11 February 2014 | Wuchakk
There's power if you seek it
"Tribes" came out in 1970, months after the Kent State shootings at the height of the protest against the Vietnam war. It was released on TV in America but theatrically overseas as "The Soldier Who Declared Peace." The film features an interesting culture clash between two Marine drill instructors and a hippie draftee. One drill instructor, Drake (Darren McGavin), starts to see the merits of the hippie, Adrian (Jan-Michael Vincent), but the senior drill instructor refuses to budge an inch.
Adrian opens up a whole new world for Drake, one that he never considered. What turns Drake's head is that Adrian isn't some stereotypical drugged-out hippie; he's the most intelligent and fit recruit in his platoon, but how can this be since he dropped out of school and is a hippie? Through a learning attitude and meditational practices Adrian has tapped into a power source that gives him the edge over the rest of the recruits. Drake SEES it and can't deny it, especially since Adrian's techniques start working with the other recruits as well.
This shakens Drake because he had pegged all hippies as drug-addled vagabonds. But the evidence is undeniable and he can't help but develop respect for the hippie. It also rattles him because he comes to realize that Adrian, despite being only 19 years-old or so, is superior to him in some ways. In other words, the mentor could learn a thing or two from the mentee, which isn't the way it's supposed to be in boot camp. The good thing is that Drake is humble enough -- teachable enough -- to receive from Adrian whereas the senior drill instructor (Earl Holliman) is too arrogant and ape-ish to do anything but spurn him.
The film is smart in that it doesn't paint Adrian as omnipotent or wholly wise, nor is Drake the opposite. They both have valuable perspectives, intelligence & skills and can learn from each other, if they're open. For instance, Adrian is extraordinary when it comes to mental discipline and the power to overcome the physical and mental challenges of boot camp, but he fails miserable on the rifle range because his indoctrination cripples him from merely shooting a rifle, let alone shooting a human being. Adrian obviously adheres to absolute pacifism, which refuses to ever turn to violence in response to opposition or evil. Clearly Adrian could learn a thing or two about the necessity of self-defense and opposing people who reject the grace of peace and are bent on destruction or evil. It's called limited pacifism, which is what Jesus Christ advocated -- a peaceable attitude that only resorts to violence when necessary. See my review of "Billy Jack" for more details, if interested.
The film was shot at the Marine Corps depot in San Diego; I went to boot camp at the one in Parris Island, SC. I bring up my experience because of some parallels with the movie. For instance, a spiritual leader rose up in my platoon, much as Adrian does in "Tribes," although he was older than Adrain and he adhered to a different spiritual discipline, Christianity. As the weeks wore on he proved himself over and over -- his mental/spiritual stamina -- and he attracted a formidable following, who hanged around him during free time, much like the recruits do with Adrian. One similarity of these two is that they both led through humble, gentle wisdom rather than a domineering, bloviating spirit, like the drill instructors. In other words, they led without putting on the puke-inducing airs of conventional "leadership." They led simply by influencing people positively by their undeniable wisdom and the power they've obviously tapped into. This is true leadership.
I mention this because there are other ways to tap into extraordinary power than Transcedental Meditation, like Adrian, even superior ways. The Christian recruit I mentioned did it too, although it wasn't as unrealistically overdone as it was in the film with Adrian. Of course I realize it's a film and the filmmakers had to exaggerate some things to keep it interesting for its 90-minute runtime. What was unrealistic? Well, for one, the idea that Adrian was able to win over the ENTIRE platoon and, secondly, that every recruit was able to enter into such a deep state of meditation that Drake had a hard time waking them out of their inner bliss one morning, including Quentin who's taking drugs and is clearly unstable -- unstable enough to attempt suicide.
I bring the above up because "Tribes" shouldn't be pigeonholed as TM propaganda (although it may have that effect on some) anymore than the Christian's actions in my platoon could be construed as Christian propaganda. (By the way, I didn't hang around this guy, the things I mentioned above were just things I noticed and it somewhat influenced me years later. So I guess he did positively influence me, huh?). The film simply shows that there's more for you -- more power, knowledge, wisdom -- if you seek it, but this treasure exists outside conventional training and educational structures.
What's interesting is that both the drill instructors in the film are probably Christian, at least nominally. And it shows how sterile and powerless Christianity has become in the West, at least in some ways. Believe it or not, the Bible actually supports meditation, as Psalm 119:15-16 shows, not to mention the incredible power available through spiritual rebirth and the baptism of the Spirit. These dynamic aspects of Christianity are generally written off, ignored or mocked by most denominations and blockheaded pastors, which is shameful. Is it any wonder that people -- even professing believers -- can be intrigued by TM and other such disciplines to the point that they think Christianity is somehow a lesser belief system? Actually, it's far more than a mere belief system or spiritual discipline; I'd elaborate but I don't want this review to turn into Christian propaganda, lol.