Under Microscope

It's another world under the microscope.

Deliberate Absurdity: Religious and Tribal Attire

At a not-so-distant past, peoples of the world clothed themselves in distinct and assorted styles, most of which would be considered absurd or even funny today if evaluated outside of the context of cultural heritage. Various rings, tattoos, plumed hats, exaggerated jewelry, etc. were more the norm than the absurd. The older religions of the world were an inseparable part of the tribe and its customs and traditions. Religious societies still utilize distinct clothing to clearly mark themselves in larger groups of people. Without going into the details, I believe the reader could consider both the most common and the most obscure religions and would have no trouble agreeing with this premise. What is the purpose of this insistence on exaggerated and distinct appearance rules for the members of these groups?
To answer this question, we must first ask ourselves the purpose of religion and tribal associations. People roamed the world in tribes for many millennia. Tribes were a marvelous invention since they provided security, safety, life support, and a chance to reproduce all at once. If you had no tribe and you were wandering the earth with your small children and your wife, you were an easy target. If either you or your wife lost the ability to support the children, they also were sure to fail and meet an ugly end. However, a family supported by a tribe would ensure that no minor mistake would have extreme consequences. If you could not hunt or gather something today, you would not stay hungry and with the energy of the food shared with you by your tribe, you would have many other chances at hunting in the future. In addition, some of the more advanced achievements are only possible within a group. A single family cannot build an irrigation system. They cannot manage to hunt larger prey. Obviously, there are many advantages to being part of a tribe.
If the tribe is just a few families, it is not difficult to tell who is part of the tribe and who is not. Everyone would know everybody else by name. However, if the tribe is getting larger it would be better to have some distinct mark to ensure correct identification. If you run into a hunter in the forest, you may not have the time to introduce yourself as a member of a certain tribe or ask them about their tribe before making a decision regarding the rules of engagement with this stranger. If your tribe for instance had a custom of wearing a gold colored and oddly shaped bracelet, it would be a quick indicator for both you and the other person that you are on the same team.
What if someone wears different tribal styles and tribal markings on separate occasions? To put it bluntly, what if he or she acted as a double agent? This is a potential problem. To counter this, many tribal and religious symbols are almost impossible to alter. If a Kayan woman (with her brass ring elongated neck) wanted to change her tribe, she would not be able to do this without the other tribes knowing about her past affiliations. If an orthodox Jewish man left his tribe and cut his sidelocks, it would be immediately noticed by his fellow tribesmen. He could not blend in with other tribes without cutting the aforementioned markers. This achieves the distinction required to counter the threat of assimilation. A Muslim woman cannot go unnoticed if she were to stop covering her head. This head cover not only identifies her religion but also her tribal affiliation through differing styles. Throughout history people who felt a risk of assimilation always used a way of marking themselves. In more modern times, when absurd tribal clothing was becoming detrimental, these markers have transformed into last name modifications, lapel pins, arm bands, etc.
Tribal affiliations were invented at a time when resources were scarce, and survival required domination, exploitation, and violence. In contrast, we are now living at a time when unity, tolerance, and a rule-based society is empirically demonstrated as the more efficient approach. Tribal and religious mindsets hinder progress to avoid a nonexistent threat of assimilation.
How is it that a united and brave humanity is seen as a threat by so many cowards?