Note: This paper was originally written for publication in an anthropology academic journal so the examples of Tsivitca vocabulary given were recorded in the international phonetic alphabet. To make the paper accessible to a wider audience, however, the vocabulary has been recorded below in an approximation that uses normal English spelling rules
By: RUTH GRUHN
A brief examination of the Tsivitca cult reveals in its world-view such features as a messianic origin, a concept of the universe as unidimensional in space and time, an apocalyptic view of the future, an unchallengeable belief in the existence of absolute truth, a preoccupation with evil and sin, and social values stressing conformity in life-styles as well as in religious ritual and belief. A major Tsivitca ritual is analysed. Further research is suggested.
IN THE BEST TRADITION of studies of the Nacirema, I offer the following analysis of a regional variant of the Tsivitca Movement. This new religious cult is now widely distributed in the Western world, but I shall concentrate in this brief preliminary analysis on the world-view of the movement as it is manifest in northern North America, where I have had actual field experience for several years.
Tsivitca religion is a complex system of interrelated beliefs and practices which completely dominates the thoughts and behaviour of its dedicated followers. Basic to the understanding of the Tsivitca Movement is an analysis of the world-view. This fundamental philosophy is implicit in the observed behaviour of followers of the cult and in the mythology presented in its current literature.
It must be emphasised at the outset of this analysis that one of the most significant characteristics of the Tsivitca world-view is that it is exclusive and absolute. The Tsivitca hold their world-view as unquestionably absolute truth, and will admit no other. Indeed, it seems to be difficult for some Tsivitca to conceive that other peoples might hold a different world-view. The Tsivitca believe they and they alone possess the revealed truth, the single explanation and the single solution to all problems. This firm conviction of self-righteousness is readily observable in any public discussion of a particular subject, in which Tsivitca assert and affirm their own interpretation as the only possible. Expression of opinions contrary to the Tsivitca world-view is considered blasphemy which must be suppressed; and Tsivitca commonly react to criticism of specific aspects of their world-view by simply ignoring it as unreal ("ireluvunt"), or else by intensive vilification of its source as evil. Tsivitca devoutly hold on faith that the world is as they describe; and other views (cateororically termed "fashist") are evil.
Detailed information on the historical sources of the doctrine preached by the Tsivitca has already been made available by many students of the movement. The writings of a German scholar initiated the movement in the late nineteenth century, and significant basic refinements of the doctrine and associated practices were made by an inspired Russian saint in the early twentieth century. The sacred writings of these two early messianic prophets are still considered the tenets of the faith, and the primary reference for all philosophy and behaviour. Especially devout members of the Tsivitca Movement currently refer constantly to a little red breviary composed by a Chinese living Buddha. A comparative study suggests that virtually all of the basic doctrine of the Tsivitca Movement is derived from these sources; no original doctrine has evolved locally in northern North America.
The primary goal of life, according to the Tsivitca view, is to bring about the destruction of present society. This apocalyptic event, considered the only potential form of significant change in the universe, is called "thu revulushun". It is conceived as some sort of violent uprising against evil powers which Tsivitca believe dominate the world. The stress is on immediate action -- "Do it!" is a current slogan. At present in northern North America, however, only one small group of Tsivitca, localised in an eastern province, has taken any kind of physical action toward this primary goal; and even this very indirectly. The vast majority of Tsivitca (who can be called Armchair Tsivitca) in practice devote their efforts to membership recruitment through intensive proselytisation campaigns.
Despite overt claims to universality, the Tsivitca world is in close analysis unidimensional in time and space. Tsivitca are essentially present-time oriented. Modern history, with its description of transpired events which appear to throw doubt upon the doctrine of the movement or the character of the hereafter, is quite deliberately ignored. The end of the present world ("thu revulooshun") is future-indefinite. The hereafter seems to be very vaguely conceived indeed. When pressed, a Tsivitca will speak of it as some sort of classless, stateless economic paradise with no dominating evil powers; but a detailed description apparentlv cannot be provided.
The Tsivitca universe also has a narrow spatial range. Present socio-political conditions and foreign policy of two very large and densely populated countries of Eurasia are quite deliberately excluded from contemplation. Concrete specific knowledge of sociopolitical conditions in other areas outside northern North America is infrequent among Tsivitca, who, when queried, usually only assert that these areas are in any case suffering from domination by evil powers.
Indeed the most striking aspect of the world-view of the Tsivitca is an obsessive preoccupation with evil. Concern with evil beings of various categories, the evil deeds of these beings, and the struggle against evil permeate the literature of the movement. The Tsivitca universe is dominated by abstract evil powers; and populated by demons, ogres, and witches who are the agents of these evil powers.
It should be pointed out that the difference between good and evil in the Tsivitca world-view is absolute and arbitrary. For example, in the economic sphere, a "karparayshun" is a large complex impersonal organisation which is classified as evil; "thu steyt" is a larger, more complex impersonal organisation which is classified as good. A pro-white is "reysist" (evil); a pro-black is not. The coercion, force, or violence which is carried out by the Tsivitca is considered morally right and good; coercion, force, or violence by other groups is classified as evil.
The Tsivitca hold an encompassing belief that virtually all of the evil extant in the world emanates, directly or indirectly by very intricate ramifications, from a country which is located in the central part of North America. The precise source of the evil in this region was unascertainable: informants' references are consistently to evil powers which are very abstract in nature. Sometimes the evil power is referred to as "thu yewess garvinmin", "thu yewess militree industreeul karmpleks"; or even more generally; "thu yewess", or "thu amerikuns". Whatever its specific locus or origin, this dreadful and much-feared evil spreads throughout the world by a sort of contact-osmosis, a process called "impeereeulizm", which is readily identified by the Tsivitca in any place where any part of "amerikun" culture exists or has existed.
Other evil powers which are believed to exist locally are also abstract in nature, being referred to by the terms "establishmunt", "uthorutee" or "thu sistum". The Tsivitca see the populace as continually persecuted by demons, who serve as tangible omnipresent agents of these evil powers. Indeed a major theme is Tsivitca art is the depiction of policemen and soldiers as ogres.
Martyrdom is highly valued among the Tsivitca. Indeed, it is very actively sought; Tsivitca deliberately attempt to provoke attack by demons in an effort to demonstrate to the rest of the populace that evil demons and ogres do in fact exist. Tsivitca ritual in the courtroom, for example, is clearly directed towards this objective. A Tsivitca who suffers a fatal or severe attack by demons is canonised.
As a corollary to their great preoccupation with evil, the Tsivitca hold a strong concept of original sin. Certain contemporary social groups are held responsible for injustices of the past. On the basis of this concept, some Tsivitca of distinctive ethnic origin who are descendants of those who suffered injustice have demanded material reparations from descendants of those who inflicted the injustice. The concept of original sin is also implicit in proselytisation techniques applied to anthropologists and other social scientists through arguments that guilt accrued by complicity with evil powers in their kind of research can be expurgated only by wholehearted commitment to the world-view of the Tsivitca Movement.
Tsivitca congregations are typically organised in small groups in which social values stress rigid conformity to group norms in dialect, dress, and personal habits as well as in the religious ritual and belief. Solidarity among all the faithful is an overt ideal despite an increasing trend toward sectarianism due to varying interpretations of the doctrine.
The Tsivitca conceive themselves as a chosen people, the elect who are destined to direct the rest of the populace (termed "thu peepul"), or more formally, "thu massiz") in the overthrow of the evil powers which now dominate the world, and then to rule in the hereafter. Since a very high proportion of Tsivitca belong to the upper or middle classes and/or are intellectuals, this elitist role proclaimed by the Russian saint and the living Buddha is easily assumed; and indeed many Tsivitca attempt to project a heroic personality image. A curious contradiction appears, however, in attempts to obscure or even conceal this elitist position and identify with "thu peepul"; a very difficult feat since Tsivitca values are actually so different from those of "thu peepul". Often identification is simply asserted: the Tsivitca boldly claims to speak for the worker, the student, blacks, Indians, women, etc. The contradiction often becomes painfully apparent, however, when in a crisis situation a drastic action by Tsivitca finds no popular support and indeed often popular repudiation.
Tsivitca are therefore at present devoting a major effort to an intensive proselytisation campaign. In order to spread the gospel, a tremendous quantity of printed matter --leaflets, official student newspapers, 'underground' newspapers --has been produced and distributed to groups of "thu massiz" whose members are believed to be most easily converted (minority groups of selected ethnic origin; the young). With missionary zeal, leading Tsivitca preachers carry out vigorous speaking campaigns among these groups. In sermon after sermon, or article after article, and issue after issue of a given Tsivitca tract, the essentials of the Tsivitca world-view are passionately asserted, affirmed, and reaffirmed: evil powers do exist as they describe; evil powers do in reality dominate the lives of "thu peepul" completely by mysterious inexplicable mechanisms termed "rupreshun", upreshun", or "eksploytayshun"; and the one and only way to salvation is through support of Tsivitca organisations dedicated to bringing about "thu revulooshun" which will do away with evil powers forever.
Much of Tsivitea ritual is secret, but some features are readily apparent to the observer at a public ceremony commonly called a "teechin". This ceremony , designed to produce an effect of Tsivitca identification with "thu massiz", is staged periodically in a hall at a university, where large numbers of prospective converts may be induced to attend. A number of preliminary activities are designed to increase the participation of "thu massiz" in the ritual. The event is widely advertised by leaflets and posters distributed throughout the campus, and lead articles in the student newspaper intrepret the esoteric meaning of the ritual and the wonders it is to accomplish. The local Tsivitca organisation usually attempts to persuade the university administration to facilitate the ideal of a totalitarian participation of "thu massiz" by cancellation of classes because of the seriousness of the situation requiring the ceremony.
At the entrance to the ritual chamber, devotees of the living Buddha distribute printed literature extolling the Tsivitca worldview. Whatever the size of the audience, virtually all of the active participants in the ritual are Tsivitca. A Tsivitca leads the ritual from a central point on a stage before the seated audience. Several speakers, said to present different points of view although it all sounds the same, deliver formal orations denouncing the activities of evil powers. The oration is punctuated by loud exclamations from Tsivitca who may spring up from their seats scattered among the audience in a ritual posture with one fist clenched. As time passes and one orator succeeds another, the speeches and the accompanying exclamations may become more and more emotional in tone, often with liberal use of forbidden words in order to demonstrate hatred and defiance of evil powers. The Tsivitca orator considered most adept at arousing emotional reaction from the audience speaks at the last. Ritual formulae may be chanted. Then, in a climax of religious fervour, an orator or a selected Tsivitca in the audience may shout for an immediate physical demonstration, an additional "proetest" ritual such as a sit-in, a march, or best of all a riot which is sure to cause demons to materialise, in order to confront the evil powers with incantations, insulting words and gestures. According to most informants, such a ritual produces a tremendous spiritual experience. However, if the audience fails to show sufficient interest in ceremonial of this nature, there is resort to an alternative identification ritual in which a "kumittee" of Tsivitca is nominated by Tsivitca in the audience, forming an elite group which then carries out Tsivitca policies as sanctioned representatives of "thu peepul".
As a result of an intensive proselytisation campaign, the Tsivitca Movement has gained considerable strength in university communities in recent vears. The university, however, is the traditional locus of a potentially very dangerous element: "librulz". Until "librulz" can be converted, intimidated or otherwise exorcised, Tsivitca realise that they face interminable challenges to the absolute truth of their world-view. Many Tsivitca, recognising the danger, have now proclaimed "librulizm" a major evil, and view its practitioners as witches.
In this preliminary analysis I have touched only briefly upon the major aspects of the world-view of the Tsivitca Movement; a more detailed study will surely produce more insights. Many other aspects of the religion remain to be investigated in detail; such as, for example, the magic power of the esoteric vocabulary, with its many archaic words and euphemisms. There would also seem to be more to the origins and organisation of the movement in northern North America than meets the eye. Of greatest interest would be in-depth psychological studies which might reveal how rational individuals undergo personality transformation during conversion to such a movement.
(This chapter originally appeared as an article entitled "A preliminary analysis of the world-view of the Tsivitca movement in Northern North America" in the Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 1971, 8, 185-190.)