is a modern invention:
Prince Modupe of the So-so tribe says that at the turn of the century in Africa, “Any destiny apart from the tribe was, of course, beyond the limits of either imagination or intuition. It was as unthinkable as that one of the bright orange legs of a millipede should detach itself from the long black body of the creature and go walking off by itself.”Query: do you think the So-so tribe is a kind of mediocre bunch?
Chief Luther Standing Bear reports that a Lakota “could not consider himself as separate from the band or nation…to cut himself off from the whole meant to lose identity or to die.”
Alexis de Tocqueville emphasizes that in premodern Europe an “aristocracy link[ed] everybody, from the peasant to the king, in one long chain.” Jacob Burckhardt, the great scholar of the Italian Renaissance, explains that during the Middle Ages a “man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporation.” If I were born in Medieval Europe, I would have understood myself as a part of a whole. When asked “Who are you?”, I may have replied, “A Vignola from Padua, a stone carver, and a member of St. Anne’s Parish.”