Gorean Compass – Tribalism

The Gorean Compass is a class given every Thursday by Master Gorm Runo.  Classes are held at the Gorean Campus and are given at noon and 6pm SLT.  All are encouraged to come and join in the amazing discussions.

Tal and greetings

I have been thinking on the idea of tribalism, this week.   My investigation and research led to some very interesting articles that have recently been written on the subject.  A look for an online definition yielded this:

noun: tribalism
the state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes.
the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.
“a society motivated by cultural tribalism”

sectarianism, chauvinism; esprit de corps
“the latest waves of violence were blamed on tribalism”

I found it interesting that they included a “derogatory” definition that didn’t seem at all derogatory to me.  “The behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group” did not strike me as derogatory at all, but they added a “use it in a sentence” example that cast it definitely in a negative light.

“The latest waves of violence were blamed on tribalism”     Yeah, that is an unbiased example.

family tribe

There is no question that the Gorean society was very tribal.  In one of the later books, we are reminded of the idea that the Goreans do not understand the concept of “arbitrary borders.”   And the very first book, Tarnsman of Gor, features a classic conflict between the idea of the “nation state” and the smaller city states that reflects the conflict on Earth between the unifying idea of ‘one world” and “tribalism.”

At the time, John Norman was writing the early Gor novels, the one world idea was still on the rise, and once again, he seemed a bit prophetic in predicting the conflict and the rise of tribalism.   In an essay written in 2014, Robert Reich wrote an essay entitled. “Tribalism is tearing America apart.”

He says,

“The nation state, meanwhile, is coming apart. A single Europe – which seemed within reach a few years ago – is now succumbing to the centrifugal forces of its different languages and cultures. The Soviet Union is gone, replaced by nations split along tribal lines. Vladimir Putin can’t easily annex the whole of Ukraine, only the Russian-speaking part. The Balkans have been Balkanized.
Separatist movements have broken out all over — Czechs separating from Slovaks; Kurds wanting to separate from Iraq, Syria, and Turkey; even the Scots seeking separation from England.”
—–Robert Reich,  article in Salon.com.

This all made sense to me as a “Gorean”, because the more I read, the more I understood that tribalism was an evolutionary successful trait that contributed to the rise of humans as the dominant species and like many other such traits was being discarded by modern society to its great peril.


I came across this little tidbit of information in the Wikipedia article on Tribalism.
“According to a study by Robin Dunbar at the University of Liverpool, primate brain size is determined by social group size.[14] Dunbar’s conclusion was that most human brains can really understand only an average of 150 individuals as fully developed, complex people. That is known as Dunbar’s number. ”
One of the results of this little bit of exploration into a definition, especially by one such a myself, so inclined toward seeing symbolism in the early novels, was that I suddenly felt I understood a bit of the symbolism in the book Outlaw of Gor.   This is the second book in the series, and a hotbed of symbolic meanings with its drab female controlled city of Tharna.
In the book, Tarl is imprisoned in the mines of Tharna, chained to a collection of men, mostly strangers, and they are fed like swine from a feeding trough.
Tarl insists they act with order, and control, and rules, and respect, and distribute the food in an orderly manner.  This is the turning point for mankind. No longer would we be a pack of animals snarling at one another as we tore at scraps of meat.
And in this symbolic story of man’s rise from the depths (mines) of the animal to the civilized heights of the rational, Tarl lays out his Gorean version of tribalism.
“Little by little, I tried to restore the self-respect of my fellow slaves. It began simply enough at the feeding trough.  Then I began to encourage them to speak to one another, and to call one another by their names, and their cities, and though there were men of different cities there, they shared the same chain and trough, and they accepted one another.

When one man was ill, others saw that his ore sack was filled. When one man was beaten, others would pass water from hand to hand that his wounds might be bathed, that he might drink though the chain did not allow him to the water.  And in time, each of us knew the others who shared his chain.  We were no longer dark, anonymous shapes to one another, huddling in the dampness of the mines of Tharna.  In time only Ost remained frightened by this change, for he continually feared the flooding of the chamber.

My chain of men worked well, and the quota was filled day after day, and when it was raised, it was filled again. Sometimes even, the men would hum as they worked, the strong sound resonant in the tunnels of the mine.”
pages 157-158   Outlaw of Gor

he's my brother
This clearly lays out the vision of Gorean tribalism.  Note first that it contains no word of the color of one’s skin, or the geographical location of his home, nor of even family ties of blood.  The tribalism is based solely on the sharing of the chain.
This is what the Gorean tribe is all about in a nutshell.  Especially, the Gorean tribe that gathers here in Second Life.  People claim that humans are constantly evolving into higher and more rational, spiritual beings, and it is true.  But, we should be doing so in a controlled and respectful manner, altering and improving our basic natures, but never seeking to deny them.
So, our tribalism has evolved quite a long way from the days when we killed strangers because they looked different or came from a different part of the valley.  But, we have retained the positive and successful aspects of tribalism.  People log into second life, and they are, at first, dark anonymous shapes to us, but the order and structure of Gor, and the codes and laws that bind us together as a tribe and community soon shine light on that darkness.
We are of the same chain.   Think of that concept and what it means.  We are so different, so unique, and so complex that it is said we can only truly know 150 others totally.  But, we are socially oriented creatures, too.  We have evolved to our current state by cooperation and not by being alone.
We are of the same chain.   We tend to gather in groups that share our values, or have suffered similar misfortunes, or dreamed similar dreams.  We look for totems that represent what we share and have in common with others and we cling to those totems.
I am suggesting that the Second Life community has become a tribe in the truest definition of the word.  It would behoove us to explore the ideas of tribalism further, and look for ways that we can use it to make our online interactions even more fruitful and positive.

tribe-silhouette meme
It will not be easy to do this because the basic conflict is between one world thinking and tribal thinking, and we are awash in our RL life with the idea we are all the same and the individual is really unimportant,  And tribal thinking tells us we are all different and important, but we need to get along and cooperate despite that fact.
In the coming classes this month, we will look at some of the ideas of tribalism and will have a look at John Norman’s book “Time Slave” and how it relates and differs from his Gor novels.   We will have a class just on how men relate to other men in a tribal vs. a non-tribal culture.
I am looking forward to the discussions that this should provoke, because I think we are going to be attacking some sacred cows and exposing some deep philosophical rifts.  Which is exactly the goal of these seminars.  And it should benefit us all, because, we are all of the same chain, after all.  Or are we?

Different hands form a tower

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