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Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Sebastian Junger, the bestselling author of War and The Perfect Storm, takes a critical look at post-traumatic stress disorder and the many challenges todays returning veterans face in modern society.There are ancient tribal human behaviors-loyalty, inter-reliance, cooperation-that flare up in communities during times of turmoil and suffering. These are the very same behaviors that typify good soldiering and foster a sense of belonging among troops, whether theyre fighting on the front lines or engaged in non-combat activities away from the action. Drawing from history, psychology, and anthropology, bestselling author Sebastian Junger shows us just how at odds the structure of modern society is with our tribal instincts, arguing that the difficulties many veterans face upon returning home from war do not stem entirely from the trauma theyve suffered, but also from the individualist societies they must reintegrate into.A 2011 study by the Canadian Forces and Statistics Canada reveals that 78 percent of military suicides from 1972 to the end of 2006 involved veterans. Though these numbers present an implicit call to action, the government is only just taking steps now to address the problems veterans face when they return home. But can the government ever truly eliminate the challenges faced by returning veterans? Or is the problem deeper, woven into the very fabric of our modern existence? Perhaps our circumstances are not so bleak, and simply understanding that beneath our modern guises we all belong to one tribe or another would help us face not just the problems of our nation but of our individual lives as well.Well-researched and compellingly written, this timely look at how veterans react to coming home will reconceive our approach to veterans affairs and help us to repair our current social dynamic....

Title : Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
Author :
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ISBN : 9781455566389
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 192 pages
Url Type : Home » Tribe » Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

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Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging Reviews

  • Jean Poulos

    I have read several articles recently about our society’s problems with individualism. When I saw Junger’s short book on the subject, I thought it might give me a more in-depth viewpoint on the subject, which it did.

    Junger tells of Benjamin Franklin’s 1753 observation that white prisoners of Native American Tribes when recused would run back to the Native American Tribe they had been with. But the situation never worked it reverse. Franklin concluded there was something wrong with our society.


  • Monica

    **Warning: This review may be longer than the entire book.**

    Interesting and thought provoking; if not entirely convincing. On the one hand, some very compelling ideas about the feeling of smaller, close knit communities and how they can foster and encourage good mental health and enhance happiness. On the other hand, Junger for the most part, blames wealth and technological advances for the moral decline of America. While not without evidence, it's still an arduous climb to get to where he wants

    I do not use footnotes because this is not an academic book and footnotes can interfere with the ease of reading. Nevertheless, I felt that certain scientific studies about modern society, about combat, and about post-traumatic stress disorder had the potential to greatly surprise or even upset some readers. [sic] After giving the matter much thought, I decided that doing so was within my journalistic standards as long as I was clear with my readers about my lack of documentation.
    I read this as "caveat emptor" aka brace yourself for some unsubstantiated and perhaps unpalatable bull pucky.

    I approached with the appropriate (in my mind) amount of trepidation and what I found was a philosophical potpourri, some of which I suspect to be true (which perhaps demonstrates some bias in me) and some of which details the bias of the author. Junger starts out with a very compelling premise about the nature of communities. His premise boiled down to the idea that smaller, simpler communities were better for mankind in all the ways that matter (spiritually, physically, psychologically). Basically he asserts that the small communities are more egalitarian and force everyone to do their fair share and promotes a view for the common good rather than for self. The bulk of his proof stemmed from the pioneer days where most of the kidnapped settlers ended up preferring the Indian way of life to the European. From the book summary:
    Benjamin Franklin lamented that English settlers were constantly fleeing over to the Indians-but Indians almost never did the same.
    Junger felt like the pioneers had too much technology and materialism.
    First agriculture, and then industry, changed two fundamental things about the human experience. The accumulation of personal property allowed people to make more and more individualistic choices about their lives, and those choices unavoidably diminished group efforts toward a common good.
    And in all honesty, philosophically that resonates with me. Fast forward to modern times with our big cities and high tech and wow have we faltered…
    Although happiness is notoriously subjective and difficult to measure, mental illness is not. Numerous cross-cultural studies have shown that modern society—despite its nearly miraculous advances in medicine, science, and technology—is afflicted with some of the highest rates of depression, schizophrenia, poor health, anxiety, and chronic loneliness in human history. As affluence and urbanization rise in a society, rates of depression and suicide tend to go up rather than down.
    It is as this point that I remember "caveat emptor" because wow that is some unsubstantiated stuff. Though I can admit that it feels very true, the intellectual part of me that thinks that he's wildly extrapolating and/or misinterpreting studies and data aka manipulating to influence thought, though I can't prove it because he has very few notes. But I enjoyed the journey. Junger goes on to say that natural disasters and warfare (in other words stressors) make communities closer and more egalitarian. No he is not advocating for war, he is presenting an observation:
    Communities that have been devastated by natural or man-made disasters almost never lapse into chaos and disorder; if anything, they become more just, more egalitarian, and more deliberately fair to individuals.
    According to Junger (and it again "feels" true)
    If anything, he found that social bonds were reinforced during disasters, and that people overwhelmingly devoted their energies toward the good of the community rather than just themselves.
    He by the way seems to think that being poor is in the realm of natural disaster and warfare (again "feels" true, but also biased and unsubstantiated)
    The mechanism seems simple: poor people are forced to share their time and resources more than wealthy people are, and as a result they live in closer communities.
    But things get a little tilted as Junger continues to assault modern society
    Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.
    Financial independence can lead to isolation, and isolation can put people at a greatly increased risk of depression and suicide.
    The beauty and the tragedy of the modern world is that it eliminates many situations that require people to demonstrate a commitment to the collective good.
    As modern society reduced the role of community, it simultaneously elevated the role of authority.

    It's at this point that Junger tries to tie the concept of tribalism to military veterans specifically those with PTSD. While I think he had some interesting concepts about the nature of mankind in small communities versus the cities today, I really think he struggled with trying to link veterans. I understand his point about military units being a bit like tribes and how most members of the unit are more concerned with the success of their comrades than themselves. As an ex-military member I know this to be similar to my own experiences. However Junger takes it to a very weird place. Ostensibly he is talking about the type of communities that the veterans return to.
    Such public meaning is probably not generated by the kinds of formulaic phrases, such as “Thank you for your service,” that many Americans now feel compelled to offer soldiers and vets. Neither is it generated by honoring vets at sporting events, allowing them to board planes first, or giving them minor discounts at stores. If anything, these token acts only deepen the chasm between the military and civilian populations by highlighting the fact that some people serve their country but the vast majority don’t.
    Junger seems to be talking almost exclusively about combat veterans not the entire military, however he doesn't seem to know there is a distinction. His references are to a shared trauma that binds veterans but he also has this rather stunning negativity towards veterans.
    The one way that soldiers are never allowed to see themselves during deployment is as victims, because the passivity of victimhood can get them killed. It’s yelled, beaten, and drilled out of them long before they get close to the battlefield. But when they come home they find themselves being viewed so sympathetically that they’re often excused from having to fully function in society.
    and those folks familiar with Hillbilly Elegy may find this thinking a little familiar:
    Instead of being able to work and contribute to society—a highly therapeutic thing to do—a large percentage of veterans are just offered lifelong disability payments. And they accept, of course—why shouldn’t they? A society that doesn’t distinguish between degrees of trauma can’t expect its warriors to, either.
    Essentially, he's saying that veterans are not that different than other traumatic experiences in life and he's not sure they deserve special dispensation.
    The public is often accused of being disconnected from its military, but frankly it’s disconnected from just about everything. Farming, mineral extraction, gas and oil production, bulk cargo transport, logging, fishing, infrastructure construction—all the industries that keep the nation going are mostly unacknowledged by the people who depend on them most.
    In Jungers view, being a warrior is just another job within the community (tribe) and should be treated in the same way as other occupations. Again, incredibly thought provoking, and again "feels" like a ton of manipulation of data and intellectual bullying to arrive there.

    A lot of what Junger said resonated with me. But I read enough to know he was catering to my biases in order to arrive at a place that he wanted to go. Frankly there was a lot of hidden messaging in the book that I picked up on. The contention that a "good" community is a small community where everyone only does things that help the community. Smacks of two things, isolationism and rural America is the only America that counts with just a smidgen of white nationalism. Also throughout the book there was a bit of an assertion of masculinity. There's the statement that
    It may say something about human nature that a surprising number of Americans—mostly men—wound up joining Indian society rather than staying in their own.
    or the
    To the extent that boys are drawn to war, it may be less out of an interest in violence than a longing for the kind of maturity and respect that often come with it.
    The book is peppered with such examples that indicate to me that Junger is concerned about the patriarchy. By the way, all of the veterans that he refers to are men. My earworm reading this book was "I'm a maaan, yes I am and I can't help but let you know…" Yes, I know that isn't the real lyric. Look, it's my earworm…

    3.5 conflicted Stars rounded up because I was completely fascinated

    It's a short read that is well worth a look, but with a watchful eye...

    Read on my kindle. ...more

  • Allison Scott

    There are many good ideas in this book, including disorders of trauma as disorders of integration, isolation, and group dynamic, however I had too many issues with the way this story was told to fully embrace the important message it meant to convey.

    When I read “tribe” in this book, I imagine only men. Men at war, men at work at construction sites, male aggression, and male friendship. Where are the women? His main example of a “female” style of leadership is about … MEN! (The dual roles taken b

  • Calzean

    More of a long essay, Junger's book is another way of looking at why the world is in a mess, consumerism and economic growth may be easy to measure but don't make life happier and no surprises, man is a tribal animal. He is probably right unfortunately.

    His use of American Indians provides strength to his argument and his treatment of PTSD is interesting as he looks at it from a number of different angles.

  • Chantel Coughlin

    Sebastian Junger takes us on a historical journey that is both anthropological and psychological in his latest work of non-fiction, Tribe. The age old cliche that history repeats itself is being realized in today's society and Junger presents many examples of this with warrior re-integration into their communities following traumatic conflict throughout history and their varied success rates at combating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Junger documents many of the thoughts today's veterans strug ...more

  • Louise

    Sebastian Junger poses that tribal societies had a strong sense of community and fairness because these values were necessary to survive. He poses that while tribal culture buffered its members against catastrophic loss (illness, death, violent weather) its sense of community was protection from what today we call PTSD. He makes his case mostly through anecdotes and a few statistics.

    While there is a lot of food for thought in Junger’s anecdotes they have alternative interpretations. For instanc

  • Ron S

    An expanded version of an article that first appeared in Vanity Fair titled "How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield." Junger has matured as one of the finest American reporters in print. Thinking of him as "the Perfect Storm guy" is as reductive as thinking of Jon Krakauer only as "that guy that wrote Into Thin Air." In this work, Junger looks at community, tribal behaviors, and issues facing veterans while briefly weaving in personal experiences that help connect us to this work o ...more

  • Jamie

    I wish there were ideas here that were new to me, but it’s the same ideas I’ve held true for years. If it was new, than maybe it wouldn’t be obvious— and maybe it wouldn’t be true. But it’s true. It’s obvious. It’s Wendell Berry and Charles Bowden and Joseph Campbell and Barry Lopez and on and on, every other voice who has said for years what Junger’s saying: we’re bleeding at the roots.

    Excellent, succinct, damning, necessary book.