Welcome to the Horde, Part IV
When groups of self-interested people exist in close proximity to each other, amidst a finite, limited amount of necessary survival resources, the historical record demonstrates that the demands of self-interest invariably result in violence. In an era of readily available firearms that require—relative to the swords and spears of antiquity at least—little training to use effectively, if not efficiently, that violent conflict almost always results in horrific losses to all parties involved.
What we as a modern, “civilized” people see as 4GW would more accurately be described as “first generation” warfare. It is far older than any other form of conflict, and in fact, never really ceased to exist, except in the collective imagination of people too arrogant to recognize that the nation-state concept was incompatible with human nature from the beginning. It is in fact, older than civilization itself. Long before the advent of agriculture and the resulting formation of farming societies that provided the ability to produce quantities of excess food per laborer that are required to support a standing army of trained, disciplined, professional warriors, tribes and bands of hunter-gatherers existed in close proximity to one another. They competed with one another for access to limited resources like game animals, no differently than modern man competes for limited resources like raw petroleum—with violence.
Throughout the vast majority of our species’ spectacularly bloody existence on this little blue sphere that we call home, both before and since the rise of civilization, most conflicts have not been fought by well-equipped, nattily-dressed parade ground puppets of conventional military forces. On the contrary, for most of humanity’s existence, wars, rivalries, and grudges have been settle by small bands of haphazardly armed, ill-disciplined, and poorly trained—or even untrained—friends and neighbors banding together to protect their own turf, or to expand their control over finite resources by invading their neighbors’ turf and killing or enslaving the competition. The truth is that our modern use of “conventional” and “unconventional” labels for conflict is an absurd reversal of historical precedence. From the historical perspective, guerrilla warfare is far more conventional than formal armies are. The label of 4GW to methods that have existed since before the dawn of time is ignorant.
Like the modern interpretation of the guerrilla, the classical tribal guerrilla used hit-and-run methods, choosing the survival advantage of fleeing before a stronger enemy, unless the fight could be clearly leveraged to his own advantage. While many psychologists and revisionist historians have adopted the feel good, New Age humanist view that “people are inherently good and peaceful,” and accepted the belief that tribal battles were largely ceremonial affairs that involved little bloodshed and killing, the fact is that the archaeological record rather clearly indicates that they are wrong. The idea behind this view is that animal species—including mankind—possess an inherent natural aversion to intra-species killing. Reports of largely ceremonial, ritualistic “battles” between tribal groups have been offered as proof of this.
The important factor that these pseudo-scientist “experts” overlook, or else pointedly ignore in the interest of a preconceived political position, is that “battles” are not the guerrilla’s fight. The guerrilla is ore inclined to use the raid in the deepest darkness of the night to sneak into a village and kill his enemies in their beds, burning down his village around his decapitated, emasculated head, followed by quickly fleeing back into the darkness before the victim’s friend and relatives in nearby neighboring villages can mount an effective counterattack. That is the way of the classical tribal guerrilla, just like it is the way of the post-modern 4GW guerrilla.
The idea that there are some sort of civilized restraints on the behavior and battlefield conduct of the guerrilla is a cultural conceit without historical or archaeological relevance. Quarter in tribal wars is seldom given or expected. Just as a modern US soldier captured by a 4GW Al Qaeda fighter, can expect to he beheaded, sodomized, or both, a captured tribesman throughout history, could look forward to being burned, castrated, beheaded, and then either killed or sold into slavery, or even eaten. His women would be raped, and then killed or sold into slavery. Children would have their skulls crushed against stones, or end up slaves. Villages would be razed, crops destroyed, and livestock stolen or slaughtered. While we may naively expect that the “modern” guerrilla will be constrained by religious background and morality and training, or the demands of his nation-state sponsors, in our drive to project our own worldview universally, the use of this type of terror tactics by the classical guerrilla sheds further light on the idea that the use of terror by 4GW guerrillas is in fact not new at all.
The guerrilla holds the adage close to his heart that “the only fair fight is the fight you win.” For the guerrilla, warfare is not an extension of politics by other means. Warfare is simple survival. In his 1996 that attempted to demonstrate the benefits of modern civilization, titled War Before Civilization, archeology professor Lawrence Keeley pointed out that tribal societies engaged in inter-tribal warfare suffered an average of half a percentage point of their total population, per year in conflict related deaths. For the current population of the United States, that would be the equivalent of 1.5 million deaths per year. That’s more deaths in one year than all American combat deaths since 1775 (just under 850,000)! The tribal guerrilla really has no reason to be interested in playing by his opponent’s rules, if his opponent even has any rules to adhere to.
Guerrilla warfare, whether referred to for what it is, or given some cute new label to make it appear more marketable, is neither pretty nor romantic. Too often in the survivalist culture, despite feeble protestations to the contrary, many people evince a disturbing longing for the collapse of modern civilization and a return to a more tribal existence that they believe will be simpler and more pastoral. These wishes are typically made by people whose actual combat experience is limited to getting punched in the nose by the third-grade playground bully, and revolve around “anything is better than what we have now,” or “let’s get it over with already.” This ignorance of reality is based on the exact same hubris that sees 4GW as something novel. People are convinced of the idea that they’re somehow smarter than everyone who has every gone before, so while surviving and fighting in a hand-to-mouth subsistence environment, they won’t be hungry, cold, or otherwise suffer, because they’re “prepared.”
The reality is, fighting as a guerrilla pretty much sucks dick. You don’t get to go home and sleep in your soft bed, nuzzled up against your hot wife every night. You might not get to go home for any nights at all for many months or even years. You may not ever get to go home, since it may very well end up burned down around your happy ass by rivals who want your farm ground or hunting territory. You won’t have ready access to all that rice and freeze-dried food in your basement storage. You are not going to be able to protect your wife and kids—or even yourself—from every possible threat, regardless of how thorough your preparations are. Sniper fire, even from an untrained hillbilly with a shitty deer rifle can come from nowhere at the least expected time and place. Kidnappings, rapes, and destruction of property are the norms in tribal conflicts. If you somehow think that, because “this is ‘Murica!” that things will be different here, then you’re a fucking moron. People you love and care for are going to die. Your wife may die, your children may die. Whether you pick up a gun or not, you may die.
Our ancestors—and current tribal societies—had to develop methods to overcome this natural survival instinct to kill off everyone of another tribe or clan. While there is obviously survival benefits to not having any competition from neighboring tribes, there are significant drawbacks to this approach as well: the blood-for-blood feuds that arise naturally out of tribalism mean for every one of theirs that you kill, they’re bound to kill—or try like hell—to kill one of yours. Pretty quick, you’ve lost your fighting strength and breeding power.
If you do manage to destroy the neighboring tribe, all you’ve done—ultimately–is opened up your flank to the tribe on the other side of them; and that tribe may end up being stronger than you. That’s probably not going to end well for you if your only response to rivalry is violence.
The solution to this developed throughout history, is the use of cooperation between tribes to develop means of administering justice. In Teutonic and Scandinavian cultures, this resulted in the “Thing,” which we know in modern culture as the Icelandic legislature called the Allthing. In Pashto tribal society, we see the same basic principle at work in the shura, where tribal leaders sit down together and develop solutions to shared problems. The modern, American version would—in an ideal world—be the town council. In a word: shared, representative governance. Damn, don’t that suck?
Of course, in order for the council—whatever you call it—to work, it has to have sufficient influence that all who are “bound” by it will actually respect the decisions it makes. That means the different tribes and councils who make up the body of the council have to be legitimately capable of causing significant damage to the other bodies involved in the council in order for the council to have validity. Otherwise, you simply end up with one tribe controlling all of the tribes around it.
What does this mean for us, as survivalists?
1) It means your family alone is not enough. You HAVE to develop a tight-knit association of clan and tribe. Otherwise, the neighbors around you that do have the power to take whatever you have and make it their own. You might be the most bad-ass SF ninja in the world, but quantity ends up having a quality all its own at some point.
2) It means your relationships with the rest of your tribe has to be legitimately solid enough that you can trust them with the lives of your family and vice versa. This is frith. If we accept that the lives and fortunes of the clan or tribe are tied together—what the ancients called wyrd—then you have a vested interest in their safety and well-being and vice versa. You want to go be an individualist, more power to you. Just recognize, you’ll end up being dead or enslaved in the end. We can discuss voluntary associations, and a modern tribe…along the lines of a fraternal organization, rather than a familial clan…is really nothing more than a voluntary association. If you’re not willing to put your life on the line for that voluntary association though, then what motivation do they have to put theirs on the line for you? It’s pointless to the point that you might has well hide out in a brush hut in the woods living in your own shit-stained drawers because you’re too scared to go outside long enough to use the outhouse.
3) In the comments on one of the previous installments of this series, someone mentioned the relevance of guilds versus family relationships as the foundation of clans and tribes. As Europe moved out of a tribal society and into a feudal society, this was certainly the case. It became a self-defense mechanism, as the rise of a powerful family would quickly be derailed by the feudal power structure, simply through not allowing that particular family to do business. Forming into guilds allowed members of a particular profession or trade to develop bonds of loyalty to one another that meant, if one was somehow shut out of practicing his trade, he could turn to others of the guild for assistance, or for networking in other communities to accomplish the same thing.
We see the same need fulfilled in our current situation. The willing joining with others of shared interest and values, but with sworn obligations that are actually taken serious to the point of life-and-death, will ultimately make the difference between survival and death when shit gets ugly; having all the cool-guy gear (and don’t misunderstand me, I LIKE cool-guy gear, and spend way too much money on it), food storage, and the rest are ancillary to that. They are simply a part of providing evidence to your potential tribe that you are serious enough for them to take your oaths serious.
Why does this shit even fucking matter?
“Those who genuinely understand how the real/third world (Tribalism) works will adapt while those most invested in the current system will suffer the consequences.”
The reader who posted that comment gets it. It’s not a desire for a return to tribalism that prompts posts like this article series. It’s the recognition—based on experiences where central government influence has imploded—that one of the things the 4GW gurus get right is the waning influence of central nation-state governments throughout the world. This invariably leads to one of two results, the first of which ends up leading to the second anyway:
1) A coup that results in an even more tightly-controlled despotic society, which I’m doubtful anyone actually wants, except those who will be the bosses in that coup.
2) A fractured, tribal society wherein we either learn to get along with our neighboring tribes, and work together or we end up with constant, endemic warfare with our neighbors.
Tribes have to be based on shared cultural values
Tribes—in order to function—cannot be haphazard groupings of people without shared values. Common interests will get you through short-term struggles. “We all want to make it through this hurricane/tornado/wildfire.” But when the time comes to put your life on the line, or to trust someone else to put their life on the line for something you believe in, self-interest will win out unless you have shared values.
Shared values MAY be a shared religion. On the other hand, “We only want Christians/Buddhists/Muslims/Taoists/Wiccans/etc” may be detrimental in the long term. What if someone’s interpretation of your particularly holy text is different than yours? I’ve met Mormons who interpret both the Bible and the Book of Mormon differently….and differently than the Church itself interprets them. I’ve met Catholics who believe the Catechism on birth control, and others who take the stance that “as long as we’re going to have children EVENTUALLY, birch control is okay now.” I’ve met Baptists who didn’t believe in drinking and dancing, and I’ve been to Texas (Texas Baptists will get that joke….).
Meeting potential tribe members at church is probably a good start…as long as you don’t ASSume that because you have the same preacher that your beliefs are identical.
Faith in the Constitution is often used as a measure of shared values…but as we all know, only too well, “I believe in the Constitution” does not mean the same thing to different people.
How do you determine then, if you share values with someone? You experience life with them. You spend time with them. Sure, this means you might waste time—that is all too preciously short—on hanging out with someone who may turn out to be non-tribal material. So the fuck what? Unless you’re a complete ass-hat, you’re still building a relationship and rapport with them that, despite not being a member of your tribe, will result in your having a connection with them down the road. More importantly, you’re not revealing your deepest, darkest secrets to someone, based on a false belief in shared values, that will bite you in the ass down the road.
The Value of Training
I noted above that the majority of conflicts in history have been fought by undertrained and untrained cooperatives of friends and families ganging up together, so why should you bother training now for the potential later? In a phrase, to reduce the bloodshed.
A trained, effective fighting force, using the same tactics as an untrained force will wreak havoc and despair on the untrained unit. The ability to work cooperatively under stress, towards achieving a shared goal offers significant advantages over the mob of pissed off guys fighting on their own to achieve the same goal. An excellent historical example of this is the battle of the Teutoborg Forest (okay, so I’m going WAY back….).
The German, who held status as a Roman citizen, Arminius, had served in the Roman auxiliary for a number of years, learning the Roman way of war. He went back to his own people, passed on what they would learn, and built alliances amongst his tribe and neighboring tribes. Then, at the battle of Teutoborg Forest, he leveraged both of these into a resounding defeat of the Roman legions, using an ambush in terrain that prevented the legions from moving into their accustomed formations. This is often lauded as the battle that kept greater Germania out of the Roman Empire. Previous to this, the barbarian tribes had fought in their traditional individualistic manner and been roundly defeated at almost every turn. With a little bit of training in a different method of guerrilla warfare, and cooperative action however, they managed to defeat a significantly greater military force and achieve their purposes.