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Belmont Club

Tribesmen and History

May 5th, 2013 - 3:24 pm

Steven Pressfield talks about the difference between Western societies and Afghan ones. It is a fascinating monologue and probably largely correct.

However things may be a little more complicated than that. We are not all one thing or the other. There was until recently a tribal element to Western civilization, one which we have almost permanently associated with the worst aspects of history, and consequently forgotten. Yet it served a purpose which we forget at our own risk.

There is a scene from a dramatization of Winston Churchill’s life which illustrates this duality. In it the great man is waiting for electoral doom in post-war France, soon to be rejected by an electorate that will swap the welfare check for Tribal Glory. His wife Clementine is talking to a relative about her great yet soon to be discarded husband. And in it she muses on the nature of Winston’s tribe.

Clementine Churchill: “Sometimes when he’s asleep you can see what he looked like as a little boy. His parents ignored him. Did you know that? He loved them deeply and they ignored him. People say he’s a figure from the past. That the Labour Party represents the Future. Yet he seems timeless to me. His love of England. It’s an ideal. It’s a vision. Something he’s determined to protect at all costs.”

Relative: “His Camelot.”

Clementine Churchill: “Yes, if you like.”

Relative: “Perhaps that England never really existed.”

Clementine Churchill: “But if he hadn’t believed in it, he never would have found the strength to win the war.”

And in a subsequent scene the dramatized Churchill attains his Camelot and finds in it only a hive of parliamentary reports and spending programs. Where then did the glory go?

Perhaps each point of view has its dominant season. But even as the times of year themselves yield to each other, so too do ideas. Nothing endures that doesn’t change. And change itself may really be just another word for something emerging wanting to endure.

Nor does everything neatly fall into the two categories of Citizen and Tribesman. Let’s propose a Third Category. People who have declared themselves free of any traditional tribe, who seek neither the happiness or liberty that individuals guided by some star may search for; and yet are perpetually optimizing something in a short-sighted and self-destructive way.

There is something almost destructively juvenile about them in their short attention spans and selfish callousness. People who for some unaccountable reason will trade 70 years of peace for a bag of Obamaphones and 15 minutes of fame on TV. Who think there is nothing in the world that can’t be “fixed” by corruption yet who are incapable of making anything whole themselves. The word for this category of person has not yet been standardized though it may be the most important of all.

The closest association that comes to mind are the Vandals. What were they thinking as they ran rampage? Were they building something? Could they even think that far? What was the point of their tireless destructive energy? Their joyride through history? Maybe even they didn’t know.

It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people … they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.


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Top Rated Comments   
Probably the most interesting thing about the emerging story on the Benghazi coverup is the role played by Ben Rhodes. (http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2013/05/05/administration-knew-benghazi-was-a-terrorist-attack-from-the-get-go/2/)

"He earned a master’s degree in fiction-writing from New York University just a few years ago . He did not have a degree in government, diplomacy, national security; nor has he served in the CIA, or the military. He was toiling away not that long ago on a novel called ‘The Oasis of Love” about a mega church in Houston, a dog track, and a failed romance.

Carol Lee of Politico wrote in May, 2009, that

Not long ago, Rhodes was one of the obscure guys who wrote Obama’s campaign speeches in Starbucks and played video games into the early morning hours. Now he attends national security meetings and takes writer’s refuge in a secret office on the third floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building."

Rick Moran writes "In such hands has our national security been entrusted."

But just think of what level of intelligence and competence the guys who turned to him for help were. They must be people so out of ideas, so clueless that they turned to a guy like Rhodes to get them out of a jam.

There is about the current administration the aura of something like gang of spoiled rich kids buying their fame by fixing popularity contests, singing competitions, art awards and getting their speeches written for them. Something of the flavor of people who think they're in a game and who haven't realized till now that their in a contest being played for keeps. Of people who've spent their adult lives in a cocoon of inconsequential airheads and who now believe their own rigged press.

I hope I am wrong. I really do.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
This will sound harsh, but the only way for a modern society to truly defeat a tribal society is to go in and crush it so completely that the tribal members have no hope of their past way of life continuing. Pretty much what the Europeans did to the native american tribes. It's ruthless, and we're not very proud of it, but it worked. It's the only thing that ever does work. One side has to win, and one has to lose, and by lose I mean die and pass from this earth completely.

Patton and Sherman and every truly successful general in between knew that when you're in a war, you're not fighting to try and convince the other guys you're right. You're fighting to kill all the people who are opposed to you, and you keep killing them until there's not enough of them left to bother you anymore.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (59)
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If you want an example of a tribal society, consider the Daley Machine in Chicago!! Once his term is done, Obama has to go back into their world or go into exile in Hawaii. You never saw either Da Boss or Richie run for President, that office is term limited by the Twenty Second Amendment. So Obama's future clout is going to depend on what happens in his home town, Chicago.

He won the nomination the first time in 2008 because the Machine was under attack by the usurper Clintons. So they figured, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and sent all those ghost payrollers to Iowa to Beat Hillary.

It worked. So, although Hillary was given the post of Sec of State as a sop, there is no love lost between Obama and Hillary or between them and The Machine.

Did you note how Obama's influence on events in Benghazi is non-existent? He took a powder, leaving her holding the bag. All the better to let her eventually take the rap and get THROWN UNDER THE BUS! That's what happens to all Obama's rivals isn't it? They get thrown under the bus.

Now with the Clintons on ice, and Obama without any local organization, the Machine is positioned to re-assert its dominance. Why else would Rahmbo run for Mayor? You are about to see the birth of the Emanuel 2016 campaign Wednesday!

49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
UP – “If you are living in the Sahara or the Great plains with no central authority tribalism provides a way to settle conflicts. Elders meet, blood money is paid, crimes may be punished or violence may settle the conflicts.”

Interesting thought there, is it possible to enforce a powerful central government while promoting tribalism against the American Melting Pot? Our betters seem to think so. All of the foundational work put into ameliorating a socio-economic caste system has been thrown out the window and replaced with a set of hard racial and sexual preferences. Even non-race Latinos are thrown into the mix for good measure and having not lost like the Indians are here demanding their land back. Scratch the surface of every preference-based political identity and find a latent blood grudge.

The incredible edible post…
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
mzk,
So how did they take over the Middle East?
22 hours ago Mon May 06 04:06:59 PDT 2013 1

The Arabs broke out because the Byzantine Romans and the Sassanid Persians had both exhausted themselves. The wiki on the Roman-Persian Wars, political content noted, makes depressing reading.

Wretchard,
At least we now have date-time stamps to reference. Could comment numbering be restored? The biggest loss to me in the new format is the loss of subscription to the comments. My Inbox is emptier now.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the most important aspects of tribalism is that it is found in places where there is no central authority. There always must be a way to settle conflicts. If there is a central authority the law provides a way to settle conflicts, to punish crimes. If there is a king or emperor he also provides a way to settle conflicts. If you are living in the Sahara or the Great plains with no central authority tribalism provides a way to settle conflicts. Elders meet, blood money is paid, crimes may be punished or violence may settle the conflicts. I believe that the Arab tribes do have extensive systems of adjudicating conflicts in order to avoid violence.

The blood feud provides a deterrence against individuals being attacked by members of other tribes. Everyone knows that if one tribe member is attacked the entire tribe will retaliate, even down the generations.

The law, in the West, provides the protection against attack that the tribe provides. You can be sure that tribesmen don't believe that the law is real; they can only see their own system and only believe in their own system.

Honor is very important to the tribesman. It also provides a deterrence against attack. If you insult the tribesman, steal something from him, you damage his honor, and he will come to get it back. Killing you is his likely desire.

Tribalism is not uncommon in the US. Gangs, organized crime follow tribal rules. They live outside the law so they can't go to the law to solve their conflicts with other gangs or mobs. Honor is very important to the gang member. Blood feuds are common. I remember reading a quote early in the Iraq war from a sergeant in Iraq that he understood the Iraqis quite well. They were just like the gang members he knew in Chicago.

The desire for revenge I'm sure is common to most Americans that have had a family member taken from them. I'm sure it takes a strong person to count on the courts to give justice and punish the guilty. If you live in a place where there is no central authority you count on your tribe to give you justice.

Pressfield doesn't seem to talk about the role of central authority in tribalism. Maybe he mentioned it in an earlier video.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Everyone here seems to be running around clutching at will-o-wisps in thought, which is highly uncharacteristic of this group. So I conclude that this topic is perhaps worthy of more thought.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Having Rhodes, a writer of fiction, on board makes sense; with the Obama administration it is the narrative that counts, not results. Only a writer of fiction could craft the past 4.5 years as successful. Tribes within the US will emerge in the form of individual states reasserting their sovereignty and grouping together with other, like-minded states. There is a major tribe forming in the West of Mexican ex-pats demanding stolen rights. We certainly live in 'interesting' times.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wretched's insight shows exactly why Dear Leader got it all wrong in abandoning Iraq in favor of Afghanistan. Iraq has the beginnings of a modern society that would have afforded the US with a stable ally and strategic base and seaport in the middle of the snake pit. Dear Leader somehow thought it better to set up camp in the equivalent of "Indian Territory" that cares more about stealing our hubcaps than a national government.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
He got what he wanted-He traded a hope for a sure quagmire that would play out for the U.S. like Vietnam. Sacrificed our proud soldiers to embarrass their country. Liberals love any war except the one we're fighting. It's easy for cowards to be "Johnny Bad-Ass" before the fight begins. "Videri Quam Esse."
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pressfield missed the key social structure...Family. Family is the bridge between the Western Individual and the Western Nation. Extended Family is also the base line of most tribes, especially in the past when tribes were smaller.
In his Apology for Islamic tribalism, he also misses: The relative lack of inter-class mobility; the effective slavery of the lower 50%-60% of the tribe and the inability to question activities of increasingly despotic tribal leadership.
Tribes serve the top rungs well.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The tribalism versus citizen description does not work for most of the human race or the Islamic world. For example, Egyptians are not tribalistic but the typical Egyptian is certainly not a "citizen". There is a third category that I call "angry sheep" which describes the bulk of the human race. Your typical Egyptian is essentially an angry sheep, i.e. happy to take their bread dole from the central government while willing to live under the medieval sharia legal system but unhappy that their lives are going no where. Most educated Americans in the 19th century were "citizens". Unfortunately due to socialism, we have slowly been morphing into a nation of angry sheep.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pressfield is just a layman yacking, he misses pretty much everything that isn't blatantly obvious and he misinterprets half of that. There is no inherent reason why tribalism has to be against progress, by all accounts their view of democracy is that western society is a bunch of self-centered primitives. OTOH, the evidence is rather more on our side.

Bernard Lewis points out that under sharia all the secular organizations we take for granted, are forbidden. But that's sharia, not even tribalism per se. Tribalism is an aspect of Islam but tribalism does not answer many questions, Islam answers most of them. The one aspect that tribalism effects is that it means our (sic) "law enforcement" mindset is likely to be completely ineffective against it. Islamic tribalism has spent their human surplus on jihad for a thousand years, they EXPECT to lose it, they NEED to lose it, there's only so much food out there in the desert and too much population is bad for the tribe's survival. But that's just desert ecology and Darwinian forces at work, not even tribalism as such.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pressfield's historical novels are very competent. Writing good historical fiction is hard to do.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
A competent novel does not have to in any way reflect the real situation. This little video does not enthuse me about picking up any of his works - which I do not recall ever having done yet. They may be wonderful. Dune is actually a lovely introduction to Arab/Islamic culture, which is not to say it is analytic about the hows and whys, just enough of the what's.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pressfield's "Gates of Fire" about the Battle of Thermopylae was brilliant. I also read "Tides of War" which revolved around Alcibiades (arguably history's most destructive demagogue). The second novel was interesting and readable but not as enjoyable as the "Gates of Fire". The depth of knowledge required in writing "Gates of Fire" and "Tides of War" makes Pressfield's opinions worth reading even if one does not agree with them.

Frank Herbert's "Dune" is arguably one of the best SF novels ever written and does provide a good introduction to Islamic culture. It's not widely known but "Dune" was successful mainly because of John W. Campbell, Jr. who was the editor behind "Dune". Campbell as editor danced on either side of that invisible line between being an editor and a coauthor. Unfortunately, Herbert was a second rate author. All of his other novels were barely readable. The only other Herbert novel that I found entertaining was "Whipping Star".
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
itellu3times and formerly Eggplant, the Herbert novel that still sticks in my mind after all these years was Soul Catcher. Speaking of tribalness.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would give Herbert's "Whipping Star" a B- (entertaining but flawed). That story revolved around a powerful psychopath living in a parallel universe trying to destroy our universe through a process based upon sadism and masochism. Lots of creative concepts but repellant at the same time.

The first Herbert novel that I read was "Dune" and it knocked my socks off. I wanted to read more books like "Dune". I began by reading the sequels and other Herbert novels. "Dune Messiah" was bad. "Children of Dune" was extremely bad. "Eyes of Heisenberg" was almost unreadable. I kept reading bad novel after bad novel by Herbert in this futile effort of trying to find another "Dune". Finally someone explained to me that "Dune" was really the genius of John W. Campbell, Jr. and Herbert lacked the talent to produce another excellent novel. Herbert's entire career was based upon one good novel that came from another guy's brilliance.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh yes Vandals. Maybe the vandals were not an invading horde but an invasive ideology that just kind of took over, one shrug, one guffaw, one “what does it matter anyway?” at a time.

I had a discussion Saturday after the Kentucky Derby with a lady who lamented that they were taking down all of the 1950’s buildings in Redondo Beach and that we should join in political forces to stop them. That the 50’s buildings represented a simpler time of the Atomic Age. Soon her ire focused on how Christians were always telling people how to live. How they imposed their beliefs on others and furthermore how evil and corrupt the Republicans were and how any woman, how every woman, any self-respecting woman had to, HAD to vote for Obama to protect her vagina. At which point my mother’s ears perked up. You see, she said, that guy who said that you wouldn’t get pregnant unless you were really raped represented all of the opposition. Not a lone nut in the crowd but conceivably the organizing thought over all conservative policies were to take over the regulation of the vagina. What argument is there against hysteria? None.

Hate is rarely a force for good. It can be destructive or defensive but it never leaves a foundation on which to build something of value.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
FWIW? The Vandals were not just about destruction. They took over much of N. Africa, and when they sacked Rome it was as Christians fighting a "holy war" against Rome. Even the Visigoths were practicing Christians at the time they sacked Rome.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
What to name the tribe? They are the minions of Newspeak. Their beliefs? Tune in at eleven.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
We are looking at a human population bloom -- the ummah.

If not now, soon we'll be looking at utter chaos in the ummah -- rather like the final scenes from the Titanic.

STEM graduates in the ummah become jihadi fanatics. They don't correct the economic guts of the ummah.

Islam is a NEOLITHIC rules set. Hence the five prayers a day - - which really reflect camel-maternal logic. While on transit, the youngest camels needed to nurse five times a day. Hence, Islam is on camel time.

(Obviously, the new born camels could not possibly be left out of the caravan.)

It's impossible to run a modern economy as everyone stops for a fifteen minute hate -- of the infidel -- five times a day -- for that's what their prayer amounts to.

Not surprisingly, muslims don't want their rite translated into local tongues.

And, it's no mystery where the riots get started and why.



49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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