The Babemba Tribe and Delinquent Behavior

Image - circle of unityIn many cultures, when someone strays beyond the bounds of civil, decent or lawful behavior, the community's approach is to bombard the offender time and time again with a retelling of every wrong committed and every negative consequence rendered. Not so in the case of the Babemba tribe, in which the "treatment" given the delinquent, is the polar opposite. While I've come across the story of the Babemba several times, I've yet document to document its source. Fable, history, or a bit of each--I find the story's possibilities inspiring.

The Babemba tribe of southern Africa has a social structure with an elementary criminal code. Their close community living makes harshness unnecessary. A visitor was deeply impressed by the tribe's handling of antisocial, delinquent behaviors, which are exceedingly infrequent. When a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he/she is placed in the center of the village, alone, unfettered. All work ceases. All gather around the accused individual. Then each person of every age, begins to talk out loud to the accused. One at a time, each person tells all the good things the one in the center ever did in his/her lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to fabricate, exaggerate or be facetious about accomplishments or positive aspects of the accused person. The tribal ceremony often lasts several days, not ceasing until everyone is drained of every positive comment that can be mustered. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe. Necessity for such ceremonies is rare!"
Retrieved online from Peace Pilgrim, July 14, 2008: Friends of Peace Pilgrim Newsletter