Friday, April 02, 2010

Tribesman, Barbarian, Citizen … and Libertarian

It is always risky to take a work developed by someone else and try to discover something the original author has not yet developed. William Lind developed the theory about the four generations of warfare, and has since received emails describing a tentative fifth stage of warfare that he reports isn’t actually a fifth stage. But then there are times when building up on the existing framework does indeed add something new, such as when William Lind discovered the fourth generation in the first place.

Jerry Pournelle created a theoretical framework to describe three different stages of cultural advancement. He left open the possibility of discovering what might be the fourth stage of cultural development based upon how the different stages react to each other when the come into contact.

The first described is the interaction between the Tribesman and the Barbarian.

When Barbarism first arises in any area, Tribalism is doomed. The two are mutually exclusive, and there is no possible "peaceful coexistence" between them. To the Tribesman, the Barbarian is Evil Incarnate; the Barbarian has utterly rejected all Good, Moral, and Ethical values. He has rejected the Sacred Traditions, and glories in his absolute defiance of them. He blasphemes not casually, but as a way of life.

To the Barbarians, the Tribesman is a slave, a spineless, gutless coward, a disgrace to human shape. He has no self-respect, no courage to take a risk, no faith in himself. He doesn't respect himself, or any man. He won't fight for any reward, no matter how great and shining! He's a stupid, lazy slug, a disgrace to humanity.

The Tribesman won't fight for reward, he won't take a risk for great gain--because that is not in the Traditions. A Tribesman can't fight an enemy tribe for that enemy tribe's land; his tribal traditions refer to his tribe's land. If he did take the neighboring tribe's land . . . there would be no traditions to tell what to do with it. It would, in fact, be a Change, and therefore Evil.

The "battles" between two ritual-taboo tribes, anthropologists have long since observed, are practically pure rituals, and actually have a vanishingly small casualty rate. Not greatly different--for all the use of spears!--than in modern college football clashes. The spears are hurled while at a range so extreme that it's sheer accident if someone gets hurt.

When Barbarism appears--that situation changes in a hurry. The Barbarian army isn't going through a ritual; they're out for blood and loot. They don't have traditions as guides, nor as limiting fences about them.

The next thing he describes is what happens when a Barbarian meets a Citizen.

When the Barbarian encounters Civilization, therefore, he is going to be enormously confused and baffled. The Barbarians of North Europe, meeting the Citizens of the Roman Republic, were meeting men who allowed others to order them about, to tell them what to do and when to do it. Who obeyed commands they didn't, themselves, agree with. Obviously, a pack of servile slaves!

But these cowardly Roman Legionnaires, for some incomprehensible reason, did not collapse in battle. These Legionnaires, who had no self-respect, who did not fight man-to-man, but used short swords so that no one of them could say, when he returned home, "I killed Urhtoth!" but only, "I am a member of the Fourth Legion,"--these Romans strangely didn't flee before the fiercest Barbarian charges.

To the Barbarians, the Citizen shows the symptoms of all the things the Barbarian rejects as vile and degrading--the essence of cowardice. The Citizen yields his will to the demands of others. He allows himself to be limited, and allows himself to be compelled against his own desires.

To the Barbarian, the Citizen shows the same loathsome abnegation that the Tribesman does.

Which makes it all the more incomprehensible that these sniveling Citizens win battle after battle. They who have sacrificed their Manhood, have given up their right to individual dignity, somehow prove able to fight like maddened demons!

Finally, almost as an afterthought, he describes what happens when Tribesmen meet Citizens.

Notice that the root philosophy of the ritual-taboo tribesman is such that it is inherently impossible to cooperate with him in establishing a colony. So long as the natives are true Tribesmen, Change is Evil--and the colonists are introducing change. There is no such thing as "a good change" in a pure-tradition system: "Change is Evil; Evil is Change."

More immediately, the Tribesman's sense of security stems entirely from having a sure source of Answers. The Tribesman has no answers himself, and has no sense that he can be a source of answers. His sense of security, his defense against the Unknown, is a Source of Answers. He expects to be told what to do, when, and how; if his Tribal Traditions don't do so, then some other source of Answers must. He has no expectation or desire to be responsible for his own acts; that way lies the terror of the Unknown.

If some colonist comes in and overthrows the Tribal Traditions--then the Colonist must be the Source of Answers. The Tribesman cannot cooperate on a man-to-man basis with the colonist, no matter how the colonist may seek to establish such a system. The Tribesman doesn't know he's a man; he knows only that he's a Unit of the System--that he has to be a unit of some system.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. And you can lead a Tribesman to Liberty . . . but you can't make him free.

He includes two references to describe what the next phase of cultural development would be within the framework of Tribesman, Barbarian, and Citizen.

At each stage of cultural evolution, the preceding stage appears loathsome . . . and the succeeding stage appears to partake of those same loathsome characteristics.

As a rough guess, it's highly probable that the next stage of cultural evolution will appear, to us, to be Barbarism, and be a horrible, degenerate, loathsome system indeed.

Just as the Civil system appears, to the Barbarian, to be the Tribal system, in which the individual has no dignity, and a man is not a Man, for he lacks the courage to express his individual worth and will.

. . .

It's also interesting to wonder what will happen if we go in to some planet, and find what seems to be a Barbarian culture ... which isn't. It would certainly be baffling, and almost certainly be disastrous in a way we cannot dimly imagine.

It would mean the destruction of our very souls. Just as Civilization, by merely contacting Barbarians repeatedly, brings about the corruption and degradation of their dignity, their self-respect--their very souls. And turns them into cowardly, weakened, crawling things that actually cooperate with another human being.

We can't, of course, guess just what form of loathsome corruption of our selves, our dignity, looms before us.

It doesn't really matter; we're going to get it anyway, whether from outside, or from our own unwanted, yet inescapable, evolution.

But we won't like it. Any more than a Tribesman likes becoming that essence of corruption and evil, a Barbarian. Or a Barbarian likes becoming that sniveling thing, a Citizen.

The key point to notice is that in any given stage, the immediately later stage will look distressingly like the immediately previous stage. To the Barbarian, the Citizen appears distressingly like the Tribesman. The relationship is superficial, as the citizen takes orders not because he is "not a man" but because after having discovered individualism (and immediately overdoing it as the Barbarian does) they have discovered cooperation. The fact that Tribesmen and Citizens are alien to each other is revealed in the way they interact in the description provided by Mr. Pournelle.

So, to a Citizen, the next stage will resemble all of the features of Barbarism that the Citizen has outgrown and now finds repulsive. The Citizen views the Barbarian as a criminal who has no respect for other individuals. The extreme individualism of the Barbarian would never respect a contract, would never take orders that he feels contradicts his own desires.

That is how a Citizen would view the next stage. He would view the next stage as criminal, and those in it as individuals who have no respect for social order. And, just as the Citizen superficially resembles the Tribesman, the Citizen’s view of the next stage would be superficially accurate.

Which is why it baffles the Citizen that the Libertarian is stricter in upholding the rights of others and the sanctity of the contract than even the Citizen is, that the Libertarian isn’t a criminal the way a Barbarian is. The Citizen is as baffled by the Libertarian as the Barbarian is baffled by the Citizen.

It should be noted here that "Libertarian" in this context has a much broader definition than agreeing with the platform of the Libertarian Party of the United States. In this context it encompasses many different movements with many different ideas. The common ground in this context is the social outlook that differentiates it from Citizen, Barbarian, or Tribesman.

Just as the Citizen took the lessons of individualism learned by the Barbarian and tempered them with cross-linked cooperation, the Libertarian took the lessons of cooperation and tempered them with a respect for, not just the individual, but each other as individuals. This is fundamentally different from the individualism of the Barbarian, as it respects other individuals as individuals. It is cross-linked cooperative individualism, to stretch the descriptions first described by Mr. Pournelle.

That only leaves, if Libertarianism is indeed the fourth stage of development thus far advanced to by mankind, how Libertarianism views prior stages.

Although the Citizen views the Libertarian as similar to the Barbarian, the Libertarian and the Barbarian do not view each other that way. Just as the Tribesman does not understand the Citizen, the Barbarian does not understand the Libertarian. The Libertarian, completely unorganized, is capable of spontaneous cross-linked cooperation to form an organized defense that strongly resembles that of the Citizen. The Libertarian doesn’t simply take what he wants, but fights fiercely against those who would simply take – and eventually even fights against the Citizen on those same grounds. When the Libertarian does fight the Citizen, it is not for the purpose of looting but to stop looting.

The Libertarian would basically ignore the Tribesman. While a Citizen, having discovered cooperation is eager to share it with everyone whether or not they want it shared, the Libertarian, having discovered that people have a right to be left alone is eager to leave people alone. Since the Tribesman is not a looter the way a Barbarian is, or even the more subtle way the Citizen is, the Libertarian has no reason for conflict.

However, the Tribesman will see the Libertarian as completely and utterly alien, even more so than Barbarians (who merely represent absolute evil) or the Citizen (who represents new replacement traditions). The Libertarian could potentially be new traditions, except that he consistently refuses to take that burden. The Tribesman can try to return the favor and politely ignore the Libertarian, but eventually is forced to adapt and move forward to a new stage whether he likes it or not. The Libertarian would try to treat individual Tribesmen as equals, but just as with the Citizen and the Tribesman not knowing he's a man, the Tribesman doesn't know he's an individual.

Fortunately for the Libertarian, according to Jerry Pournelle, any time a later stage encounters an earlier stage, it spells doom for the earlier stage. Libertarianism was birthed with John Locke, midwifed by Thomas Jefferson, and then brought to maturity by Lysander Spooner, Friedrich von Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and other libertarian philosophers. And by their work the idea that people should belong to each other is doomed.

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