in tribes.  Being ‘in’ a tribe was key to our survival.  If we were kicked out or marginalized we’d likely have died.  So it comes as no surprise that our need to be seen as valuable in the eyes of our tribe became biologically embedded in our brains.

THE greatest human concern is our need to be seen as valuable to the people we regard as ‘our tribe’.  EVERYTHING  we do, every choice, every purchase, every decision is run through a filter that gauges how our actions will affect our tribal value.

This tribal assessment of our value is our identity.  We like to think that we get to say who we are, but we don’t, the tribe does.  Of course we can alter our decisions to increase or decrease our identity in the eyes of the tribe, but like it or not, the tribe is the ultimate judge.

Back in tribal times we had an obligation to cultivate some specific value that benefited the tribe.  This contribution was our identity. 

When young boys and girls were coming of age they went through a rite of passage where they discovered their greatest contribution and announced it to the tribe in a ceremony. 

In this age, identity was internally exposed to the community.  Individuals thoughtfully designed how they wanted to be seen and were conscious of the need to be consistent with who they really were.

In more recent times we have been taught to seek identity from external sources in the forms of diplomas, job titles, material possessions, and now by manipulating social media.  These sources are not who we actually are.  They are attempts to ‘fit in’ in hopes that the ‘tribe’ will take care of us - ultimately in the form of a paycheck.

We mistakenly believe that if we conform with the status quo then we will be ‘ok’.  But as much as people try to fit in, most eventually end up feeling betrayed.  At some point they discover that the ‘tribe’ doesn’t really have their back, and that their identity really isn’t substantial enough to ensure their prosperity.

A real tribe looks after each other through good times and bad.  A real tribe is interdependent.  Every member has a role and each role contributes to collective prosperity.

So with the best of intentions, people do what they’re told; go to school, get good grades, take out a loan and go to college, so that you can get a job and someday be promoted to management.  But then someday their company is sold to a company that outsources huge chunks of labor, then invests in automation for other portions, shuts down others and excessively monitors the remainder.

None of these actions feel anything like prosperity or interdependence.  None of these actions make the people involved feel loyalty or trust.  All of these unravel the fabric of society.  And none of these actions can be stopped.

The natural result is what we see happening today.  Some people ‘double down’ thinking that more work and more degrees and more personal compromise will somehow ensure their survival in what feels like a giant game of musical chairs.

Others ‘give up’, they immerse themselves in ever greater quantities of escape; food, TV, shopping, drugs, gambling etc.…anything to numb the feeling of not feeling valuable.

Still others believe that political action is the solution.  The game has become unfair they say, and we need to increase regulation, pass more laws, and we will legislate prosperity.

But none of these reactions will restore prosperity or the feelings of individual identity in any meaningful, lasting, or sustainable way.  There is only one way to feel valuable and to prosper as a result, and that is to BE valuable and contribute interdependently.

We must relearn how to discover our true contributions and consciously design our identities consistent with who we truly are.  We must learn to package ourselves as valuable offers to a specific community and we must master the art and science of transacting interdependently.

Subordinating who we are to temporarily fit under the umbrella of non human profit machines will only lead to greater and greater abandonment and suffering.

The keys to true and lasting prosperity cannot be found in the status quo habits of the industrial age.