Skip to content

Modern “Tribes”

October 31, 2012

The study of tribes today will hardly help us in an understanding the tribes from prehistory.

First, there are few – if any – tribes around today that have not had some connection with the outside world. Perhaps they have not been directly contacted by “modern civilization” but they will have been in contact with other tribes who have. True isolation is nonexistent on this planet, it seems.

So, the people who study such things are at a decided disadvantage. Sociologists and anthropologists are not able to find the Rosetta stone for this field.

And therefore they have studied modern social groupings that their profiling says equates the ancient tribal systems. What are termed today as gangs or cliques are often seen to fall into their study of tribes. One author even went so far to term a police force a tribe of sorts.

But putting a group of people together for mutual support – even if many are related – does not make a tribe in the prehistoric sense. The roots of “tribe” did not somehow evolve into nation-states as most social anthropologists believe. And how do I know this? It is in the very process of evolution they are talking about. Things evolve incrementally, one change here, another there. If the basic form of the organism is altered it is no longer evolution, but mutation.

Modern societies, including the subgroupings of “tribes” (gangs and cliques), are all ruled by a mechanism called social inequality, or what we might call pecking-order. There is no real equality in these things as some people are believed to have abilities that set them “above” the others.

But this is only a by-product of the tribal structures the sociologists can view today, and it is far from the true picture of the past.

How do I know? Research.

Rather than look at the present, I examined the data we have that has come down to us from the shadowy beginnings of the species through a red-headed step-child called “mythology”.

And, as anyone who has studied the subject will know, there are different ways to interpret that data as well. But if you will remove the psychological basis of the myths, strip of all conceptions of archetypes, and try to understand the myths for what they usually were, you will get a firmer grasp on those primeval peoples.

The result has been the concept I present as what the tribe was all about, stripped of modern preconceptions and modern ideas.

Perhaps you will think otherwise, but that’s your right.

Abnormal and Dysfunctional

October 26, 2012

Abnormal and Dysfunctional are two words that really should be stricken from our vocabulary.

We should really think of the states or conditions as rather: “other normal” and “differently functional“. To assume something other than your own abilities is somehow inferior or wrong is placing yourself on a very tall pedestal reserved for deities or megalomaniac demigods.

What is normal for you is definitely not normal for another. Conversely, what’s normal for another is not “abnormal” but simply their normal.

Dysfunctions are the same way. Just because something or someone does not function just like you – Wow! We’re all different; what a concept! – it does not mean there is anything wrong with their function. Observing and learning about a different method of functioning is usually very instructive.

Well, except to those who already know everything, I suppose. And I’m not naming any names here… or pointing any fingers…

If one were going to get extremely specific, anyone that does not do things the way you do, approach the world in the same manner, could be classified by the current term abnormal. Anyone who cannot do what we do would be termed dysfunctional.

And such would not be too drastic if the speaker were a typical Joe from Kokomo character but if the speaker was someone on the order of Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci, the meaning becomes a little extreme.

In the artistic schools of Da Vinci and Tintoretto, the art of Picasso would have been viewed as abnormal and the fellow would have been carted off to the nut house.

Abnormal and dysfunctional should not be viewed as something necessarily bad but rather something we can learn from. If these people can accomplish everyday tasks but in a fashion we do not normally see, shouldn’t we be able to increase our own abilities by learning from their accomplishments?

Rather than marginalize or institutionalize these people, give them a chance to improve their conditions with what they have, in their own way. And then we can better our own conditions by learning from their victories.

I believe that is what the prehistoric ancients did. They did not question the “gift” from God, they tried to understanding the meaning of the gift and how it could be used to better the strengths of the tribe, because that was what all gifts were for.

We need to stop pushing these “gifts” into the closet or abandoning them along the side of life’s highway. Learning what they can give to the whole of us is what the process should be about.

Imagine where that knowledge might take us.

Gifts from God

October 23, 2012

So, we have looked at the parameters of what a tribe was in the ancient world but what did they have then that we can utilize today? I am sure very few modern people would sign on to dump the present world and return to cave-dwelling.

One thing immediately comes to mind. Those with handicaps.

An old book I came across years ago, The Science of Midwifery was an eye-opener. Written in 1845, I thought it would reveal some of the older methods, more of the more natural methods, of assisting delivery.

After page on page of depictions of deformities, the midwife was cautioned to reveal any of these “things” to the mother. Once the child was delivered, the midwife was to examine the newborn for any visible deformities. If such were found, like too many or too few fingers or toes, the midwife was instructed to grasp the tiny head firmly and twist hard. Then report to the mother the child was born dead. And if the child was badly deformed, do not even show it to the mother.

Of course, today, things are a little different. Sure, you can see and hear the nurses counting the fingers and toes of the newborn (something I marveled at when my children were born and wondered what would have happened if the digit count had come up wrong?) but I do not believe they break their necks anymore. Modern medicine can work to salvage any “mistakes” of the womb. Expense, yes, but you read about such miracles all the time.

The ancients had no neo-natal intensive wards to rely on. And their understanding of birth was a little different than our own. They knew the process of sperm and egg well enough but they went one step further: a couple could have sex many times without producing a child, therefore, when a child was conceived, it was through another agency as well. Every child was a child of, or gift from, God.

And gifts from the Almighty were not to be discarded, no matter your personal preference as to the number of fingers or toes. Each gift sent a message. If the child was fine and healthy, it was business as usual. If the child were something else, they tried to understand the message.

How could there be a message?

It is rather simple, actually. If a person was born with a deformed leg, walking would be a difficulty. Therefore, in traveling, the tribe would have to move slower to adjust for the slowest member. The message was to move slower or, perhaps, be more cautious.

The messages differed from child to child, I am sure but, as most the children were perfectly healthy, there was no need to ferret out any message.

Once again, the tribe does not fight nature but finds a way to work with it, as partners, in this journey of existence. Other forms of creatures tend to simply abandon their deformed but humans thought themselves better, and closer to God than that.

How do I know all this?

It is just accumulated guesswork over years of study. But it fits with everything I’ve learned.

If you have another view, I’d love to hear it.

Gender Roles in Ancient Times

October 19, 2012

Many people are familiar with the age old picture of cave-dwellers: the hairy brute of a man, club in handing, dragging the unconscious female back to his slave. It is a rather humorous picture but not really very close to the reality.

Others are familiar with the Jane Auel volumes like Clan of the Cave Bear. And as picturesque a tale as it may seem, it too does not paint a true picture of the reality. Especially where the brooding cave male gets fed up with the new tribal member and rapes her in front of his buddies.

As much as many social historians may think this is a true picture of those harsh times, I disagree.

Why? On what do I base my interpretations?

Primarily, gut instinct. After years of studying ancient societies, and the different approaches males and females take toward things – and, yes, they really do think completely differently – the early stages of mankind’s past were ruled in what I would term a feminine structure.

The “mysteries” of the past come to us from every corner of the globe, the “earth-mother” cult was practically everywhere, and the later reiteration of how evil the female can – and repeated so often – seems like someone was trying to convince people of the fact.

Therefore, I assume the female were the dominant gender in early society.

But by “dominant” I do not mean an aggressive overlordship sort of thing. Even today, most mothers and housewives rule the home without having to raise an army or issue edicts.

The male of the tribe are the ones who went out and hunted. Do you think they did this because they were the strongest, bravest, or most capable? No. They did this because it was a dangerous undertaking and – let’s be realistic here – they were expendable. If a few men got lost it was a heartbreaking incident, of course, but life could continue. Without the women, there would be no more race. So the loss of a few males would be less of a hardship to the tribe’s security.

Another thing. Most people seem to think that cave-dwellers regularly went out and took down mastodons or woolly mammoths. They think this because of a few cave paintings. But what I want to know is if it was so commonplace, why would they memorialize it? No, they pictured it because it was rare, unusual, and a rather momentous undertaking. Would you paint a picture about going to the office daily? Heck no! But saving a person from a burning building? Absolutely! (Of course, then, some future historian would think we regularly pulled people from burning buildings as some sort of sacred ritual, I’d imagine.)

So, I believe the women ruled the tribe and the men were equal members with their own pre-set roles.

Next, let’s see how this plays out in a variety of different scenarios.

the Constitution of a Tribe

October 16, 2012

As earlier mentioned, the members of a tribal group would more than likely be members of a large extended family. Of course, their ranks might be increased from time to time by the addition of in-laws (through marriage to another tribe) or by adoption. Many times this adoption would come about by encountering others who had lost their tribe, been kicked out of a tribe, or the remnants of a tribe decimated by various hardships.

I thought the tribe displayed in the movie “Avatar” was an exceptional portrayal of what I consider our primitive ancestors to have been like. Especially when the young male comes to complain to the headman of the tribe. The headman listens attentively until he realizes the problem goes beyond just something dealing with the men of the tribe. When he realizes it is something that affects the whole tribe, he calls out the boss, the real leader of the tribe, his wife.

I do not necessarily think the headman of the tribe would always be married to the tribe’s leader, but it works well in fiction. More straightforward, less grisly details to interject. But in reality, the people concerned would be those who had the best aptitude for the role.

Lives were short, time too precious, to waste with having the wrong person on the job… any job… but especially the leadership roles. I’ll get into this in a little more detail later.

And as these people were generally raised together, they each knew the strengths and weaknesses of the others and knew what roles would best suit them. It was not like they were appointed to the positions, much less “elected” to them, they simply took on the jobs as second nature.

And nature had a lot to do with the lives of these tribespeople. Since they depended on nature for their livelihoods, they paid a lot of attention to nature and its changing ways and moods.

When the tribe grew too big for the local environment to support them, some of the tribe left to form their own tribe some distance away. It would become apparent to them not only in the difficulty of feeding such a large group but the duplication of strengths. A tribe does not need two of anything, generally speaking specialty-wise, so it would become apparent that a split was needed.

Nature would have dictated to the tribe what was needed. And being “in-tune” to nature, they would adapt as required.

I seriously doubt that those who refused to adapt would have survived for very long. So, a sort of natural evolution would have occurred.

But I really don’t think the primitive ancestors were idiots like a lot of people seem to want them portrayed. No, they would have had trouble handling a computer or a cellphone, but that is not about intelligence. That is about training.

Idiots could not have created wheels from nothing or figured ways to make fire without a manual. They were wily, intelligent, and adaptive. And, yes, they were very much like the humans we are today, just with less technology and less social organization.

Back to the Tribe

October 10, 2012

In today’s parlance, a tribe is a primitive form of social organization that usually formed from an extended family.

It is always viewed today as a very primitive and backward cultural stage which evolved into the present, modern, ultimate expression of social organization.

That current view is very typical of man – no matter the degree of social”advancement” – in that we naturally seem to assume that where we are currently is what evolution had been leading to for all these millions of years.

There’s nothing essentially wrong with the attitude and, rest assured, in a couple of generations the pinnacle upon which we currently reside will be relegated to yet another rung on the evolutionary ladder of that future academician.

That is, after all, human nature.

But, realistically, ego set aside, what do we really have over the ancients? I hear repeatedly that the ancients had to spend most of their time providing food and shelter for their families while we have time for more “important” matters.

Unfortunately, most the people I know are still spending the same percentage of their waking hours providing food and shelter as the ancients. And that is you as well, unless you consider the 50 or so hours at work, commuting to work, etc as having nothing to do with providing food and shelter.

So, modern man spends probably as much time as the primitives in that respect but we have one up on them: our work hours are usually spent away from our family and home that we spend so much time paying for. Yes, we have certainly advanced a long way from that family-centered social structure.

And you can bet the ancients did not need much time with therapists, counselors, or physicians for stress-related ailments.

Yes, you will say, but what about the “time-saving” devices we have today, the advances in technology; don’t those things put us one up on those primitives?

On a scientific and economic scale, it certainly does but, sociologically speaking – which we are at the moment – it doesn’t mean much. Volumes have been written about the decay of the family structure because of these advances. It may be sort of like a tree that looks very strong on the outside but has rotted entirely in its core.

And I’m not saying our world is rotten but there is enough decay on the fundamental structures that form a society or a civilization to cause a few of us to worry.

I am not advocating a return to the primitive cave-dwelling of our ancestors, but there are certain basic methods of living that should be resurrected, dusted off, and embraced anew.

Otherwise, our brave new world will go the way of certain societies in books as viewed by apocalyptic authors.

the Tribe

October 1, 2012

In ancient times, people grouped together by familial relationships into social and protective units called tribes.

These social structures have continued throughout history but became looser as time progressed to the point of practical non-existence in today’s world. Instead the ‘tribes’ of today are by intellectual or social affiliation: alumni to a particular institution, members of a military unit, Republicans, Democrats, peaceniks, white supremists, football fans, etc. They are all bonded together by mutual experience, interests, or thought patterns.

But these groupings are artificial, non-tribal groupings not related to co-survival.

Most people in a group like Republicans or Democrats have the idea that they are united in some common cause, and yet the reality is that the group has a broad range of ideas on which individual members disagree. Many even consider decisions on these things as acts of survival; which, of course, they are not.

Likewise, many religious groups have individual sub-groups of varying ideas, concepts, or interpretations of doctrine. Though some may feel these moral and doctrinal issues are profound, they are virtually inconsequential in reality.

The tribe is grouped together by common survival. Although not all the members agree on all the actions of the tribe, conceptually they are all linked through mutual survival.

If a group feels strongly enough about some tribal action, it is not an option to take over the tribe – but they can certainly go elsewhere and start their own tribe built on their interpretation of necessity.

A tribe is concerned with its members. Mutual support is non-existent if it is not inclusive. Differences in members is generally embraced because it is understood that all people bring something different to the table: abilities, outlook, thought process, understandings, viewpoints. All variations are absorbed into the tribal whole.

Diversity is good for the tribe. If everyone who thought differently, spoke differently, acted differently, conceived differently, dreamed differently, were expunged from their ranks, the tribe would soon become torpid, their genetic pool stagnant, their actions routine, their existence boring, and their future bleak – as well as short.

In our own bodies, the differing organs use differing tools and techniques to supply all the varying processes we require to stay alive.

Some claim the heart is the most important organ. Should we therefore remove the others? Should we force the other organs to act more like the heart? Of course not. Such an idea is exceptionally STUPID. And yet there are many groups in today’s world who would try and eradicate all ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to what they think of as optimum.

Whether or not your ideas are more workable than others, there cannot be only one way to approach ALL problems.

Tribes that have done that are (fortunately) extinct.

Equally unfortunate, the great American tribe is headed for the same extinction. Driven by closed moral attitudes (this applies to the Mid-East as well as the Bible Belt), societies are becoming more myopic, more “cleansed”, and more DEAD.

Science has brought us “wonderful advances” in agriculture, creating seeds that grow crops less susceptible to infestation and disease (or so such is the claim), making each plant identical (basically a clone) to the next one.

But what will occur when a new blight, overlooked by the bioengineers, attacks the crops? In the past, with a wide range of gentic differences between the stands of crop, only a portion of the total would be ruined. Today, the monocultured crops would ALL be wiped out… and the greater tribe will starve to death.

That is NOT sane science. Nor is it sane social organization, either.

Medicine has sought for years to eradicate certain diseases, only to find they have returned stronger than ever and our immune systems not ready for them. Disease is GOOD! It keeps us and our immune systems strong.

Remember the Hawaiian Islanders almost wiped out by some simple diseases carried to paradise by Americans?

The same is true with ideas. If we all had the same ideas, notions, concepts, and thought patterns, where would the philosophers and creative artists come from? We would see nothing new and we as a species would be dead, eventually following the dinosaur and the dodo.

In tribes, they understood that differences kept them growing. Someone may have a little different mental faculty (today, they would be called ‘disorders’), but it would bring new and different abilities to the tribe. Rather than trying to eradicate (i.e. medicate) them into amorphous clones of the ‘normal’ tribal member (e.g. clones) they would try and understand, develop, and utilize the unique talents of the individual.

Tribes are built of individuals, acting in concert for self- and group-interests. And these interests should not be mutually exclusive, like politicians and religious leaders would have us believe today.

Tribes do not have “them or us” mentalities. Violence is a necessary part of the human make-up, but tribes know that to commit violence on the tribal level is to invite eradication of the tribe. Violence was channeled into activities other than war. Disagreements were handled by the tribe and the tribal leadership took responsibility for all actions of the tribe.

Imagine if today’s leaders took that stance. ALL errors in the government become the responsibility of the leader. Unfortunately, in our larger tribe, we have a marvelous thing called the “balance of power” which in practice turns out to be a “balance of blame” with NO ONE taking any responsibility for the course of the nation, the government, or the people.

Our present government is “top-heavy’. All aspects of local direction are being manipulated by Washington’s centralized power.

The “republic” for which it stood NO LONGER exists. A republic has the power vested in the individual member-states – our country has no such thing. I would prefer it returned to the republican ideal (no relation to the misnamed Republican Party), and each state formed by a “republic of counties”, and each of the counties formed by a “republic of municipalities”, and each municipality formed by a “republic of tribes”.

The organization should be “bottom-heavy” as the people in Washington have no real concept of what is needed at each local level.

I do not currently expect a true tribal-nation to come about, but decentralization would be a good start. It should NOT be used in a spirit of isolationism but a spirit of “equalizationism”. All tribes would find equal representation at all levels that matter, and the control over each tribe would grow LESS at each republic level going up, with the Federal Government having NO effect on the local tribe.

The Federal Government was meant to be the collective face of the American Republic to the nations abroad, a government of, by, and for the people, and NOT an overlord to the people.