Step Three: Priorities
In a survival situation, your first priority should be to make sure everyone is present and accounted for, and out of harm's way (at least for the
moment). They may be tired, cold, starving, and miserable, but if they know you got them outside the immediate danger of Situation X, and saved their
lives in doing so, they will most likely accept, and probably even expect your leadership. Don't let them down.
Familiarize yourself with Maslowe's Hierarchy of Needs (MHoN). While this is not Rote handed from on high, it is a solid guideline of your prioties
for people in your care. The concept behind MHoN is that mankind's desires may be categorized into different levels, and that the level below must be
satisfied before the level above may be met with any measure of efficacy. For instance, you can't really appreciate the literary beauty of
Shakespeare when you haven't eaten for days, and the constant patter of rain on your head is about to drive you mad.
So, here are the priorities to be fulfilled, in order, altered slightly for plain language and to fit the reality of a survival situation:
1. - Physiological - Air, Food, Water, Shelter, Latrine. If you cannot guide your people to meet even these basic demands for survival, you
will be replaced. Human beings are two meals away from barbarism. From the moment you become in charge, you need to be thinking about where your next
meal is going to come from at the same time you're getting people out of harm's way. Once people have eaten, they'll need to put together a
temporary community shelter, such as a lodge, with a firepit and smokehole in the roof. Once successfully safe, fed, watered, and sheltered, you will
have their respect, and your decisions will become the default. But you cannot rest there.
2. - Security - With the minimum standards of life met, people will want things to either remain status quo, or improve. This will require
security, in every aspect of the word. People need to know that their life is not in constant danger, that they will not have to worry about where
their next meal is going to come from, that their belongings will not be stolen, and that their family will be cared for. The two quickest ways to
accomplish this are going to be through a ready band of guards to defend against human and animal threats, and individual housing for families. Not
everyone's house will be able to be built at once. Concentrate first on families with children. Very few people can begrudge children the benefits of
safety, and those who would begrudge them usually quiet down in the presence of everyone else. Make sure everyone knows they'll all get everyone's
help in building the houses, but it may take time. Once all families with children are housed, start on the women's houses. In a survival situation,
the social equality and the surface-level feminism will need to be discarded in favor of ensuring the survival of the species. Children are your
future, women are the ones whom are capable of bearing that future. As such, men are pre-disposed towards allowing them first choice of resources
after the children. This leaves your single men and widowers as the last remainder before they too are housed.
While the houses are being built, you'll need contingents of people to scour the landscape for food, seed, herd animals, firewood, and so forth. Make
use of your children. Left idle, they will wander off and get into trouble, or they'll get in the way. Give them jobs they are capable of doing that
don't require a lot of skill or strength, and will tire them out over the course of a day. Firewood and stone gathering are ideal for this. Never let
anyone travel alone. If possible, have them travel in threes or more, this includes your adults. This not only allows for one to run for help and one
to stay behind, in the event of injury, but also psychologically will allow for better interactions between them as conversation and moods shift.
Once people have a permanent, personal shelter, food will be known to be forthcoming, and there are plans for "taming the land" to provide food in
the future, it will be time to set up a place of worship. You yourself may be an atheist, but you must recognize the need of some people for religion,
especially in times like Situation X. No matter how your personal views are, there needs to be some sort of spiritual guidance in the tribe,
and if you aren't going to provide it, then it will be provided for you. This could really complicate things. Try to find the most religiously
educated person in the group, and if that doesn't work, try to find the most tolerant old person that you can. Unless you happen to actually have a
minister, or a rabbi, or imam, or whatever in your group, it'd best to give this person a very nonspecific title. Heinlein was fond of "The Padre"
as a sort of spiritual guide for a platoon in Starship Troopers, but anything conveying respect without a specific religion attached, AND is friendly
to your own leadership, will do wonders for your prospects of a successful tribe.
Note the progression of terms along the way. Once you've begun to re-domesticate your people, you have all shared the bond of mutual protection,
feeding, child-rearing, and housing. You are a family. You are now a tribe in every sense of the word. Remember that, because the next level on MHoN
will require this community mindset.
3. - Community - Friendship, family, intimacy. As your tribe becomes more settled into the daily grind, the survival needs are met, and future
threats have been accounted for, people are going to start falling into a social mindset. People are gregarious by nature, and love will develop,
children will be born, families will grow, frienships will form, and kids will grow into adults. Fortunately, this is one of those needs that will
naturally sort itself out. However, you will need to handle the question of marriages, divorces, funerary services, etc. My personal recommendation is
that if you've already appointed a Padre, let them handle it. Keep business (you), seperate from family matters. However, if there is no Padre, or
you are both the leader and the Padre, you'll need to be prepared to start performing these duties upon request. Eventually these things will develop
Unfortunately, along with the growth of good things in a community, bad things will grow as well. Rivalries will form, and enemies will develop. The
lazy will covet the benefits of work without wanting to actually do the work, and theft is the inevitable result.
4. - Justice - The tribe will need you to settle disputes, and to make decisions regarding guilt and punishment. The last thing you want in
your tribe is vigilante justice, because when people are angry, or excited, or personally affected by the accused or the crime, their judgment is
worse than that of beasts. Proper Justice, as well as the chance for the accused to prove their innocence, requires a calm, neutral party to act as
the arbitor. As a tribal chief, you will largely be considered Judge, Jury, and Executioner unless you've otherwise set up a valid system by which a
Jury can be called, etc. However, unless you have a very large group, this might not even be an option, and the most "democratic" judgment might
have to be a tribunal of yourself, the padre, and someone else. A typical choice is the eldest of the tribe, but it's been my personal experience
that age does not convey morality or ethics, only wisdom and experience. A good choice for the third tribunal member would be the Quartermaster or
equivolent, as they would have some of the best understanding of the inner-workings of the tribal infrastructure and the best understanding of what
the loss of a particular resource would mean.
Punishment in a tribal situation is going to be very tricky, and will largely depend on your approach to how criminals should be handled. Whether you
lean more towards rehabilitation or punishment, be consistant. If you punish a horse thief with 5 lashes with a whip, then the next person found
guilty of stealing a herd animal should get the same. In a situation in which the survival of your tribe, and possibly the human race, depends on
people not following the rules, my personal opinion is that Justice will need to be harsher than it is in a civilized society where we can simply tuck
people away in a jail cell. If someone in your tribe commits a cold-blooded murder, they are not only a threat to the rest of the tribe, they are a
threat to anyone else they come across. If there's only 20 of you, and to your knowledge, you're the only ones left alive, then he just murdered 5%
of the human race. There's no room for the hope that he'll never murder again, and turning him loose in "banishment" is only inviting him to come
back and raid and kill later. For murderers, in a Situation X environment, the only sensible option will usually be the death penalty. Others may feel
different on this point.
Theft is often the easiest crime to re-habilitate, but if punishment is your mode, then corporal punishment is going to be most effective. At
lightest, lashes, at most, the loss of a finger. Again, as barbaric as it sounds, theft within a tribe desperately trying to survive must be put to a
permanent stop as quickly as possible or it could mean anything from starvation to ruin later on. Crimes we'd normally associate with simply paying a
fine or doing time, in a civilized wealthy society like America, have to be looked at in an entirely different light when life is on the line. If you
can re-habilitate a thief instead (my preferred method), you will have added to your tribe's productivity as well as gained an ally. If he's a
particularly GOOD thief, then make him a scout, and put those skills to use in the name of the law...
Ah, yes, The Law. You won't be around forever. In fact, in Situation X, you might be dead tomorrow from a bandit raid, disease, accident, or even a
coup d'etat. Even if you manage to not get killed, and live for another 40 years, there's a real good chance that one day you're going to have
trouble remembering what the usual punishment is for a particular crime that happened decades ago... What was the precedent? how was is resolved to
Tricky areas are going to come up. As people's families (and thus, their needs) grow, they gain property and posessions, and your tribe becomes more
and more advanced to the point of being a city-state, you will need to establish a government that can pass from ruler to ruler.
5. - Governance - While anarchy is possible in the short-run, with small numbers desperately clinging to survival, it is not a viable prospect
for the future of a people. Whether or not you want a government really isn't of importance. The fact is that if you don't create one, then
someone else will create one for you, and then all choice will have been removed from your hands. Thus, your next step will be to establish a Code of
Laws, a consistant Judicial System, a currency for standardization of trade, a standing military to defend the city-state, and a tax base to pay the
city employees with.
When the law is writ, none can question the bias of the messenger. When everyone has to pay their fair share to keep things going, fewer will grumble.
When you finally pass on, if there is a governmental system in place, you can die secure in the knowledge that they will almost certainly survive a
bloodless transition in power. The importance of government is all too often unrecognized, largely due to the corruption of large governments. Try to
keep this in mind, always, and remember that a leader is only leader so long as the people accept it.
However, State governance is not the only form. By now, several Padres will have formed, probably of varying religions. In a city state there may be
multiple temples, and organized religions will begin to form. Try to keep as many of them on your side as possible by favoring none, and allowing all
to exist. As soon as you oppress a religion, and force people to make the choice between church and state, you'll be quite dismayed at the results of
the flock. It doesn't matter that you lead them out of danger, fed them, sheltered them, helped them grow into a city state on the verge of
nationhood... if you tell a believer they are not allowed their religion, they will turn on you in an instant. Tread carefully, and make sure that you
stay out of each other's business. Your duty is to provide your people their physical and ethical needs. Their duty is to provide their spiritual and
More to come when I finish writing the next post for this thread...