TRIBES ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND ME
War & Reality in Afghanistan
A CONTINUING CONVERSATION
With Author & Historian Steven Pressfield
Part 3 of 5
What is the single greatest invention in human history? You could make a very strong case that it's the tribe. I mean if you think about the human race throughout history, prehistory, had no business surviving on planet at all. Against fierce, ferocious predators we had no fur, no fangs; we were slow, scrawny, weak. But human beings, these little scrawny hominids, organizing themselves into tribes, were able to outfight mastodons and saber-tooth tigers, survive Ice Ages, famines, you name it, and actually take over the entire planet. So the tribe is a helluva powerful social invention.
WHAT IS A TRIBE?
Alright, let me give you some examples of tribes. The Apache are tribes. The Comanche, the Sioux are tribes. In Africa, the Masai are tribes, the Bantu, the Zulu. If we think in our contemporary world, gangs are tribes. Street gangs are tribes. Prison gangs are tribes. The Mafia is a tribe. The Marine Corps is a tribe.
TRIBES ARE NOT DEMOCRACIES
A tribe is not a democracy. A tribe is a hierarchy. In a tribe, there's a chief and there are Indians. Tribes have pecking orders. Tribes are structured to be the center of the universe. Each tribe considers itself the original chosen people. If you think about the names that tribes have for themselves. The Navajo call themselves the Dine which means "The People". So the tribes think of themselves as the center of the world and everything else is an outsider, not part of the tribe.
Tribes are cohesive; they're close-knit. They are composed of face-to-face relationships, usually of blood, family relationships. If you're with the Taliban and you're going off on a raid, you look to your left -- that's your uncle over there. And behind you are your two brothers. And when you get back from the raid, your mom and your dad are going to ask you how you did.
TRIBES DON'T CHANGE
Tribes hate change and they don't change. When Alexander was in Afghanistan 2300 years ago, his enemies were a tribe called the Paktyans. Today in Afghanistan there's a province called Paktia and the primary tribe are the Pashtuns. So tribes don't like change and they don't change. If you're born as a young tribesman, your ideal is not to overturn society or change the way the world is. What you want to do is follow in your father's footsteps and perform great deeds like they your father and your grandfathers did. Tribesmen are not liberals. It's not their desire to change the way the world is. Fidelity and loyalty are primary virtues in the tribe. If you think about Osama bin Laden, there's been a $25 million dollar price on his head now for eight years and not a single tribesman has come forward to rat him out.
TRIBES LIVE BY A CODE OF HONOR
Tribes don't operate by a system of laws; they operate by a code of honor. The Pashtuns, who are the dominant tribe in Pakistan and Afghanistan now, their code is called Pashtunwali and its primary virtues are nang, honor ... badal, the obligation for revenge ... and melmastia, hospitality.
HONOR IS EVERYTHING TO THE TRIBESMAN
Tribes are proud. Pride is the primary emotional attribute of the tribesman-manly, warrior pride. The tribesman would rather die than lose his pride. Honor is the tribesman's most prized possession. Without honor, life is not worth living.
TRIBES SUPPRESS WOMEN
There was a young lady in Kabul, Afghanistan a few years ago who had a TV show. She was sort of the voice of liberated, Western women in Afghanistan. She was murdered-this is a true story-she was murdered in her own home, not by intruders or thugs, but by her own brothers. They didn't shoot her; they stabbed her in the old-fashioned way. And what happened when the news of this came out, is the brothers were praised and honored because they had defended the old tribal ways, which is that women have a certain place and that place is suppressed. A tribe is a patriarchy. It's a man's world. The Taliban have burned literally hundreds of girls' schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And the reason they do that is because an educated woman, a woman who's thinking for herself, is a threat to the ancient, proud tribal ways.
TRIBAL VIRTUES ARE THE VIRTUES OF WAR
Tribal virtues are the virtues of war. All the virtues the tribesmen prize all lend themselves to fighting, to combat, and to war. Think about obedience, respect for elders, hostility to all outsiders, loyalty, fidelity, the obligation for revenge and blood payback.
In our next video, we'll get into this in detail and talk about the military aspect of tribes, what makes them such stubborn fighters and what techniques and points of view we can use to try and combat this natural born war fighting unit, the tribe.