Golden Oldie – Two Tribes


Two Tribes

Once upon a time there was a tribe of people who could only look to the left and another tribe of people who could only look to the right.

The tribe of ‘Right-lookers’ found that by standing opposite each other on each other’s right side they could see each other clearly. This worked really well as they got a clear view of each other’s face, meaning they got to know each other really well. They could see all things whether right or wrong and were able to help each other with problems in this way. Alas, over time, the idea of standing opposite each time meant that some began to think that opposite thinking was the best way. So, increasingly, criticism of each other took place and it became normal that problems were solved by arguing with each other for many hours until decisions were made. It took a long time and sometimes people got hurt – but progress was made.

The tribe of ‘Left-lookers’ found a different solution to dealing with each other. They decide to stand side by side facing the same way together, united in their goals and direction. However, it did mean they only ever got to see the back of each other’s head. This made it harder to know a person directly but that was okay as they were so united in their ideas that it was natural just to call everyone ‘brother’ or ‘aunty’ and other family names. Individuals didn’t matter a great deal. They developed huge communities that worked well together in times of crisis and trouble and they worked and walked side by side. However, just as they avoided looking directly at each other’s faces (which was considered very rude and disrespectful) so they never criticised each other directly. Instead they would tell others, who would tell others who would tell the person being criticised. Sometimes this was good because, if a brother was doing something wrong, three or four others would come to tell him and, while they were there, they would help him fix it too. Solving problems though, took a long time and sometimes people got hurt – but progress was made.

Now the two tribes knew about each other but just looked enviously at each other’s societies. Over many years, the Right tribe had better land whilst the Left tribe struggled with bad weather and many disasters but were much cleverer as a result of having to fix things a lot. Also, they started having little fights with each other and stealing from one another. But the Right tribe had better resources and, by stealing good, clever and beautiful things from the Left people, they gained the advantage. Eventually the Right tribe took over the Left tribe.

Unfortunately, in the Right tribe’s language, there was no difference between “Right” and “Correct” and so they came to view all things ‘righty’ as being the only true way to do things. They could not understand the Left tribe’s ‘leftiness’ and their silly adherence to this way. It infuriated the Right people that Left people could not do anything directly and always took a difficult route to do… well, anything really. The Right people struggled with the Left people’s land which was hot and often dangerous. They could not persuade the Left people to become Right like them and all the time the Left people had the ridiculous notion that they could look after themselves and all Right people did was take their valuables. ‘What nonsense,’ thought the Right people ‘Right is Might and we are mighty. Left is best left behind. If they must be Left then they deserve to have us take their things and use them the Right way.’

Over time though, the views of the Right people began to change. They got tired of telling Left people what to do and all the trouble the Left people caused. Some of them began to doubt that Right really did mean ‘correct’ and the word spread. When they were nearly taken over by the nearby Up people they really began to re-think how they viewed others. Soon, no Right person believed they were right at all and they left the land of the Left tribe and went back to their own land. Of course, they didn’t give back anything they had stolen or help with the damage they had caused. Nor did they help with any of the problems that Left people had to deal with all the time anyway – like the weather. They just left the Lefts.

Many years later the Rights continued to prosper from all the things they had taken long ago but the Lefts never really recovered. Soon, Left people began to come to the land of the Rights to ask for help in their land. They needed food, clothes, medicine, education and so much more. So some of the kinder Right people began to organise ways to come over and help.

This could have been a great time of healing and understanding between these two great tribes but, alas, the Right people still really did not understand how the Left people did things and, because they were so brash and abrupt, the Left people were easily offended by some of the things Right people did even when trying to help.

Some Right people were so ashamed of their own tribe that they tried to become ‘lefty’ and wore the same clothes as Left people and even walked backwards so they would walk with a Left person in a Left way – side by side. Unfortunately, this just looked silly to everyone and instead of building relationships just embarrassed other Right people and their own Left friends. Some Right people tried to tell Left people how to behave and how to do things and how they must do things in the old traditional Left way, even though many Left people liked some of the Right ways and thought that they might just be…well, right.

And so, the same old confused communications took place. Many Left people just didn’t want Right people there at all and others wanted to give up being Left and just be exactly like Right people. No Right person believed they should rule the Left people again but a lot of them despaired of how Left people could just not get it Right. Others tried to stop any help given to the Lefts because it might make them more Right and that was wrong – even if it meant leaving the Lefts in trouble and despair. At least it was Left trouble and despair.

This is how it is today. It is sad really because all the bad things about being Right – like arguing and fighting and stealing and confrontation – are happening in Left land whilst the Right people are losing any sense of friendship, or family or working together which the Left people are just brilliant at. The Left land is still short of resources and is beaten by the terrible weather whilst the Right land still contains all the resources the Left people need. Some Right people still think they know better than Left people how to run Left land and some Left people see the Right land with all its riches and think “I need to be Right and do the Right man’s things. Then I will be rich like him”.

A very small number of Right people manage to come to Left land happy in their own Righty natures but glad at the same time to learn some Leftiness from Left people too. They come to help where the Left person tells them they need help and they have realised that if they walk on the Left person’s right side they can see them comfortably the way these Right people are used to in their own land, but at the same time can walk side by side the way the Left person needs to be comfortable too. Both have to learn to do this and cope with a new way of doing things, but they enjoy working and learning together.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Right and Left people laugh at them and say “How silly and how simple. It’ll never last”.

I am Left thinking they may be Right


About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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6 Responses to Golden Oldie – Two Tribes

  1. Pingback: Golden Oldie – Seven Things the British Should Know About Bangladesh | kenthinksaloud

  2. I’ve lived in a few countries myself and its true getting it right is hard… but it comes with observance and respect… eventually you catch on.. as you will have noticed…

    I think you are doing very well… also if you have kids growing up there .. you will learn a lot through them too…

    I think every country has it’s mistakes and a past they are not proud of .. look at germany lol


    • All very true and yes, I do hope we’re doing at least ok – otherwise I would leave and never come back. I have to believe we’re making a difference in a positive way or we really should not be there.

      Yes, having kids growing up there really does help – as does teaching kids as I do. I learn a lot from them in every kind of way.

      Your example of Germany is a good one – I think we’re on a par – at least as far as India is concerned. We acted in ignorance and ignored the culture we attempted to control. The danger these days, as this little tale tries to hint at, is that we now have a ‘reverse colonial’ thinking that tries to preserve everything of another culture -regardless of whether that culture still wants to keep it or not!

      No easy answers but your comment of “observance and respect” I think is the key – both in equal measure. Thanks for spending the time sharing these thoughts – I love your blogs!


  3. I enjoyed your story very much and I don’t think you are being too strong or offensive.

    My thoughts are that everyone is on this earth for a reason… either you have a purpose or you are here to learn or you are here so that people can learn from you. Be that through your good deeds or your mistakes.

    Many people want to better themselves and can’t and many want to help others better themselves.. to change your own thinking is hard enough but to change the way others thing is harder..

    And when you are trying to penetrate a caste system… well its practically impossible…


    • Thank you for your comments – from you I consider it a real compliment being a great story teller yourself 🙂

      I think your thoughts are very noble and full of right intentions. I worry about people who go into cultures they think they understand and end up wrecking them even with those good intentions. Being British and knowing what we did to the Indian subcontinent that is very important because we have a past history of getting it wrong. Living and working in Bangladesh I worry about it more in case I am still doing it by accident. thankfully, we don’t have to worry too much about the caste system, though other traditions are equally strong. working out which are good and which are not so good is the hard part…


  4. I’ll kick off by saying that reading this months after writing it and I find myself cringing and worrying that it is too offensive. Am I being too strong? Or not strong enough? Or maybe my original thought for writing is mistaken? Hmm…


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