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Welcome to the Horde, Part V: Building Tribes

January 31, 2014



Most of us are familiar with the term “Posse Comitatus” in reference to the 1878 law that was pretty much anally-raped out of existence with passage of more recent “anti-terrorism” laws. In 2006, GWB urged Congress (what a quaint concept, huh?) to consider revisions to federal statute to allow .mil forces to be used to restore public order and enforce laws. These changes ended up in the NDAA for 2007.

I mention this, not because it is particularly relevant to the article, but rather to quell the ever-present need to bring up shit that is completely irrelevant to the topic under discussion (invariably, had I not mentioned this, someone would have stopped reading after “Posse Comitatus,” went straight to comments, and blasted me for not knowing that it was largely irrelevant in contemporary American jurisprudence.)

What IS relevant to this discussion is the term “comitatus.” This is a Latin term generally accepted as meaning “retinue,” and dating back to Republican Rome. A comitatus would be formed when a member of the patrician class announced that he needed a group of citizens to accompany him into an enemy territory…Volunteers, generally from the Order of Equestrians (what we would recognize as “knights”) would form into a temporary band, for the duration of the raid or operation.

Later, in Imperial Roman culture, high-ranking generals (I know…as opposed to low-ranking generals, right?) and the Emperor would have a core group of friends and advisors surrounding them, entrusted to provide good advice and—to some degree—act as a bodyguard beyond the Praetorian Guard.

Further north, in the Germanic tribal regions, both during the early Iron Age, and later into the migration-era and “Viking Age,” all the way into the middle ages, the arrangement was similar but much more feudal in nature. A leader, the “lord” (the Old English term was apparently “hlaford” meaning ruler, which derived from the earlier “hlafweard” meaning “warder—keeper–of the loaves”)supplied the food for his men, keeping them close in peace as well as in war. He supplied their weapons and horses, and shared in the spoils of war (for my fellow historians, or any living historians reading, I recognize that this is a) a gross oversimplification, and b) leaves a lot of later developments out. Bear the fuck with me.)

The biggest difference between the Roman method and the Germanic method however was that the Germanic version—the gedriht—was bound together by ties MUCH stronger than self-interest. This was the cultural value in Germanic tribal society of mutual obligations of one to another are tied together in the interest of the “frith” of the community/tribe/clan. In some ways, this mirrored the feudal obligation of the Japanese samurai to his lord. In both societies, the followers were sworn to live, breathe, and die for their lord in battle, it being a terrible disgrace to survive him. In exchange for this, the leader was obligated to his companions in numerous ways, beyond simply feeding and supplying them.

Germanic culture—whether migration-era Teuton or Viking Age Scandinavian—was big on reciprocal gift-giving, as a means of building what we today could call rapport, in the sense of reciprocal loyalty. The mutual reverence and respect thus engendered made for a strong, cohesive military unit compromised of individuals (as much as that term could be used in Germanic culture that centered on family and community).

The fierce individualism we hold so dear in modern America was—and is—unknown in tribal cultures. It was even—really–unknown in pioneer America. We have this Hollywood impression of the lone frontiersman seeking out new lands on his own, when the historical and literary record—even in America—demonstrates the exact opposite. The eastern long-hunters (think Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Last of the Mohicans archetype), might only travel in small groups, but they generally traveled in groups. The “mountain men” of the western fur trade era (incidentally, the subject of my master’s thesis) traveled in companies, with the occasional example of smaller groups of two guys batching it or small squad-sized elements. We certainly know that the actual pioneers who traveled west with their families traveled in large groups, and tended to settle in communities, rather than individually. While there were inarguably exceptions that prove this rule, they are just that—exceptions. The historical record is self-evident: the “rugged individualist” is a cultural conceit made possible by living in settled, “civilized” society.

The Lone Warrior versus the Team-Playing Soldier

While we will get into the concept of outlawery shortly, let’s look at the differences between the lone warrior versus the team-player, and the impact this has on tribal conflicts. A successful society in a tribal environment (well, really in any environment, but let’s stick to the meme for a moment) must be able—and willing—to win fights against attackers. In larger societies, like the modern nation-state, this is the function of the military. In a tribal society however, with few exceptions, there is little opportunity for anyone to have the luxury of sitting around and doing nothing but training for war, when there are crops to sow and harvest, fields to clear, structures to build, and other tasks to be completed. This means, unless you intend to survive as a raiding, looting tribe—to go “a-viking” regularly—you’re not going to just be warriors. You’re going to have normal obligations to fulfill as well.

That means, in addition to the guys who are going to go out and provide those security patrols between shifts working in the fields, you have to have an auxiliary that can not only provide additional material support, but can act as the Home Guard.

Building a tribe then, becomes not just a matter of getting together a network of people, but understanding how to inculcate the virtues of both the warrior and the soldier into them. Do poor people from harsh, unforgiving climates make the best warriors? Or is it—after the ancient Roman model—the wealthy with more to defend and the ability to procure and stockpile more material goods that make the best warriors? Ultimately, it depends on how you define “warrior.” Do you want a bunch of individualist heroes who are focused on individual valor and heroism, or do you want team players who will work together as a team/unit to accomplish the collective goals of the community?

The ancient Germanic ideal was the individual warrior seeking individual valor and glory in the eyes of his lord and community. This was seen as a way to bring good fortune to both his family and the tribe. In the Roman ideal however, where we see the tortoise as an evolution of the Greek phalanx, team work and the ability to subsume the individual to the unit was the ideal. Even at the end of the Roman Age however, we see Arminius convincing the Cherusci Teutons to put their individual and tribal rivalries on hold, in order to work together against the legions at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.

Whether we’re discussing Teutonic Europe, the Roman legions, Japanese samurai, American Indians, or modern soldiers, though, there is an underlying message of community, team unity, and focusing on the collective goals, rather than individual self-interest. The cliché of course is that soldiers don’t fight and die for country, Mom, or apple pie. They fight and die for the buddy on either side of them. They know that invoking their natural self-interest—survival–and running away to survive another day, puts their companions—their brothers, in greater danger. Loyalty to the group—esprit de corps—is the essnce of fighting morale. The faith that you are part of something greater than yourself—a legacy if you will—is what makes men do really stupid shit that we later look at as courage under fire.

I get asked regularly, “how do I form a tribe like this?” “How do I build this type of loyalty?” Unfortunately for those who want a nice, pat, pre-packaged answer, this loyalty is the result—not the cause—of the companionship developed.

How do we develop that companionship? By spending time together, trading “gifts,” and building relationships. There are no easy answers. Getting together once a year with a bunch of guys you meet on an internet forum does not “build tribe.” There’s no loyalty being built. To use the Germanic tribal terms we’ve been using, because you’re not building a real spirit of frith—intertwined loyalty to community laws—there is no commingling of “wyrd” or fates.

If you’re searching “survivalist meet-up” sites to find a group to join, you’re doing it the wrong way. Intentional communities—especially survivalist communities—just don’t work out. They all end up either being the result of some megalomaniacal fucker trying to create his own fiefdom, or the “rugged individualism” of the rich yuppies involved comes to the front, so no commingling of effort and fate and luck ever takes place, and the venture falls to pieces.

If you want to build a tribe, look around you. Where is your family? Who are your friends? Both my immediate family and my in-laws, live prohibitively far away from us. In a grid-down scenario, we’re going to be useless to them, and vice versa. Thus, we have to build new tribe, out of the people around us. We have to look at our neighbors; the good ones and the bad ones, and decide how they are going to relate to us when things get ugly. Do I have a neighbor—even one—that doesn’t have issues I dislike? I fucking doubt it. Are there neighbors I think are complete fucking douchenozzles that I don’t even want on the same planet as my kids, let alone in the same community? Absolutely.

There is a difference though. I can work with the first example. Either I can choose to ignore their idiosyncrasies that I dislike, and hope they do the same for me, or I can approach them and try to figure out a way to help them work past those issues (I hate the fact that I have neighbors too blind to see why they need to actually train with the gun they carry, rather than just carrying it. So, I try to get them to go shoot. I hate the fact that I have neighbors that don’t have any storage food. So I try to demonstrate why we have storage food. I hate the fact that I have neighbors who don’t do PT…so I do PT and then do things that are physical, hopefully better than them, to set an example).

The second example? Well, I can either hope that they get killed off, or be ready to do it myself if it becomes necessary. Writing off every single person in your community though, is either arrogant hubris, or sheer stupidity. Unless you live, completely alone, in a hermitage on a remote mountain in the Himalayas, if you can’t find a dozen, or two dozen, or more, neighbors in even a small community, that you share interests, concerns, and values with, you need to take a serious look in the mirror. As bad as things are in America today—and make no mistake, I think they are fucking horrendous—if you think there are not other people in your community who are just as concerned, you’re a fucking retard.

So, the secret to building a tribe? Get to know your fucking neighbors already. Who cares if they watch the Super Bowl this weekend? Who cares if they’re not a “prepper?” Who cares if their only value post-grid down is going to be learning how to dig ditches and developing the physical stamina to do so? You’re going to need ditches dug. Build a fucking community already.

We talk about the “lost values” of America, but then we sit in our basements, jerking off on internet forums, instead of getting out and spending time with our neighbors and building relationships built on trust and shared values. We talk about how its harder to get ahead than it was for our fathers and grandfathers, while ignoring the fact that they didn’t hide in the house, watching bad television and surfing the internet: they got outside and did shit with their neighbors. Ultimately, beyond the immediate family, tribes are communities, and the only way to build a motherfucking community is to PARTICIPATE in your community.

Are you pissed because your town council is doing shit you don’t like? Quit bitching about it on the internet and go to the meetings and make your voice heard. Worried about what the HOA is doing? Quit “rebelling” by painting your house puke green, and go run for HOA president (better yet, move the fuck out of a HOA!). If you genuinely believe that your community is hopeless? Move the fuck out. Generally, that suggestion gets met with cries of “But, my family is here!” “I’m too invested in my house/career/Fantasy football league!”

In the first case, if your family is there, and you STILL think you can’t build tribe there, then you need to get up, right now, walk to wherever there is a firearm in your house, and eat the muzzle, because you’re so fucking retarded that you’re beyond hope. In the second, if you place your house or your career—let alone a butt sex gay hobby (seriously? Fantasy football? Jesus, go PLAY football, you fat, lazy fuck!)–above the survival of your family, I don’t know what to tell you.

If you’re serious, and you’re sincere that your community is hopeless, you’d better find a way to move the fuck out, because I don’t care how big your dick is; I don’t care how many guns you own, or how well you shot your last Appleseed. I don’t care how many tactical carbine courses you’ve taken: if you don’t have a community of support to back you up, you’re going to lose when your community gangs up and comes after you. Quantity has a quality all its own.

So what if none of your neighbors wants to go run buddy team bounding drills yet? Hang out at the range enough, and I guarantee—in this day and age—eventually some young dude is going to show up with a tricked-out Stoner or Kalashnikov, plate carrier, and war belt, and be pissed that the Elmer Fudds who run the range won’t let him run dynamic drills. I hate public ranges. They’re considerably less safe than just heading out onto the National Forest by myself, and I have to deal with stupid looks from the elk “hunter” who spends five rounds and twenty minutes, once a year, making sure he can shoot minute of cardboard box at 25 meters so his elk rifle is “sighted in.” I’ve had loaded guns pointed at my face, rounds fired into the ground frighteningly close to my feet, and been asked the dumbest fucking questions you can imagine. Who cares? I wear my body armor at the range. When I get asked why, I tell guys, “Because I’ve seen some of you fuckers shoot!” If someone is making egregious safety errors, I either correct them, or point them out to whatever member of the range club is present, and it get fixed, or they get thrown off the range. When it comes to stupid questions (and yes, Virginia, there IS such a thing as a stupid fucking question, regardless of what your Mommy told you), I just suck it up, bite my lip, and answer them. Even if they’re asking stupid questions, at least they are asking questions!

If putting up with all of that nonsense means I make one new acquaintance who is serious about training, then it’s worthwhile.

It’s not just about the range though. Find out the places in your community where like-minded people do shit, and go there and do the same shit. Get your neighbors involved in shit. Build a neighborhood playground for the kids. Shit, get out and take a walk around the neighborhood and talk to people. You don’t have to be Mr. Paranoid Gun Nut Prepper Neighbor. Talk about other shit. Just get to know people. If someone needs help with a project, offer to lend a hand. Hell, don’t even offer, just show up on project day with a pair of work gloves and jump in to help.

But, Blood is Thicker Than Water, right?

There is an old cliché, “Blood is thicker than water.” Here’s a secret I learned about that cliché the other day though…It’s been taken out of context, and as such gets misused all the time (And I learned this due to a conversation on Facebook….sometimes leaving yourself open to NSA surveillance pays off!). The actual proverb actually reads, “The blood of the convenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”

This phrase, surprisingly, predates the Christian era, and relates to the ties between tribal leaders and their thegns and retainers. The ties of the blood-sworn oath of loyalty are, in fact, thicker than the water of the womb representing family ties.

Most of us place the ties of family before all else, and I would argue, correctly so. Nevertheless, the idea that our tribe and community MUST be related by familial ties in order to be effective, is just not historically true. Whether the blood oath is between friends of equal stature (think Lone Ranger and Tonto-style “blood brothers”) or between lord and retainer, is irrelevant, as long as the ties are legitimate, and the feeling of frith is equally strong between both. Just because your family doesn’t live in the same community as you are developing relationships, through effort and time invested. You build tribe through the shared companionship and camaraderie of experiencing life and tribulations together.


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  1. Defensive Training Group permalink

    Reblogged this on The Defensive Training Group.

  2. Hobo permalink

    Good to have you back….. Hobo

  3. libertyinfringed permalink

    Even though half the stuff you say is about me, I still enjoy reading your articles and being berated. And even after you remind me of my flaws and general uselessness, I still want to read some more!

  4. dashui permalink

    I remember in the collapse of the ussr, ethnic mafias, red army veterans, and combative sport , such as wrestling and boxing, participants were able to organize themselves into tribes, crowding out small time criminals.

  5. Wes permalink

    I run and exercise within my neighborhood at least three times a week and one of them with a stripped down carrier and I’m always hoping someone will come out and talk to me and maybe say hey could I run with you or even just ask maybe why I’m always working out or what I’m wearing just so I can engage them. I’m always thinking about this. I wave at every car that passes me. Man, woman, teenagers, even the drive by badass’ that try to stare you down…..less than half will wave back and half of the ones that do when they wave you can tell it was just a reaction like they got conned into waving ha ha.. Once here a while back while running I even helped a dude get his truck unstuck from some ice I was pushing telling him what to do in the cab as soon as he was unstuck, he hauled ass away, without even yelling thanks… I think a lot of people just don’t want to form relationships with people. I only have one real Neighbor, one other house on my street. They are gone 90% of the time at they’re other home. So short of just walking up and knocking on doors to try to make conversations I don’t know what the fuck else to do.

  6. I talk to the older professional folks around me on a regular basis(hardly the “ruck up” types). Even so, they’re the only ones I have any respect for. Sad, but mostly true. Sure there are exceptions- but not many. I firmly hold the belief that more than half of murakens aren’t worthy of my efforts(maybe why the cops kill so many?) Stupid, lazy, dirty, broke, or fat as pigs, is no way to live. I won’t waste anymore time or money on those types. I truly miss America- R.I.P. I’ll be taking my share of names before I go.

  7. Hopefully I’m not the only one in need of expanding my vocabulary and that this helps someone.

    Frith is an Old English word that means Peace and Freedom; but means so much more. It is an important concept in the religion of Asatru. It might be described as a combination of loyalty, honor, hospitality, and support. It is the obilgation to one’s community, friends, and family to consider their welfare in your actions, and not to set out to harm them. (from the Urban dictionary)

    • While it is undoubtedly used by reconstructionist religious folks, the term, and the meaning described, is older than Christianity. It goes back to the tribal societies of Europe, and the same general philosophy–generally using different words of course–is found throughout tribal societies throughout the world.

      • Dale permalink

        This series has me fired up..Some of the best exhortations I have read in ages. I am getting out of Dodge to a place that seems to have frith. We’ll see.
        You always have a plan, a path. Cannot wait to see where it leads next.

  8. “If you’re serious, and you’re sincere that your community is hopeless, you’d better find a way to move the fuck out”- our area has become infested with lowlife scum. They mostly have come from Lower Michigan. For whatever reasons they have moved into their families “vacation cabins” -just little shit shacks and brought with them nothing but their welfare checks and booze and drug habits. Fucking real scumbags. We talked about moving tonight during supper. We sure as hell won’t relocate in the USA -it’s toast. Any suggestions on a decent Country to start looking in?

    • Dale permalink

      No place is perfect, just like here. Your moniker makes me want to say Panama. For me, I am just gettin’ out West. Out of the way of all this noise to where the real seems to matter more than the virtual.

      • Panama has been taken over by the Chinese-otherwise I would agree. It’s wonderfully beautiful there. Fond memories, and even an Ex-wife there. I was thinking some place in South America maybe.

    • Wes permalink

      My house has been for sale for 10 months we plan on relocating within the continental United States… That being said, I didn’t think we were all here to work out an “exit strategy”. The main purpose I got from this blog, was that this (was) our republic and if we want it back, when the time comes this is the shit we need to do to survive, regroup and take it back to ensure our children and future generations have a United States of America and recognized natural born rights as human beings. Maybe I’m wrong, if so maybe I’m in the wrong place.

      • Amen brother. This I my country and I’m not giving up on it. Never quit, never surrender.

      • Well, the only way true Americans are gonna get anything back is to first rid ourselves of the parasites who like the way things are. If you think honest people can enjoy their lives while supporting the drunks,druggies,and lazy fucks(so-called disabled)-you are dreaming. This drain on society need to be dealt with first. If they don’t want to work for a living, I sure as hell don’t want to support their sub-standard lifestyle. I was an employer, and I would’ve rather paid higher taxes to support the lowlifes than have to employ the vermin here in the US. But it got to the point where I couldn’t consciously condone that anymore, so I retired. If it were profitable to work, believe me, I would re-start a business. I enjoy working, thats just how I am. IMO millions of “entitlement” scumbags need to be eliminated from this society.

      • I went into town today and asked some merchants about the state of business. They ALL said if they could sell and make a profit or just break even-they would. Entitlement people don’t buy anything but food, beer, cigarettes, and gasoline. There you have it. Things are that bad and they are’nt getting any better. I was just smart enought to get out before I lost everything. The State of the Union is a bad joke. If you believe the horseshit B(ody)O(dor)is shoveling you’re part of the problem.

  9. Dale permalink

    Umm, Nicarauga me thinks is a bigger Chinese target. Believe it or not try Columbia. An island off Chile looks interesting. Ecuador is cheap if you can ignore the politics. The interior of Argentina/Mendosa.

  10. Great fucking advice.
    We did “get the fuck out”.
    We just moved (a few months ago) to a high mountain (8000′) zip code with <150 people in it. Very insular, most are related, and a different ethnicity. We are making friends and absolutely love it here. We are friendly to all, attend the local HS basket ball games, and consciously go out of our way to be a part of the community. We tell everyone that we moved here because we like it just how it is and are not trying to change a thing. Always willing to help, but like our privacy. We respect their ways, their community, and their land. They (so far) do the same for us.

  11. When it comes to stupid questions (and yes, Virginia, there IS such a thing as a stupid fucking question, regardless of what your Mommy told you), I just suck it up, bite my lip, and answer them. Even if they’re asking stupid questions, at least they are asking questions!

    If putting up with all of that nonsense means I make one new acquaintance who is serious about training, then it’s worthwhile.

    It’s not just about the range though. Find out the places in your community where like-minded people do shit, and go there and do the same shit. Get your neighbors involved in shit. Build a neighborhood playground for the kids. Shit, get out and take a walk around the neighborhood and talk to people.

    This is precisely how one builds a team, network, tribe, or community. Those who constantly bitch about how bad their area is or how they can’t find anyone that’s ‘like-minded’ needs to read the above several times until it sinks in and then get off their dead asses and go do it!

    JM – Good words. From an old AF First Shirt…FWIW.

  12. ‘Family is that group of people with whom it is pleasurable to survive!’ And in building a tribe you have to start with ‘family’ and all that it entails…which does not necessarily include biology. Just my .02 There is much to the equation…and there are many object lessons in our times; to wit, the so called hippie revolution of the 60’s and the fact that many ‘tribal’ communities in our times just can’t get their shit together…because there is a dirth of leadership: Indian reservations, black or hispanic communities, etc. Ultimately ‘family’ and later ‘tribe’ are built on agreement…without it all is lost from the start.

  13. Jim Klein permalink

    Did you know that’s some of the best individualist writing to be found anywhere? I’m guessin’ not, but it is. Excuse me for shouting—“INDIVIDUALISM” DOES NOT MEAN “ALONE.” It means, more or less, “admitting that one’s own values are paramount in one’s own actions.” It’s just an admission of a fact, that’s all. It’s honesty.

    And you’re an honest guy, so you know that if a certain mission needs to be accomplished, it must be done a certain way. How many people are involved is irrelevant. When it’s a team job, the goals of the team are paramount, IN THAT CONTEXT. Combat, being the most dangerous context a person is likely to face, requires that each individual is willing to die, if necessary, for the team to succeed. That’s why it’s pretty important that the individuals on the team have rational and valid goals. One’s life is the highest price to pay, so the goal of the team must rank mighty high. For most rational people, if they’re willing to look at reality as it is, oil and poppies fail in that respect; freedom does not. So putting one’s life on the line in defense of freedom is NOT sacrificing one’s rational self-interest on behalf of something worth less. Quite the opposite. Technically, it would be a sacrifice NOT to do that. Things will change big-time when Regular Joes come to realize this. You ain’t shittin’…quantity will have a quality all its own, once that happens.

    Yes, the pioneers WERE rugged individualists, virtually every last one of ’em. To do what they decided was in their rational self-interest, required immense cooperation and teamwork, again up to and including putting their very lives on the line in a battle situation. They DID NOT sacrifice that which they wanted to achieve for themselves, on behalf of some fantasized imagination of a better world for someone, or worse something, else. Well, maybe their progeny, but again that’s just an instance of an individual acting on his own goals and values, as they are.

    So it is with you. You know what you want to see happen, and you know how to get it accomplished. And even more…what you want to see accomplished IS rational and good That’s the ultimate individualist perspective, so welcome aboard. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify this ubiquitous misunderstanding.

  14. the fukkn A-team permalink

    I served under this President during my 1st tour of duty. Like him or not

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