This fable was part of a “Conversation With Pat Rahming” with students of the art and architecture classes at the College of the Bahamas on Friday, September 16, 2016. It addresses the popular discussion of building a nation.

Two friends, Og and Shabog, crouched behind a tree, waiting for the winter’s food to come by, armed to the teeth with rocks and their best clubs. Og turns to Shabog and, out of the clear, blue sky says,

“Let’s start a nation.”

Shabog’s short forehead furrowed, as he searched his computer-like prehistoric brain.

“What the hell’s a nation?”

The ground began to shake. The mammoth would soon be in the valley below.

“ Gorgon the Seer talked about something called a nation he once saw when looking into the future. Sounded cool.”

“So how do you start one of them?”

“When we get back to camp, let’s go ask him. Here comes the beast. Time to go to work.”

The old man motioned for them to sit down on the ground. He walked around the fire, selected a special branch from a pile next to his stool and dropped it into the fire. As the smoke engulfed him, he stood above it, eyes closed, head raised toward the cave’s ceiling. Then he sat down, opened his red eyes and began to speak.

“I see a great tribe made up of many tribes. Under a mystic spell, all the tribes in the great valley will put down their clubs and rocks and become one great tribe. All tribes will be one within what will be called a nation tribe.”

Og was curious. “How will that be possible? Each tribe is so different.”

The old man’s voice got higher and stronger, and he began to rock back and forth on his stool.

“In the future, a wise man says that what makes a tribe a tribe and what makes all tribes one are the same.  All warriors and their women and their children are carried to their destinies through the measure of the same five tests. The tribe confronts the tests for each tribesman, but the nation tribe will face them for all the tribes.”

Og and Shabog looked at each other. They have no idea what was just said.

“But what are these five tests?”

The cave was now filled with smoke, and Og and Shabog were feeling a little strange.

“They are the test of food, the test of safety, the test of the tribe-family, the test of honour and the test of becoming. Every warrior passes them for his woman and children, the tribe passes them for each warrior and the tribe nation passes them for the tribes.”

What the old man was saying made no ense to Og. Maybe this nation idea was just the old man’s imagination. Besides, he wasn’t saying anything about how to start one of these nation things. They might as well leave. But Shabog was now leaning forward, listening.

“To survive the first test, the test of food, the nation makes its food. Women no longer need to go into the forest and the tribes no longer have to go from forest to forest or follow the herd across the plains searching for food. The nation creates forests and herds, and the tribes trade with each other for food and water. In the nation there is enough food for everyone. No one dies for want of food, and the first test is completed”

Now the two friends were sure the old man was crazy. Imagine having enough food for many tribes. This nation thing must be just a wild dream.

“The second test is the test of safety. In the nation, everyone is safe because all the tribes agree to live in peace. Each man’s cave is respected, and called his property. Each tribe sends out their best warriors to stand watch, and punishment is the same for all. Fire is always lit, and each cave has wood enough to spare. The test of safety is passed in the tribe nation.”

Shabog started to laugh. There is no way a tribe would feel safe being guarded by another tribe’s men. But the old man was on a roll.

“Every man must belong to a tribe, and the tribe is the first family a man finds. The nation will be the second family. The nation family respects the tribe families and makes provision for each tribe to become stronger. The nation celebrates its tribal makeup and the things its tribes share. The nation keeps the customs of the tribes sacred, and creates customs all tribes share. In the tribe nation all tribes are one, but all tribes are still true to their own past.”

“Wait!” says Shabog, “You’re saying that this big tribe wants each tribe to be strong? Doesn’t that make it harder for the nation to control the tribes?”

“Yes it does. But is it not true that the stronger each of a tribe’s warriors is, the stronger that tribe is? In the same way, by having strong tribes, the nation becomes stronger.”

“Yes, yes. I see.”

“By building strong tribes within the nation tribe, the nation passes the test of the tribe family. And that is where the next test begins – the test of honour. Regardless of their tribe, the nation honours all great heroes of the hunt, keepers of the tales, the great doers of magic and all the greatest feats of strength in public ceremonies and monuments. Each man, regardless of his tribe, is given value in the nation tribe. And thus the nation passes the test of honour.”

The old man stopped, and the cave was silent again. Only the crackle of the fire broke the almost sacred silence. The two friends understood the need to honour the great ones, and this test made sense. With his eyes closed, the old man raised his arms towards the ceiling.

“Finally, the greatest test of all is the test of becoming. The nation seeks to make every tribesman great. Its warriors are trained by the best warriors from all the tribes. The same  is true for its singers of songs, makers of loincloths and painters of cave walls. In the nation, the many different tribes have come together to give every tribesman the best chance to be great. In the future, this will be the greatest test of the nation. In the future, the nation will create great halls for the pursuit of wisdom and places of becoming great. In this way it will pass the test of becoming.”

The old man opened his eyes slowly, and Og and Shabog noticed that they were completely glazed over. On his face there was now a strange, toothless grin as he rocked back and forth on his stool, covered in dark grey soot.

Suddenly a great shadow fell across the fire, and the old man’s woman stormed into the cave.

“You crazy old man. You burnin’ tha’ bush again? You know thas what gat you crazy now. Seein’ the future my eye! You’s just be dope up on tha’ bush, thas all.”

And thus ended the dream of Og Nation, One Million Y

ears BC.