02 January, 2013

Nomads, Gypsies and Bedouin

The other day, while I was at work, I was thinking about the nomadic groups of the Walkabout world. (If you want to see more posts about the Walkabout setting, look to the links at the top of the page).



Leah and I spent the night of Christmas in my parents caravan, so that's probably where the thought patterns were seeded. I was trying to wrap my head around certain constants.


  • Power and control are interlinked. 
  • In order to have power over something, you need to control it in some way. 
  • In order to have power over someone, you need to have some kind of control over aspects of their lives.
  • Traditionally, those who have a fixed home are easier to control because they have a sense of belonging to the fixed community around them. Sure, they could all get up and leave, but there is an inertia factor inherent within a traditional community.


We see that here in Australia when bushfire season comes. No one wants to leave when the fires engulf towns, they fight nature with everything at their disposal...and it's only when the town is reduced to cinders and ashes that people consider moving elsewhere.

The authorities, who control the people, need fixed constants in their people's lives to enact this control. They create laws so that everyone will act in a common way. They promote indoctrination rather than education, so that everyone will think the same way. They create religions so that everyone will believe the same things. They require "fixed addresses" so that they can be aware of their subject's locations.

There are always outsiders to these ideas. Criminals who work outside the laws. Free thinkers to seek knowledge of their own rather than accepting it blindly. Heretics who choose to believe things other than the standard dogma. Nomads who more from place to place.

The authorities have less control over these people, they persecute and marginalise each of them in different ways. Criminals are imprisoned, free thinkers are branded as crackpots, heretics are ostracised (or historically far worse), and nomads are treated as social pariahs or limited in where they may travel. In an ideal world, the authorities wouldn't abuse their power...but we don't live in an ideal world. In times when the respective authorities had more power (and civil liberties were far less), those who chose to live outside the regimented power structure were often killed for being a threat to the system. In modern times, the powers-that-be look to new methods of maintaining their strength over the community by instilling variant ways to curb the outsider.

Free thinkers and those who don't conform the to social majority are branded nerds, geeks, and other cruder terms by the "in-crowds" at high school. There is a subtle pressure to get these individuals to conform to the masses. Even at an adult level, broadcasters like "Fox news" receive all sorts of negative feedback from those who are able to think for themselves. The powers prefer their people indoctrinated rather than educated. Where it is impossible to indoctrinate an individual, the authorities will try to discredit their ideas (see the debate on global warming, where researchers who go against big corporate interests of find their funding cut, or find their studies attacked).

Modern criminals aren't simply executed, they are given trials, and in many cases the modern theory is to rehabilitate the offender. This makes them a productive member of the society controlled by the authorities, rather than dead weight in a prison cell.

Modern heretics are harder to categorise, especially when religion itself has become so fragmented. The catholic church is attacked for paedophilia among it's priests and for keeping the secret confessions of criminals safe from the eyes of the mundane authorities. Protestant churches have shattered into hundreds (if not thousands) of denominations. At a grander level, wars are declared with religious authorities clearly drawing lines in the sand.

Modern nomads are viewed as unproductive. (I made sure to do a bit of research before writing this piece, since I know a little about Gypsy/Romani culture but thought I would look into some of the other nomadic people of the world). The authorities brand them as having "high unemployment rates", "tax avoiders" (often because they don't pay land taxes, which is in turn because they don't need to), and "uneducated" (though my experience with education systems would incline me to say "unindoctrinated").    

I could probably add artists to these thoughts, but I think they fit into the free-thinker mould.

Those who choose to rebel against the authorities look to the outsiders as a romantic inspiration. The mystique of the subversive, the dark rebellion of the bohemian, the allure of the Gypsy and the Bedouin. Which in turn only wants to make the authorities want to stamp out these groups even further...the mere presence of these groups is something for the controlled subjects to rally around.

But what of a world where the power structures are gone?

If the global governments were wiped out by a catastrophe in a mater of weeks, what would happen as the ordered rigid lives of the controlled masses lost any semblance of reason? What would the indoctrinated do when forced to think for themselves because Fox news was unable to broadcast an more? What would the religious fundamentalists believe when their belief systems were turned on their heads by the manifestation of spiritual entities across the globe? What would lawful citizens do when there were suddenly no more police or military to keep the criminals in check? What would homeowners do when no-where was safe for any particular length of time, especially in the cities which had long been symbols of order and civilisation?

These are the thoughts currently rattling through my brain. I'm trying to reach logical conclusions about them in the context of the game setting I've devised.
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