"The only thing constant is change"

Since humanity started keeping track of history , this maxim has been presumed correct. Many of the changes, if extrapolated indefinitely, unfortunately lead to the demise of the planet. Why is it that tribal societies, where there is no concept of fashion , maintain harmonious cultures for many thousands of years ? A deeper look into the psyche of pre-literate peoples might illustrate to us all that indeed, if we are to survive, a peaceful future will have to resemble our ancient tribal past .

Before there were alphabets , people didn't read about the past , they talked about it. Prophesies and legends were told and retold from generation to generation , sung , chanted , or spoken from grandparent to grandchild in an unbroken verbal chain . Changes in the tribes tradition were unthinkable, very often taboo . The design of a clans clothing or the lyrics of a chanted legend would remain the same for hundreds of generations. In tribal societies there is truly no such thing as fashion because the very fabric of life is dependent on keeping the oral tradition unchanged .

History begins when people start keeping track of events by writing things down. Cultures without written alphabets are generally considered prehistoric . A written record fragments time into the past and the future with little emphasis on the now. The procession of fashion parallels the progress of history. As we turn the pages of history we become accustomed to a seemingly endless cycle of newness ,we want new clothes every season , a new car every year, soon we will need a new rain forest, but can technology provide us with one?

In non-materialistic tribal societies, a person was judged not by their accumulation of wealth but by their generosity and number of friends. Great chiefs had few possessions at all, witness the potlatch ceremony where valuable gifts were exchanged only to be burned in a great communal bonfire. Perhaps there are valuable lessons to be learned from our ancestors who had a direct connection with the spiritual essence of nature and felt no need to interfere with the natural flow of things . Primitive cultures all have in common some form of ecstatic boundary dissolving ritual or ceremony that bonds people to the greater spirit of nature. People who have dissolved the boundaries between themselves and the spirit of Mother Earth might feel less need to amass wealth or to dominate other people or species.

The thrust of technology throughout history has largely been to separate people from nature, at the expense of many less fortunate species. We have unwittingly become specists , letting the mediated experience of entertainment and religion replace the direct knowledge of the planetary soul with the false concept that western man is somehow above, or separate from, or superior to this wonderful world of peoples, plant, and animals that we call home.

Blaming technology itself is too simple an answer, but many destructive practices , if continued, signal the death of the planet. There are developments in technology however, that have the potential to create an electronic re-tribalization of society and help humanity remember our place on this sacred sphere.

Virtual communities on-line are changing the way we perceive each other and share ideas, there is no pre-judgment of concepts based on sex or color, a new form of universal language has emerged. Another universal language is rapidly transforming the way people interact. House music, tribal dance music with a continuous beat is the soundtrack to an enormous youth movement worldwide. House parties are basically an updated version of an Indian Pow-Wow where certain members of the tribe provide the beat ( D.J.'s or drummers ) and the other members of the various tribes come together in peace to share the blessings of being alive, dress wild, act crazy and dance themselves into oblivion. Out of this oblivion is where one gains knowledge , direct experience of the equality of all people and creatures of the universe. The insight gained by abandoned tribal dancing changes a person , spiritual awareness is no longer a mediated experience but an irrefutable feeling.

As more and more people have boundary dissolving insights into nature and more and more of these people link minds with each other via technology we can hope for a future where an awareness of the spiritual value of nature is factored into decisions regarding the fate of the planet . By loving each other , dancing with each other , and communicating with each other we have our best hope for a future where all people, plants , and creatures co-exist in peace and harmony.

mark ameba - Fri, 28 Oct 1994


On 31 Oct 1994 SCRUTON@JOYCE.dnet.hac.com wrote:

i'm not sure condemning fashion/trendiness/change per se is a not towards or an embracing of tribality.

some anthropologists have found quite a lot of trendiness and fashion evident in rather untouched tribes, and archeologists have DEFININITELY ININIETLY (luv my spelling) found a great amount of exchange of ideas (read: ancient trends) between, say, a mountain tribe and a shoreline tribe (the adoption of shells as scapers, for example, or the exchange of medicinal herbs)

this was especially evident in the Pacific Northwest, where fishhooks, calabashes, masks, etc. were copied and exchanged all over the place. True, each region had it's own 'flavor', but that's still evident today everywhere you go in the world, beneath the Sonys and the Coca Colas....

IMHO, tribalism isn't about technology, trendiness, pop culture OR THE LACK OF IT. It's about your local area. It's about the common kinds of things people in your locale see, think, and do. even a country club is a tribe of sorts, albeit a very close-minded one, yesno?

don't cast off those trendy shackles, 'cause an archeologist ten thousand years from now will be identifying yer "tribe" based on your type of car, musical preferences, or favorite type of soda pop..... that may sound cynical and hollow, but in a way, the style of totem poles you saw around north america 1000 years ago was basically a trendy way of showing off the family tree...

ok, you can castigate me now

Dave Scruton


right on, Dave!

I see tribal-ism (for lack of a better word) as a product of connection. A group of people with a common connection is a tribe. How you manage this connection is important, though. A tribe can be part of a greater community, or a tribe can be a warring faction. I think the thing to do is to extend those connections in all directions. Become a native of the Earth that supports us. Learn about the people in your community (four-leggeds, too), learn about the land beneath you, the sky above you. Make your innerself a community (no self denial or repression), make that part of the community around you, make that part of the larger community, and so on until it's universal.

Fasion is cool, pop culture is cool, all that shit is cool. But life runs deeper, so see me for who I really am and call me by my real name.

love, whitsitt

David Whitsitt Goodson - whitsitt@uclink.berkeley.edu - Thu, 3 Nov 1994