Widening Scope: Making Your Own Meaty Bits

I offer the Gypsy Roma and Tzutujil examples to how how Family and Village relationships to peace, community, collaboration, still work even in the modern climate of the predatory mass media culture. Tribal peoples today deal with this culture and retaining their identity constantly. Some more successfully than others, sure, so all the more reason to pay attention to those successfully navigating the boiling waters of this modern cultural melting pot.

Now we get to the part that got me chomping at the bit to write this to begin with. In a moment, I’ll probably say something that you won’t like at all.  It will seem at odds with every modern value of diversity, political correctness, and equity. You may actually hate me for saying this:

You cannot widen the scope of a conversation, without narrowing some other factor. The Roma have retained their community precisely because they have excluded the non-community. The Roma in fact see the entire non-Gypsy world (culturally speaking, of course – I don’t mean individuals here) as members of a kind of ‘untouchable’ caste, possibly a hold-over from their days in India proper, before journeying west in a series of great migrations. For the Tzutujil, a sedentary village people, they have the same sense of highly developed local identity.

Successful tribal cultures create an in-group, by acknowledging and holding the boundary against the out-group. Where tribal cultures still survive (and, at times, thrive) in the modern world, you will see this acknowledgement. The romaniya (Gypsy law) goes so far as to forbid profiting economically from fellow Gypsies.

Trade economies, in these contexts, tend to occur between cultural groups, not within. Within the cultural group, you often see a Gift economy. Depending on pressure from the modern world, this can shift, but I see this as a common core. Having an in-group doesn’t have to mean you treat the other group as less than you, but rather that the legal and economic realities between groups must differ from those within. That which works between two distinct cultural groups, will have different priorities than one within. They may both seek the ‘re-establishment of peace’, but they cannot use the same methods, because they don’t have the same tribal values to rely on. ‘Peace’ then, will mean something different to both parties.

The Iroquois/Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace addresses exactly this issue, intertribal conflict. Carriers of the Great Law of Peace inspired and helped frame the US Constitution. Of course, the Founding Fathers left out a couple vital pieces (and added in a President against the  counsel of the Iroquois), but the core purpose remains, defining a common ground for intertribal dispute.

As far as I can tell, the Gypsies and the Tzutujil seem to skip this extra legal system, because intertribal dispute really only becomes a problem when they have the option of violent conflict. The Tzutujil, under the control of the Guatemalan government, will no more go to war against the village across the lake, than the Gypsy Roma will go to war against Portland. The Iroquois Great Law of Peace explains why the Iroquois sit on their sovereign homeland to this day (a little known fact – they have passports and everything!), while the Tzutujil no longer own the ground under their own village.

Now, remembering that Culture Means the Means the Game We Play Together, and knowing that we can choose which game, and even design that game, according to the kind of play we want, where do we go from here?

For me, these inspiring and vital peoples tell me to look to my own house first. I long ago lost my land, and my ancestors fled as refugees from one bioregion to the next until it has become a way of life across half the globe for modern people (fleeing, I mean).

So here I stop, here in Cascadia, and put down what roots I can. The smallest place I can ‘widen the scope of conversation’ I find within myself, hence the importance of clarity tools and understanding one’s own needs and feelings.

The second place I turn to, I see close friends and family. How can we create an in-group together, and acknowledge and create a boundary between us and the out-group? How can we widen the scope of our conversation, while narrowing other important factors (such as participation, knowledge of tradition, and skill)? How can we come to resolutions over our in-group struggles, that receive support and enforcement by the people in the group, not by the state?

I feel like I haven’t gotten hardly anywhere with this. Stay tuned for ‘widening the scope: even more making your own meaty bits’, I guess. Whew!

Written by Willem