L: Doug, let’s take a break from the woes of our weary world. A lot of readers keep asking for more information on phyles, even though we’ve touched on the topic several times, so let’s have a closer look. What is a phyle, and why do they matter?
Doug: Okay, well, a phyle is a group of people that’s self-defined by whatever values they share. A phyle is not limited by race or language or geography – or, most importantly, by borders on maps or other such fictions – although it could be, if its members chose to be so limited. The word phyle was coined by science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his masterwork, The Diamond Age. It comes from the Greek, φυλή which means "tribe” or “clan."But it would be at least as apt if they were called philes, stemming from the Greek word philia, which means “love”– the same root in the word “philosophy”. The basic idea is that man is a social animal, and we tend to prefer to run with others who are like us – or who love what we love. Birds of a feather flock together, in either case.
People organized as clans and tribes from the dawn of mankind until about 5000 years ago, when the agricultural revolution greatly increased the population. Then they organized into kingdoms and empires – where, instead of giving their loyalty to their close relations, they gave it to a king. Things started changing again in about the 17th century, with the rise of the nation-state; you were now supposed to be loyal to a country, as opposed to a ruler per se. I think we’re now at the point where the nation-state is on its way out.
For one thing, national governments are almost all bankrupt, even though they already consume most of the wealth in their countries.
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