It’s tribal, darling

Yesterday I spent the day in the Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center setting up for the TCI Expo which kicks off today. Well, truth be told most of the time I spent drinking coffee and meeting and chatting with people while we waited for the union guys to set up the Teufelberger booth. For the record though, I did help Taylor piece together the DMM truss…

One of the things that always fascinates me about these trade shows is the non-verbal communication which goes on during them. The sociologist Paul Watzlawick famously coined the phrase that you cannot not communicate in his five axiomes in the theory of communication, describing how at some level we are in a constant state of communication from the moment we are born.

I know that a good percentage of the folk rolling up for the show in the next three days will do so in chainsaw or climbing apparel, work or climbing boots or other arb paraphernalia. Which always amuses me as often as not the one thing these venues are completely lacking in is trees, so if you came prepared for anything… you are in for a disappointment. But I do not thing that is what this is about, rather it seems to me to be signalling a tribal affiliation, communicating who or what you are in the arborist community.

My intent is by no means to poke fun at anyone, I realise that I am equally guilty of this. I think what I find interesting about it is that it is such a startling juxtaposition: the sterile, totally artificial environment of these convention centres forming a stark contrast to equipment and attire usually put to work in a natural, outdoor environment. It is also of course a comment on our need to define and affiliate ourselves with one tribe or another – which just goes to show how hardwired some behavioural patterns are in our brains, even after all the millennia since we, as a species, left the African savannah behind us…