Tarago Diaries #36 – The Tribe

Mark reflections on tribalism and change.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 24 July 2020.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial


Article Text

There once was a tribe who came under attack from unknown forces living over the hill in the next valley. At first there were small, random skirmishes but the attacks soon escalated into full blown raids. Women and children were taken after dark. Animals slaughtered. Crops burnt.

The tribe tried to defend itself but its efforts were mostly ineffective. The attacks were impossible to predict as they lacked any apparent motive, other than to inflict as much pain and suffering as possible.

Eventually, close to despair, the people gathered together to find a way forward. It was decided that only if the tribe was organised as a unified force could it possibly resist

Word was passed ‘round to all the outlying villages. A militia was formed and patrols were sent out to destroy the enemy wherever it was found.

The fighting was terrible. Many people sacrificed their lives for the greater good but at last the raids became fewer and eventually ceased altogether. There were even rumours that the enemy had been decimated by some terrible disease from far away.

But at last the tribe was free.

All through these troubled times, there was a need for strong, decisive leadership to maintain order and discipline, to keep the fires burning and remind the people of the dangers they faced.

But happily the peace lasted and the tribe prospered and grew comfortable.

Confident in their lot, some began to grow tired of the need for discipline and the constant reminder of past troubles that the leaders tried to keep alive, believing as they did, that only by reliving the past could they secure the future.

Still, as war became a distant memory, some turned their backs on the general good and wandered off into the next valley, where the enemy had once lived, chasing rumours of better food, sex and other gratifications that weakened their resolve.

There were internal disputes from within as well, led by head strong individuals who criticized some of the poorer decisions the leaders sometimes made.

And the leaders grew alarmed by all of this. There was a crisis of confidence, even amongst them.

What if the enemy came back and the will of the people was so weakened that they wouldn’t fight?

And besides, the leaders believed, as the years had passed the burden of maintaining order had fallen evermore on them. They became convinced that they were entitled to the authority they held. After all they claimed, it was their wisdom and foresight that had held the line, long after the fighting had ended.

But they also correctly reasoned, if the tribe became divided, not only would their authority be undermined, so would the privilege which they had worked so hard to consolidate, remunerating themselves greatly over the years, with magnificent homes and large estates where they raised vast herds of cattle and reindeer.

Well they knew, that if ever there was conflict again and the loyalty of the common people was tested, all of this privilege would quickly vanish.

By now, there were very few left who directly remembered the troubles of the past and the leaders could see the potential threat this posed.

And so, scribes were employed to devise a new story that could replace the old. One that would explain the tribe’s destiny, beyond any single event or a time long past, that ordinary people struggled to relate to.

A story that would transcend time altogether and so bath the tribe in collective glory, that it would be seduced by its own vanity and willingly hold the line forevermore.

The scribes worked long and hard and at last they came forward with a tale so bizarre, so utterly detached from reality, that the leadership believed it might just work..

A set of laws and been written they said, on sacred stones recently found long-buried under a mountain somewhere in the desert.

They were the words of a mysterious god named ‘the blessed one’ who had been directing all, right from the start.

The laws said that everything that had befallen the tribe, all the tribe had done and must do in the future had been predicted long ago. But above all, the laws must be obeyed, or all would fail.

The scribes were sent out to spread the word.

And it worked.

When the people heard that such great truths had been said of them, they were filled with renewed purpose. They worked even harder and became even more successful. And through their obedience, the authority of the leadership became unassailable.

Nevertheless, the laws were detailed and required constant practice.

Certain words and bodily movements had to be repeated regularly throughout the day. There was kneeling, bowing, and chanting everywhere. On the street, in public parks, gardens, cafes, factories, fields and the privacy of peoples’ homes.

And out in the wilderness, where the practices were interpreted by word of mouth, a certain experimentation erupted.

There was collective fasting and other forms of self-denial, to enhance the peoples’ zeal. Others drank to excess, or harvested special substances from certain plants that caused them to have wild, fantastic dreams.

Anything that enhanced this new vision ordained by ‘the blessed one’ was deemed to be good.

With each passing year, the new practices became entrenched and the scribes, encouraged by their success, invented new and more detailed instructions to keep the fervour alive, lest people waver and fall away as they had before.

And so the laws became expressed in evermore flamboyant ways. People tried to outdo each other by wearing special clothes, strange hats and hair styles. Eventually there were entire villages that only certain people could inhabit, depending on how they looked.

Sadly, there was a cost to all of this and those who couldn’t afford the clothes, or the expensive houses, were shunned in public for the smallest lapses in behaviour. With time, the practices became so complex and detailed that some simply gave up following them and accepted the consequences.

They became outcasts.

Today, the tribe has grown so large, numbered in millions they say, that to try and inspire conformity, let alone enforce it, is deemed impossible.

And so the differences in people are quietly tolerated. The laws still stand of course but the practices once held in such high regard are mostly conducted in private, so as not to inspire the kind of resentment and bitterness that might otherwise lead to public disorder.

Still, there is a lingering nostalgia for the fires of old, particularly amongst the leadership. A feeling that something must change.

But the truth is, the tribe has begun to divide once again.

There are of course, the usual midnight disappearances. Rumours abound of secret groups who conspire to undermine the authority of the laws, by deliberately stirring up trouble amongst the less fortunate. These groups are carefully targeted and taken out with little fuss.

In the meantime there is damage control. One of its more peculiar manifestations is the ‘guilt rally’ conducted in the big stadium in the middle of the city.

A ticketed event that anyone can attend, the ‘guilt rally’ takes the form of the mass humiliation of small groups and individuals who are dragged onto the field and submitted to verbal abuse hurled at them from the stands by the assembled crowd.

Their crimes are minor. The reading of books in public, remaining stationary on the street for too long, poor personal grooming, inappropriate hair-length or dress.

Even skin colour draws attention, though this latter condition is considered a more complex problem that will need to be addressed by more expeditious means, sometime in the future.

The point is, change is in the air once again and many are fearful that things will only get worse.

The leadership concedes that the ‘guilt rallies’ are at best a band-aid solution but at least they provide some distraction from what could potentially become a much larger problem.

The emerging problem of what they now refer to as:
‘terminal difference’.

For which a final solution may well be needed.

In the meantime, offence takes many forms and the tribe has always been easily offended but these days there are growing numbers who are beginning to understand this.

They who have already been purged, abused, cast out, laugh quietly at the words painted on the wall of the great stadium where the rallies take place..