Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Tribes. A primitive mode of social organization based on ethnic and genetic relationships, anticipatory of some more federal or feudal system. In Europe, the Germans and Scandinavians, or the Scots, were the longest surviving example of this type of society. Kingdoms, later, of course, and then liberal democracies. At various times.

Consider the tribes of Israel, arising from Abraham, maintaining a strong and meaningful identity through the Kingdom period, surviving even the Assyrian exile. No, there are no ten lost tribes of Israel. Ten diminished tribes. That Judah subsumed the others doesn’t require their extinction. Cohens have a unique genetic marker.

Consider the tribes of American Indians. The Five Civilized Tribes learned very little from the newly arrived Europeans. They built walled towns and had a trading system that extended across the continent. Tribes? Yes, but federal tribes, as the tribes of Israel formed a kingdom. Give us a king, to judge us like all the nations. Tribes make nations, then.

Consider inner city street gangs. Yes, the relationship is genetic. Gangs are racial. Let’s not argue the point. It’s obvious. Outsiders may be adopted into the tribe, the gang, but they forsake all previous allegiances, and they go through an initiation, of blood. When I was a lad we knew it as “getting jumped into a gang.” Don’t know what they call it now. Some tribes -- Australian Aboriginal -- initiate their pubescent youths by sending them into the wilderness, to survive only on a maternal uncle's blood, drunk from a bowl. All things concidered, then, I'd rather be jumped.

All of these tribes, these gangs, feel free to pillage the camp of the outsider. Whether a raiding war party or a home invasion, whether as the possessor of actual hunting grounds or of urban turf, the tribe makes and honors only its own law. The Icelandic clans were so fractious in the 13th century that they asked the king of Norway to rule them. Not a wise choice -- he forbade trade with any other country, but only one Norse ship came annually to the island. Hunger. But a nation.

Which brings us to Iraq, and the Arabs. A nation? Were they given a king, to be like the other nations? Well, yes. But did they ask for one? Well, no. The problem arises from what is technically called the fallacy of equivocation. What is a “nation?” The Cherokee Nation? The American nation? The Nation of Islam? Alas, borders on a map are convenient for travel agents, but they have little to do with ancient loyalties.

Iraq gets its name from Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh. It is here that the first wall was built. Here we find the first writing. It was the greatest city in the world. But Mesopotamia has long since fallen into dust. It is the sands of the south from which the region’s culture has derived its sustenance, for the past many centuries. Students of biblical prophecy will know that Mesopotamia will rise again -- or perhaps only the demons that lie bound and buried in its heartland. We may live to see it. But Allah is the god of that world now, and Allah requires all loyalties from all inhabitants of any land where Moslems rule. Loyalty, or subservience. Thus, Islam can never exist in its pure form, in a modern nation-state. Islam is itself a nation.

When the numbers are small, Islam, by this premise, must act something like a tribe or a gang -- a self-referential and hostile group, inimical to the greater society and seeking to overthrow it. When the critical point is reached, the moment of phase change, the Taliban seizes power. The Wahhabi House of Saud. The Grand Ayatollah of Iran. What, have we not seen it? Were it not for a military coup in Pakistan -- well, an Islamist government had been elected, and we might have expected a few nukes to have transformed the topography of India, and visa versa.

Civilization is a fragile thing. Russia was great. And then Stalin destroyed it. Germany was the most educated country in the world. Then Hitler made it satanic. Somehow the high culture of urbanity is stripped away, and the animal takes over. The lizard brain of instinct and reflex does not understand any human language. It knows only appetite and sensation. Just so, the racist tribesmen in all of us looks only to identify the alien, and kill him or make him a slave. Any social trend that increases this tendency is a peril. And any system of intolerance, be it communism or fascism or islamism, is inimical to that quality of the human spirit that we, in this nation, hold most precious.

No, it’s not an original sentiment. Quite obvious. Totalitarianism is bad. Duh. But we do need to be reminded of very obvious things. Love your wife. Be gentle with your children. Stand against oppression. Protect liberty. Duh. But let’s write it on our hands and inscribe it in our hearts. Because the world can get very much uglier. Sometimes beauty is paid for in blood. Yes, a high price. Many will not pay it. They do not understand that there are enemies in our midst. They do not believe in gangs. Human nature is basically good, they imagine. For some, the lessons of history are too distant, too abstract. Its oceans of blood have faded or are too unpleasant to observe.

Thus, some tribes do not survive. Some are wiped out. History would be littered with their names, except their names are not remembered. But this is not our fate. We will of course survive. How could such a great city as ours ever fall? with its broad avenues and mighty walls? How could our name ever be forgotten? What alien power could ever take from us our fields and forests? Our sacred places will be holy forever. All our wars will be fought in foreign lands. Our warriors will prevail eternally. We have peace at home. We are safe. No thief shall come in the night. We will always prosper, and heaven shall envy us. We will enter into heaven. We will exalt our governance above the stars. We will sit in the place of privilege and look down upon the clouds. We will ascend above creation, and be like the most High.

And no demons shall rise from our graves.


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