Permission New Tribal Ventures
If you are new to our website, let me give you a brief explanation of some of the philosophy and ideas presented in Daniel’s 1997 novel called, My Ishmael. My Ishmael largely centers around a Socratic dialogue about Ishmael’s philosophy regarding tribal society, between himself, a sage gorilla, and a young 12 year old female student, Julie Gerchak, who is the protagonist of the novel. Without going into details of not only her visits to and discussions with Ishmael, but also her journey to Africa in order to prepare Ishmael’s return to the African wilderness, I would like to discuss the philosophy of New Tribalism and the concept of humanity in terms of Takers which Ishmael describes as “members of the single, world-dominating culture that destroys other peoples or forces them to assimilate,” and Leavers, who he says are “members of the countless cultures who lived or continue to live in tribal societies.”
Anthropology is the scientific study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans. Since humans are social animals, and are generally not equipped to live on their own, anthropologists realized that tribalism had and still has a very adaptive effect in human evolution. It is tribalism and ethnocentrism that helps keep individuals committed to a certain group. Even today in our complex societies government leaders rely upon the tribal instincts of their members for not only organization purposes, but also survival. Many businesses create an employee friendly corporate state using the tribal values of egalitarianism and unity. You can easily see the tribal-like impulses as manifested in sports rivalries and political parties. Within society, divisions between tribal factions and their consequential interactions can result in both positive and negative results.
In My Ishmael, as well as other novels Daniel has written, much is made of the imbalances that can occur in “Takers” societies. Just looking at humanity’s history shows such evidence. In hierarchical social structures where the cooperative ethos of a tribe is lost, crime, suicide, poverty, famine, senseless violence, wars, and corporate disregard for the welfare of workers results in distress, conflict, injuries and even death. Interestingly a “tribe” of lawyers has arisen in western societies replacing tribal elders. Unfortunately powerful corporate entities also have their tribe of lawyers who are not working in the interest of cooperative ethos, but in the interest of the “Takers.” In a representative democracy, the general population relies on the ability of a “tribe” of representatives to organize and pass laws or regulations that deal with the problems of tribes of people with the nation. A simple example is the creation of the Jones Act, a federally recognized law that formalizes the long-standing traditions of maintenance and cure for maritime workers. The Jones Act safeguards the rights of US maritime workers and seamen when they are seriously injured on an American flagged vessel due to the negligence of the ship’s owner, the vessel’s captain, or a fellow crewmate. New Orleans maritime lawyers would be the “tribe” of lawyers a seaman would seek out to assure that he receive full and fair compensation for his injuries. Different examples illustrating the negative aspects of “Takers” societies and the destructive impact on themselves and the environment are found within My Ishmael.
Advocates such as the anthropologists as Richard Borshay Lee and Marshall Sahlins have influenced Daniel in his pursuit of what he calls the “New Tribal Revolution.” Interestingly an important expression of this new tribalists movement is the trend towards modern eco-villages or even the Occupy Wall Street movement. Daniel has proposed an “incremental revolution” in which groups of people begin to form tribes one step at a time. As Julie, the young protagonist in My Ishmael learns “she does not need to travel around the galaxy to see ways that human societies can thrive successfully; she needs only to learn from the successes of tribal life.”