Sunday, July 27, 2008

Neo-Tribal Ethics

Many of us who follow paths of alternative spirituality today are dealing with the need to address the question of what the structure of our communities will be. We no longer live in a tribal setting. What used to be roles within the community that were held be real people who we knew and trusted are now performed by extra-communal, non-human entities like "Government," "Law," and "the Bureaucracy."   

While we are more individualistic, we still have a strong pull toward a "tribal" sense of community. And there has been a movement of spiritual groups to develop a "neo-tribal" structure to their communities. 

At a recent event, Elisheva - Shofet of the Amcha and my long time friend and mentor - offered a workshop on Neo-Tribal ethics. I feel that her input is of great value to the Post-Tribal Shamanic and Sheya communities - as well as anyone else on a similar path. So I will share some of my notes with you. 

This is a list of the values held by the Amcha - which is helpful for any neo-tribal group to consider. 
• Self reliance - Think for yourself, but maintain good connection with the group; adult competence.
• Cooperation - Helping each other.
• Courage - Think and act with integrity - but open to new ideas. Be willing to speak your truth - even when it is unpopular.
• Respect and encourage the moral courage of others 
• Generosity - Give with an open heart. Be generous of mind.
• Honor - Keep your word/commitments, but be open to renegotiating contracts when things change.
• Hospitality - Honor your guests and treat them with respect, but don't invite people who you do not respect.
• Family - Treat your blood family and family of choice with respect. You don't have to like them, but you do have to honor them.
• Frankness - Speak your mind. Say what you mean - mean what you say.
• Friendship - Know how close you are to others and act accordingly. Be aware of the degrees of obligation between acquaintance and friend.
• Moderation - Live with good sense - in balance.
• Simplicity - Use resources only as needed.
• Steadfastness - Honor your commitments.

When considering how these values apply to Sheya, I find that we need to more clearly state and acknowledge our norms - especially to those newly entering the community.

1 comment:

Candace said...

Even though we may form a sort of tribe, we don’t have centuries-long traditions or tribal chiefs to tell us how to behave in an ethical way. In an individualistic society like ours, “tribal ethics” is whatever individual ethics are practiced by a critical mass of individuals in the group. Deeply rooted personal ethics, which have benefits for the “tribe” and beyond, are the result of serious individual practice, through stillness/meditation and daily life practice. Without practice and hard-earned self-knowledge it’s hard to tell the difference between behavior motivated by our egos or our fears and behavior motivated by ethical concerns. To take one example: My idea of “speaking my truth” and being frank may be right speech or it may be a way for me to attack other people in the name of honesty. “My truth” may just be a reflection of my blind spots. I need enough self-awareness and mindfulness to know when it’s courageous to speak up and when it would be wise to keep my mouth shut, and to know how to speak in a clear, but respectful way even when the message will be hard to hear. Honest self-knowledge, self-respect, compassion and humility are essential for us to be able to practice any of the virtues you’ve listed in a way that benefits the group.

And how does the tribe promote these individual values within the group? The most important is for people who are already leaders to practice them in their daily lives. But beyond that -- every tribe and spiritual tradition has stories that illustrate the group’s principals. Biblical parables, Sufi stories, stories of the Buddha, tribal legends, etc. are much “stickier” and more inspiring than any e-list postings or other chatter about how to live. Do we find our own stories or use those from other traditions or both?

This may be assumed, but I think it’s important to state explicitly that these and other kinds of ethical behavior extend beyond the “tribe”. Tribalism, i.e., acting as though those in the tribe are worthy of more respect than those outside it, is the dark side of many tribal societies – traditional and modern.