I agree with your description pretty much. I should have explained that the family/clan/tribal system incorporated Islam into the basic structure. Over time this has fused in their minds which results in a fusion of behavior.
The clan/tribal system is generally looked upon in the west as primitive, an atavism. Particularly in the USA, that which is old is or traditional is often considered obsolete, we surf on the wave of the new and see virtue in living on the emerging edge of innovation. The word innovation is used here as a complement. This is organic to us and why it is so easy for us to evict religiosity from our lives and live a life ignoring religion. Religion is looked upon as excess baggage.
The combination of near-contempt for religion and total rejection of tribe and clan while embracing innovation as a necessity of life results in a rootless people in a way that no bedouin ever was or will be. In our experiment we substitute a secular religion for a spiritual religion. Our holidays (a word derived from Holy Days) are secular or have evolved to become so secular as indistinguishable -- like Christmas. I know Jews, have read of Muslims and even of Hindus who embrace the secular side of Christmas -- gift-giving and even the Christmas trees (incidentally, the tree thing was originally a part of a Druidic winter solstice celebration). Our other holidays I believe are all secular. We celebrate our secular religion and mark the high holidays of a secular culture. Some holidays are celebrations of blood sacrifice for the greater good like the recently observed Memorial Day. Others mark the founding or events or "saints" of the state religion -- representative democracy. Our idols are statues of men and women who advanced our secular religion, though mostly those idols are poop stations for park pigeons.
I believe most secular Americans, like myself, have a longing for the connectedness that comes from clan and tribal relationships. We don't usually recognize (or if recognized, we don't acknowledge) that longing. It takes the form of tribal celebrations in athletic contests, for example. It is most easy to recognize in community athletics and most fervently embraced in the small cities of Texas where on Friday night during the abundance of the harvest season, the eligible young men engage in ritual violent contests. Though the contests are rule-based with the participants heavily armored and padded and the ritual battle carefully orchestrated by the non-contestant silver-backed males, the young men sometimes sustain injury, sometimes serious injury or even death. The eligible females, the most attractive of which are dressed in ritual scantiness designed to reveal and enhance their femininity. They dance, sing and chant with the intent of encouraging the young men to higher states of controlled aggression. This, we call "football."
It is easy to find other clan or tribe behaviors in Americans if we pause to consider it.
In my opinion, modern American (and increasingly, modern European) culture has lost an important tool of community as we discard and disregard these ties of family, clan and tribe. We lose a significant tool of connectedness for which our secular religion has yet to find an adequate, fulfilling substitute. Those behaviors that were once proscribed in family/clan and tribal systems, behaviors that required no laws and little enforcement are now governed by secular laws and external force rather than taboos and ritual. In the main, we believe this is a good and even noble substitution. It removes the tendency of families and tribes to live by interlocking social obligations and enthrallment by vendetta's and allegiances. But without question, much that is good of family/clan/tribe is lost. Perhaps forever.
I believe this unacknowledged loss is what makes Americans especially susceptible to "new" religions -- religions that are foreign to our paradigm.
It's an interesting phenomenon to watch unfold endlessly in this culture.
well put. To Be honest, I couldn't agree more with you on this. I have lived in my current home for just over 3 years now and barely had any interactions with neighbours past the ones on either side. In my previous home, when living with my family, I had only formally met 3-4 households on the whole block. Thats after 10 years of living there!
When I went back home to Jerusalem, EVERYONE knows EVERYONE! I was Fresh off the plane and a week into it everyone was yelling "morning ALi, How are you ALi" and I could barely remember their face yet alone their names. When I was in Puerto Rico, Same situation, The community's there where close nit and people talked, met, hung out together. The same goes for parts of Canada, and Germany(to my knowledge at least).
The whole tribal/clan setup is Far from primitive, It works and It keeps people together. How many members here actually know everyone on their block, YET ALONE city?