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Basic Tribal Culture, Part 2: The Tribal Worldview

This is part 2 of a 3-part series, which is continued from this series.

Read Part 1 Here

With this in mind, let’s discuss what the tribal ideal really is.

With the assumption of local governance under the direction of concerned and involved citizens who were invested in one another’s success and security—basically a tribal council at the community level—the American founders established constitutional forms to create a cooperative and interactive union of states.

We have lost too much of the tribal foundation that was the animating spirit of American culture—the underlying weave of the fabric of freedom—and it is hard to overstate the case for recapturing it.

Just as there are religious worldviews, secular worldviews, materialistic worldviews, etc., there is an overarching tribal worldview.

Just like there are many views and differences within, say, the religious worldview, there are many different tribal perspectives.

And just as there is an overarching religious worldview (there is a higher power, and I should live in harmony with it/Him), there is also a profound and powerful tribal worldview.

One of the best ways to begin to understand any worldview is to ask, “What is the world, and what is the purpose of life and the universe?”

This is a complex question, of course, but it can be answered in simple terms and the early answers are often the most important. By understanding tribal culture at this basic level, we understand a great deal about ourselves.

The Universe

As I have studied tribal cultures from around the world and throughout history with these questions in mind (What is the world? What is the purpose of life and the universe?), I have categorized recurring themes, forces and societal roles; the labels used here are my own.

In generic tribal thought, the universe is made up of certain vital entities. For example, first come the Obeyers; these do their part in the universe unfailingly. They include suns, moons, planets, rocks, canyons, rivers, mountains, valleys, etc.

Many ancient religious temples and writings are full of these Obeyers. Obeyers set an example to all others, and they are the basic building blocks of everything. Many ancient stories center around references to and morals learned from valleys, rivers, mountains, etc.

Next are the Growers: the trees, grasses, plants, fruits, and so on. They build the universe by growing. Their growth feeds the others, bringing the power of the sun into assimilable form.

Many ancient religions and philosophies are built around the Growers and grower symbols.

The Movers include animals, fish and birds. They move around the world, spreading minerals and seeds from the Obeyers and Growers as they travel.

Many tribes consider some of the Movers, especially birds, to be messengers, teaching us as we interact with them in the world. They also provide food to others, and feed the Growers when they die.

The Movers are a key part of the universe, as are the Growers and Obeyers.

The Fishers are an interesting group. They change the environment by building dams to fish like beavers, or storing nuts like squirrels. Bees and others fit this category. They somehow raise and harvest food, not just wander and search for it.

In some traditions they are called farmers, and in others spiders (which weave webs to capture food). By their fishing, storing, farming, weaving, etc., they benefit the environment and all of life.

People are expected to learn from all of these parts of the universe, and to follow their good examples. Each type of entity is judged by how well it promotes and benefits life, which Obeyers, Growers, Movers and Fishers all do.

Next come the Lovers. Lovers benefit life to the extent that they love. When they don’t love, they hurt life and all the other entities.

The Lovers include all humans and also the spirits (or God, gods, and/or ancestors, depending on the tribe). Humans exist to love.

The Shadow Side

In addition to the good parts of the universe that benefit life, there are those that attack life. These include the Thieves, Murderers, Manipulators and Destroyers.

Thieves take one’s implements of life because they think it will benefit their life. They are mistaken, and cause pain for all by wrongly attacking life.

Murderers take life in order to promote their own life, and in so doing increase total pain. Murderers are seen as worse than Thieves.

Manipulators are an interesting category, often considered to be much worse than thieves and murderers. Manipulators set up systems that steal or kill, but in a way that the thieves and murderers aren’t directly blamed and in fact get away with it more often.

Such systems include anything that skews the natural way things should be, such as class and caste systems, manipulative and deceptive laws and governments, tricky lending and business deals, etc.

In this worldview, the only thing worse than Manipulators are Destroyers. Destroyers are those whose very nature has changed, who no longer are fallen Lovers, but are truly motivated only by hate and pride.

Note that while Movers, Fishers and Humans can be Thieves and Murderers, only humans can become Manipulators or Destroyers.

Since the very purpose of humans in the universe is to bring as much love as possible into the world, it is a colossal tragedy if a Lover becomes a Manipulator or a Destroyer.

By the way, in many traditions only Manipulators become Destroyers.

Now, with all this said, imagine how people in this culture feel about those who set up abusive, forced, corrupt and controlling governments, economies and laws: They are the worst of the worst.

Even those who support, condone or allow such manipulative governments, laws and economies are doing the work of the Destroyers and attacking life and all that is good.

This is one reason that tribal societies so adamantly mistrust most national cultures and people: It seems to many of them that the very basis of national culture is manipulations and exploitative systems.

It is also why it would be so valuable for them to learn the constitutional principles of freedom and how to apply them. But our purpose here is not to admonish the tribal cultures, but to learn from them.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder and former president of George Wythe University, a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd Online.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Basic Tribal Culture, Part 2: The Tribal Worldview