I was talking to a friend and I ended up quoting from a saga play1, and it got me thinking. It’s been a while since I saw a saga play, and the ones I’ve seen have been about heroes and wars and rebellions, or myths - rarely do the ones about modern days get staged anymore, it seems.
Shishaan itself, when you visit now… It’s a bustling city, with great variety in the various parts of the city, tribal colors proudly presented, tourism on the rise, the Performing Arts Cente well-visited and well-loved, it seems. A true tribal revival, just like everywhere on Pator, like everywhere in our nation.
But that’s just what it looks on a first glance. What the “revival” pushes on us is selected, and carefully vetted. It presents whatever suits the political goals of the ones pushing it as “traditional”, and whatever they want people to stop doing as “outside influence”. Yet what is tradition but a living thing, people taking what the previous generations have done, and preserving it, and adding on it? Old ways learned from a book are not tradition, they are scripture.
Just like everywhere in Pator, all over the Republic traditional industries - those that clans have worked at for continuous generations ever since the Rebellion - are struggling, because someone thought our traditional - ever since the Rebellion - ways of governing ourselves were not good enough for them, and they did not have a clue about how to deal with the necessary inter-tribal co-operation.
Traditional industry circles are reduced to peddling “tribal” trinkets and performing “old” dances to gawking tourists, while their property is locked in jurisdiction battles. People are beaten because their customs do not confirm to someone’s idea of “tribal”. Theaters are bombed because they dare put up satires.
Face it: none of us knows a thing for real about how the Minmatar Empire government functioned before the Darkness fell. The current way is a reconstruction as much as the government before Shakor’s was. We know even less about what Sebiestor spiritual beliefs or Brutor dances or Vherokior foods looked like before the fall. And what we do not know and will never know is how they would look today if we had not been enslaved.
That tradition was murdered and it will never happen again. It does not exist. We cannot “go back” to it, because it never happened, and because the Day of Darkness did. The only thing we have is our living tradition. Yes, it has been influenced by our allies in the Federation. Yes, it has been influenced by our years in Darkness. But that was tradition does, that’s why it is tradition, and not law, or scripture. Tradition carries history. It cannot “return to its roots” without losing that history.
When we frown on the saga play as a “modern invention”, when we deny people the right to follow their religion because “no true Matari” would do it, when we refuse to accept changing rituals when the world changes (such as Voluvals on clones), we are not following tradition, we are forcing it. We are being like the Amarr, saying that we have to do things in a particular way, because some old lord or lady in ancient times put it in a book. And like the Amarr, we are not even doing that honestly: we are picking and choosing.
We are losing our ways in this “revival”. We are losing ways to settle tribal disputes that worked. Many of those who knew how to make things work now dead, so that in addition to tourism, governance sector on Pator is overblown, incompetent, and wasting precious resources2. We are losing songs that were never written down, because idiots who don’t understand ■■■■ about how traditional culture works are telling other idiots “no, don’t sing that, it’s in Gallentean, sing this, it sounds much more tribal”. And we are losing stories that never get written, because authors have to fear repercussions to themselves, their circles, and their families, if the material does not please the local “revivalists”.
And those things we are losing are as much our tradition as any “old ways” someone digs up from a book or records from some tottering Krusual fool who remembers her granny telling her granny had told her granny had once said this used to be the way before everyone had to run to the hills.
- Saga plays are a Mikramurka north-east coast urban art form, theatrical plays with dialogue in poetry form. Some of them are hero stories and legends, but modern day stories in the style where popular too when I was younger. The plays are often melodramatic - tragic loyalty conflicts leading to suicide or murder are typical saga material. The play in question here was Maryan in Shishaan, a typically tragic story of a young woman who goes to the big city for her diversion years, ends up in a loyalty conflict, death ensues. The bit I quoted was Maryan to her lover, torn between the call of the outside and her loyalty to her clan: “like falling dice / is my fate / like undealt cards / is our love / will you still be here in the fall?”
- Take this from someone whose clan has worked jurisdiction and Sebiestor law since the Rebellion. It is not better now.