Book Reviews

Tribe by Sebastian Junger -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

31. The Tribe - Sebastian Junger

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Rating: 6/10

Date of reading: 27th – 28th of September, 2018

Description: The problem with individualistic societies is that they don’t have an automatic group belonging. Every individual is responsible for finding and emotionally connecting with any group he wants to. This forces some people into religion, others to the military, third into lonesome life in a forest. But most people don’t find that group belonging and that’s why suicide is the “privilege” of wealthy societies. The book is about finding your own “tribe,” a place where you truly feel you belong.


My notes:




“In the fall of 1986, just out of college, I set out to hitchhike across the northwestern part of the United States.” ( :7)

“The sheer predictability of life in an American suburb left me hoping—somewhat irresponsibly —for a hurricane or a tornado or something that would require us to all band together to survive. Something that would make us feel like a tribe. What I wanted wasn’t destruction and mayhem but the opposite: solidarity.” ( :7)

“How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage?” ( :7)

“”Oh, I just got a little cheese,” I lied. I stood there, ready, but he just shook his head. “You can’t get to California on just a little cheese,” he said. “You need more than that.” The man said that he lived in a broken-down car and that every morning he walked three miles to a coal mine outside of town to see if they needed fill-in work. Some days they did, some days they didn’t, and this was one of the days that they didn’t. “So I won’t be needing this,” he said, opening his black lunch box. “I saw you from town and just wanted to make sure you were okay.”” ( :8)

“but lots of people are generous; what made him different was the fact that he’d taken responsibility for me. He’d spotted me from town and walked half a mile out a highway to make sure I was okay. Robert Frost famously wrote that home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” ( :8)

“The word “tribe” is far harder to define, but a start might be the people you feel compelled to share the last of your food with.” ( :8)

“This book is about why that sentiment is such a rare and precious thing in modern society, and how the lack of it has affected us all. It’s about what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty and belonging and the eternal human quest for meaning. It’s about why—for many people—war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.” ( :8)




“Individual authority was earned rather than seized and imposed only on people who were willing to accept it. Anyone who didn’t like it was free to move somewhere else.” ( :9)

“By the end of the nineteenth century, factories were being built in Chicago and slums were taking root in New York while Indians fought with spears and tomahawks a thousand miles away. 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. They emulated Indians, married them, were adopted by them, and on some occasions even fought alongside them. And the opposite almost never happened: Indians almost never ran away to join white society. Emigration always seemed to go from the civilized to the tribal, and it left Western thinkers flummoxed about how to explain such an apparent rejection of their society.” ( :9)

“On the other hand, Franklin continued, white captives who were liberated from the Indians were almost impossible to keep at home: “” ( :9)

“English settlers knew as April 27, old men began passing through the camp calling the warriors to council.” ( :10)

“stake. Three hundred warriors marched on the English fort, with 2,000 more fighters waiting in the woods for the signal to attack.” ( :10)

“”Thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those Aborigines having from choice become European,” a French émigré named Hector de Crèvecoeur lamented in 1782. “There must be in their social bond something singularly captivating and far superior to anything to be boasted of among us.”” ( :11)

“”The men and the dogs have a fine time, but the poor women have to suffer,” one pioneer wife wrote to her sister about life on the frontier. She complained that her husband—a man named George —refused to make their newborn son a plank cradle, and just gave her a hollowed-out log instead. The boy’s only shirt was woven of nettle bark and his pillow was carved out of wood. When his mother pointed out that he was getting sores and rashes, George said that the hardships would just toughen him up for hunting later in life. “George has got himself a buckskin shirt and pants,” this woman added. “He is gone hunting day and night.”” ( :12)

“exual mores were more relaxed than in the early colonies (in the 1600s, colonial boys on Cape Cod were publicly whipped if they were caught talking to a girl they weren’t related to).” ( :13)

“Personal property was usually limited to whatever could be transported by horse or on foot, so gross inequalities of wealth were difficult to accumulate. Successful hunters and warriors could support multiple wives, but unlike modern society, those advantages were generally not passed on through the generations. Social status came through hunting and war, which all men had access to, and women had far more autonomy and sexual freedom—and bore fewer children—than women in white society.” ( :13)

“Because of these basic freedoms, tribal members tended to be exceedingly loyal. A white captive of the Kickapoo Nation who came to be known as John Dunn Hunter wrote that he had never heard of even a single instance of treason against the tribe, and as a result, punishments for such transgressions simply didn’t exist. But cowardice was punished by death, as was murder within the tribe or any kind of communication with the enemy. It was a simple ethos that promoted loyalty and courage over all other virtues and considered the preservation of the tribe an almost sacred task. Which indeed it was.” ( :13)

“One study in the 1960s found that nomadic !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert needed to work as little as twelve hours a week in order to survive—roughly one-quarter the hours of the average urban executive at the time.” ( :13)

“Because of the strong emphasis on sharing, and the frequency of movement, surplus accumulation… is kept to a minimum.”” ( :14)

“The relatively relaxed pace of !Kung life—even during times of adversity—challenged long-standing ideas that modern society created a surplus of leisure time. It created exactly the opposite: a desperate cycle of work, financial obligation, and more work. The !Kung had far fewer belongings than Westerners, but their lives were under much greater personal control.” ( :14)

“Early humans would most likely have lived in nomadic bands of around fifty people, much like the !Kung. They would have experienced high levels of accidental injuries and deaths. They would have countered domineering behavior by senior males by forming coalitions within the group. They would have been utterly intolerant of hoarding or selfishness. They would have occasionally endured episodes of hunger, violence, and hardship. They would have practiced extremely close and involved childcare. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others. They would have almost never been alone.” ( :14)

“And as society modernized, people found themselves able to live independently from any communal group. A person living in a modern city or a suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day—or an entire life—mostly encountering complete strangers. They can be surrounded by others and yet feel deeply, dangerously alone.” ( :14)

“This stands in stark contrast to many modern societies, where the suicide rate is as high as 25 cases per 100,000 people. (In the United States, white middle-aged men currently have the highest rate at nearly 30 suicides per 100,000.)” ( :15)

“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. Inter-reliant poverty comes with its own stresses—and certainly isn’t the American ideal—but it’s much closer to our evolutionary heritage than affluence.” ( :15)

“In fact, public defenders, who have far lower status than corporate lawyers, seem to lead significantly happier lives. The findings are in keeping with something called selfdetermination theory, which holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others.” ( :15)

“three pillars of self-determination—autonomy, competence, and community—and wind up with a higher rate of depression.” ( :15)

“The point of making children sleep alone, according to Western psychologists, is to make them “self-soothing,” but that clearly runs contrary to our evolution. Humans are primates—we share 98 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees—and primates almost never leave infants unattended, because they would be extremely vulnerable to predators. Infants seem to know this instinctively, so being left alone in a dark room is terrifying to them. Compare the self-soothing approach to that of a traditional Mayan community in Guatemala: “Infants and children simply fall asleep when sleepy, do not wear specific sleep clothes or use traditional transitional objects, room share and cosleep with parents or siblings, and nurse on demand during the night.”” ( :16)

“common traits was the absence of major wealth disparities between individuals. Another was the absence of arbitrary authority. “Social life is politically egalitarian in that there is always a low tolerance by a group’s mature males for one of their number dominating, bossing, or denigrating the others,” Boehm observed. “The human conscience evolved in the Middle to Late Pleistocene as a result of… the hunting of large game. This required… cooperative band-level sharing of meat.”” ( :16)

“What tribal people would consider a profound betrayal of the group, modern society simply dismisses as fraud. Around 3 percent of people on unemployment assistance intentionally cheat the system, for example, which costs the United States more than $2 billion a year. Such abuse would be immediately punished in tribal society.” ( :17)

“Fraud by American defense contractors is estimated at around $100 billion per year, and they are relatively well behaved compared to the financial industry. The FBI reports that since the economic recession of 2008, securities and commodities fraud in the United States has gone up by more than 50 percent.” ( :17)

“Cowardice is another form of community betrayal, and most Indian tribes punished it with immediate death. (If that seems harsh, consider that the British military took “cowards” off the battlefield and executed them by firing squad as late as World War I.)” ( :18)

“United States Securities and Exchange Commission has been trying to force senior corporate executives to disclose the ratio of their pay to that of their median employees.” ( :18)

“Occupy Wall Street protest camp of 2011, but they were generally peaceful and ineffective. (The riots and demonstrations against racial discrimination that later took place in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, led to changes in part because they attained a level of violence that threatened the civil order.)” ( :18)

“That is ironic, because the political origins of the United States lay in confronting precisely this kind of resource seizure by people in power. King George III of England caused the English colonies in America to rebel by trying to tax them without allowing them a voice in government.” ( :18)

“Paine acknowledged that these tribes lacked the advantages of the arts and science and manufacturing, and yet they lived in a society where personal poverty was unknown and the natural rights of man were actively promoted.” ( :19)




“”You don’t owe your country nothing,” I remember him telling me. “You owe it something, and depending on what happens, you might owe it your life.”” ( :20)

“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.” ( :21)

“That was how I came to understand why I found myself, broke and directionless, on the tarmac of the Sarajevo airport at age thirty-one, listening to the tapping of machine-gun fire in a nearby suburb named Dobrinja” ( :21)

“Over the course of the three-year siege almost 70,000 people were killed or wounded by Serb forces shooting into the city—roughly 20 percent of the population.” ( :22)

“this: a middle-aged man in a business suit crouched over some small project in the courtyard of a modern high-rise. The building could have been any bank or insurance company in Europe, except that the windows were blown out and the walls were scarred with shrapnel. I looked closer and saw that the man was arranging dead twigs into a pile. When he was done, he positioned an aluminum pot on top of the pile and lit the twigs with a cigarette lighter. Then he stood up and looked at me. If there’s an image of the Apocalypse, I thought, it might be a man in a business suit building a fire in the courtyard of an abandoned high-rise.” ( :22)

“”An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain,” one of the survivors wrote. “The equality of all men.”” ( :23)

“(Despite erroneous news reports, New Orleans experienced a drop in crime rates after Hurricane Katrina, and much of the “looting” turned out to be people looking for food.)” ( :23)

“English authorities, for example, predicted that German attacks would produce 35,000 casualties a day in London alone (total civilian casualties for the country were not even twice that).” ( :23)

“”Ten thousand people had come together without ties of friendship or economics, with no plans at all as to what they meant to do,” one man wrote about life in a massive concrete structure known as Tilbury Shelter. “They found themselves, literally overnight, inhabitants of a vague twilight town of strangers. At first there were no rules, rewards or penalties, no hierarchy or command. Almost immediately, ‘laws’ began to emerge—laws enforced not by police and wardens (who at first proved helpless in the face of such multitudes) but by the shelterers themselves.”” ( :23)

“great sociologist Emile Durkheim, who found that when European countries went to war, suicide rates dropped.” ( :24)

“An Irish psychologist named H. A. Lyons found that suicide rates in Belfast dropped 50 percent during the riots of 1969 and 1970, and homicide and other violent crimes also went down.” ( :24)

“County Derry, on the other hand—which suffered almost no violence at all—saw male depression rates rise rather than fall.” ( :24)

“County Derry, on the other hand—which suffered almost no violence at all—saw male depression rates rise rather than fall. Lyons hypothesized that men in the peaceful areas were depressed because they couldn’t help their society by participating in the struggle.” ( :24)

“”When people are actively engaged in a cause their lives have more purpose… with a resulting improvement in mental health,”” ( :24)

“”It would be irresponsible to suggest violence as a means of improving mental health, but the Belfast findings suggest that people will feel better psychologically if they have more involvement with their community.”” ( :24)

“The Blitz, as bad as it was, paled in comparison to what the Allies did. Dresden lost more people in one night than London did during the entire war.” ( :25)

“The Blitz, as bad as it was, paled in comparison to what the Allies did. Dresden lost more people in one night than London did during the entire war. Firestorms engulfed whole neighborhoods and used up so much oxygen that people who were untouched by the blasts reportedly died of asphyxiation instead.” ( :25)

“the more the Allies bombed, the more defiant the German population became.” ( :25)

“Dresden—that were bombed the hardest. According to German psychologists who compared notes with their American counterparts after the war, it was the untouched cities where civilian morale suffered the most. Thirty years later, H. A. Lyons would document an almost identical phenomenon in riot-torn Belfast.” ( :25)

“Fritz went on to complete a more general study of how communities respond to calamity. After the war he turned his attention to natural disasters in the United States and formulated a broad theory about social resilience. He was unable to find a single instance where communities that had been hit by catastrophic events lapsed into sustained panic, much less anything approaching anarchy.” ( :25)

“In 1961, Fritz assembled his ideas into a lengthy paper that began with the startling sentence, “Why do large-scale disasters produce such mentally healthy conditions?”” ( :25)

“Disasters, he proposed, create a “community of sufferers” that allows individuals to” ( :25)

“experience an immensely reassuring connection to others.” ( :26)

“Fritz found, class differences are temporarily erased, income disparities become irrelevant, race is overlooked, and individuals are assessed simply by what they are willing to do for the group.” ( :26)

“Fritz’s conclusions were later borne out in a study of the city of Yungay, in central Chile, which was struck by a devastating earthquake and rockslide on May 31, 1970. Ninety percent of the population of Yungay died almost instantly, and 70,000 people were killed throughout the region— roughly equivalent to a nuclear strike on that area” ( :26)

“”Brotherhood of Pain.” “The crisis also had an immediate status-leveling effect on the nascent community of survivors it had created. A sense of brotherhood… prevailed as Indian and mestizo, lower and upper class, collaborated in the collective efforts to obtain immediate necessities and survive.”” ( :26)

“As soon as relief flights began delivering aid to the area, class divisions returned and the sense of brotherhood disappeared. The modern world had arrived.” ( :26)

“Men perform the vast majority of bystander rescues, and children, the elderly, and women are the most common recipients of them. Children are helped regardless of gender, as are the elderly, but women of reproductive age are twice as likely to be helped by a stranger than men are. Men have to wait, on average, until age seventy-five before they can expect the same kind of assistance in a life-threatening situation that women get their whole lives. Given the disproportionately high value of female reproduction to any society, risking male lives to save female lives makes enormous evolutionary sense.” ( :26)

“In late 2015, a bus in eastern Kenya was stopped by gunmen from an extremist group named AlShabaab that made a practice of massacring Christians as part of a terrorism campaign against the Western-aligned Kenyan government. The gunmen demanded that Muslim and Christian passengers separate themselves into two groups so that the Christians could be killed, but the Muslims—most of whom were women—refused to do it. They told the gunmen that they would all die together if necessary, but that the Christians would not be singled out for execution. The Shabaab eventually let everyone go.” ( :27)

“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. Protected by police and fire departments and relieved of most of the challenges of survival, an urban man might go through his entire life without having to come to the aid of someone in danger—or even give up his dinner. Likewise, a woman in a society that has codified its moral behavior into a set of laws and penalties” ( :27)

“What would you risk dying for—and for whom— is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves. The vast majority of people in modern society are able to pass their whole lives without ever having to answer that question, which is both an enormous blessing and a significant loss.” ( :27)

“At 8:05 on the evening of October 23, 1958, the Springhill Mine in Nova Scotia experienced what coal miners know as a “bump”: a sudden contraction and settling of sedimentary layers deep underground that generates the forces of a massive explosion throughout the complex. Springhill was one of the deepest coal mines in the world, and the bump of 1958 was so powerful that it was felt 800 miles away. There were 174 men in the mine at the time, and 74 were killed immediately as strata compressed and the passageways collapsed. Of the survivors, 81 men were able to make their way to safety and 19 found themselves trapped more than 12,000 feet down the mine shafts.” ( :28)

“”The miners’ code of rescue meant that each trapped miner had the knowledge that he would never be buried alive if it were humanly possible for his friends to reach him,” a 1960 study called Individual and Group Behavior in a Coal Mine Disaster explained. “At the same time, the code was not rigid enough to ostracize those who could not face the rescue role.”” ( :28)

“One of the groups included a man whose arm had been pinned between two timbers, and, out of earshot, the others discussed whether to amputate it or not. The man kept begging them to, but they decided against it and he eventually died. Both groups ran out of food and water and started to drink their own urine. Some” ( :28)

“When they ran out of water, one man went in search of more and managed to find a precious gallon, which he distributed to the others. These men were also instrumental in getting their fellow survivors to start drinking their own urine or trying to eat coal. Canadian psychologists who interviewed the miners after their rescue determined that these early leaders tended to lack empathy and emotional control, that they were not concerned with the opinions of others, that they associated with only one or two other men in the group, and that their physical abilities far exceeded their verbal abilities. But all of these traits allowed them to take forceful, life-saving action where many other men might not.” ( :29)

“”survival period,” the ability to wait in complete darkness without giving up hope or succumbing to panic became crucial. Researchers determined that the leaders during this period were entirely focused on group morale and used skills that were diametrically opposed to those of the men who had led the escape attempts. They were highly sensitive to people’s moods, they intellectualized things in order to meet group needs, they reassured the men who were starting to give up hope, and they worked hard to be accepted by the entire group” ( :29)

“British historians have linked the hardships of the Blitz—and the social unity that followed—to a landslide vote that brought the Labour Party into power in 1945 and eventually gave the United Kingdom national health care and a strong welfare state” ( :29)

“d Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister in 1979. “In every upheaval we rediscover humanity and regain freedoms,” one sociologist wrote about England’s reaction to the war. “We relearn some old truths about the connection between happiness, unselfishness, and the simplification of living.”” ( :29)

“Twenty years after the end of the siege of Sarajevo, I returned to find people talking a little sheepishly about how much they longed for those days. More precisely, they longed for who they’d been back then. Even my taxi driver on the ride from the airport told me that during the war, he’d been in a special unit that slipped through the enemy lines to help other besieged enclaves. “And now look” ( :29)

“at me,” he said, dismissing the dashboard with a wave of his hand.” ( :30)

“”I missed being that close to people, I missed being loved in that way,” she told me. “In Bosnia —as it is now—we don’t trust each other anymore; we became really bad people. We didn’t learn the” ( :30)

“lesson of the war, which is how important it is to share everything you have with human beings close to you. The best way to explain it is that the war makes you an animal. We were animals. It’s insane— but that’s the basic human instinct, to help another human being who is sitting or standing or lying close to you.” I asked Ahmetašević if people had ultimately been happier during the war. “We were the happiest,” Ahmetašević said. Then she added: “And we laughed more.”” ( :31)




“What I had was classic short-term PTSD. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s exactly the response you want to have when your life is in danger: you want to be vigilant, you want to avoid situations where you are not in control, you want to react to strange noises, you want to sleep lightly and wake easily, you want to have flashbacks and nightmares that remind you of specific threats to your life, and you want to be, by turns, angry and depressed. Anger keeps you ready to fight, and depression keeps you from being too active and putting yourself in more danger.” ( :33)

“He would smoke Carlton ultralights and drink cold coffee and tell me about the world, and I mostly just sat and listened. He seemed to have access to a kind of ancient human knowledge that completely transcended the odd, cloistered life that he was living in Connecticut when I met him.” ( :34)

“But in addition to all the destruction and loss of life, war also inspires ancient human virtues of courage, loyalty, and selflessness that can be utterly intoxicating to the people who experience them.” ( :34)

“The Iroquois Nation presumably understood the transformative power of war when they developed parallel systems of government that protected civilians from warriors and vice versa. Peacetime leaders, called sachems, were often chosen by women and had complete authority over the civil affairs of the tribe until war broke out. At that point war leaders took over, and their sole concern was the physical survival of the tribe.” ( :34)

“Because modern society often fights wars far away from the civilian population, soldiers wind up being the only people who have to switch back and forth. Siegfried Sassoon, who was wounded in World War I, wrote a poem called “Sick Leave” that perfectly described the crippling alienation many soldiers feel at home: “In bitter safety I awake, unfriended,” he wrote. “And while the dawn begins with slashing rain / I think of the Battalion in the mud.”” ( :34)

“A 2011 study of street children in Burundi found the lowest PTSD rates among the most aggressive and violent children.” ( :34)

“Almost everyone exposed to trauma reacts by having some sort of short-term reaction to it— acute PTSD. That reaction clearly has evolved in mammals to keep them both reactive to danger and out of harm’s way until the threat has passed. Long-term PTSD, on the other hand—the kind that can last years or even a lifetime—is clearly maladaptive and relatively uncommon. Many studies have shown that in the general population, at most 20 percent of people who have been traumatized get long-term PTSD.” ( :35)

“Rape is one of the most psychologically devastating things that can happen to a person, for example—far more traumatizing than most military deployments—and according to a 1992 study, close to one hundred percent of rape survivors exhibited extreme trauma immediately afterward. And yet almost half of rape survivors experienced a significant decline in their trauma symptoms within weeks or months of their assault.” ( :35)

“”For most people in combat, their experiences range from the best of times to the worst of times. It’s the most important thing someone has ever done—especially since these people are so young when they go in—and it’s probably the first time they’ve ever been free, completely, of societal constraints. They’re going to miss being entrenched in this defining world.”” ( :35)

“Multiple studies, including a 2007 analysis from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, found that a person’s chance of getting chronic PTSD is in great part a function of their experiences before going to war. Statistically, the 20 percent of people who fail to overcome trauma tend to be those who are already burdened by psychological issues, either because they inherited them or because they suffered abuse as children. If you fought in Vietnam and your twin brother did not—but he suffers from a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia—you are statistically more likely to get PTSD.” ( :35)

“The discrepancy might be due to the fact that intensive training and danger create what is known as unit cohesion—strong emotional bonds within the company or the platoon—and high unit cohesion is correlated with lower rates of psychiatric breakdown.” ( :36)

“In 1980, the APA finally included post-traumatic stress disorder in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” ( :37)

“US military now has the highest reported PTSD rate in its history—and probably in the world. American soldiers appear to suffer PTSD at around twice the rate of British soldiers who were in combat with them. The United States currently spends more than $4 billion annually in disability compensation for PTSD, most of which will continue for the entire lifetime of these veterans.” ( :37)

“General found that the higher a veteran’s PTSD disability rating, the more treatment he or she tends to seek until achieving a rating of 100 percent, at which point treatment visits plummet and many vets quit completely. (A 100 percent disability rating entitles a veteran to a tax-free income of around $3,000 a month.)” ( :37)

“PTSD support group because other vets wanted to beat him up for seeming to fake his trauma.” ( :37)

“VA because they worry about losing their temper around patients who they” ( :37)

“think are milking the system. “It’s the real deals—the guys who have seen the most—that this tends to bother,” he told me.” ( :38)

“It’s common knowledge in the Peace Corps that as stressful as life in a developing country can be, returning to a modern country can be far harder. One study found that one in four Peace Corps volunteers reported experiencing significant depression after their return home, and that figure more than doubled for people who had been evacuated from their host country during wartime or some other kind of emergency.” ( :38)

“We had no hopes of becoming officers. I liked that feeling very much… It was the absence of competition and boundaries and all those phony standards that created the thing I loved about the Army.”” ( :38)

“Adversity often leads people to depend more on one another, and that closeness can produce a kind of nostalgia for the hard times that even civilians are susceptible to.” ( :38)

“”Now that AIDS is no longer a death sentence, I must admit that I miss those days of extreme brotherhood… which led to deep emotions and understandings that are above anything I have felt since the plague years.”” ( :38)

“What people miss presumably isn’t danger or loss but the unity that these things often engender.” ( :38)

“Peace Corps volunteer during the start of the civil war in 2002 and experienced firsthand the extremely close bonds created by hardship and danger. “We are not good to each other. Our tribalism is to an extremely narrow group of people: our children, our spouse, maybe our parents. Our society is alienating, technical, cold, and mystifying. Our fundamental desire, as human beings, is to be close to others, and our society does not allow for that.”” ( :39)

“Kohrt told me about those ex-combatants. “PTSD is a disorder of recovery, and if treatment only focuses on identifying symptoms, it pathologizes and alienates vets. But if the focus is on family and community, it puts them in a situation of collective healing.”” ( :39)

“Despite decades of intermittent war, the Israel Defense Forces have by some measures a PTSD rate as low as 1 percen” ( :40)

“According to Shalev, the closer the public is to the actual combat, the better the war will be understood and the less difficulty soldiers will have when they come home.” ( :40)

“The Israelis are benefiting from what the author and ethicist Austin Dacey describes as a “shared public meaning” of the war.” ( :40)

“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. In Israel, where around half of the population serves in the military, reflexively thanking someone for their service makes as little sense as thanking them for paying their taxes. It doesn’t cross anyone’s mind.” ( :40)

“Because modern society has almost completely eliminated trauma and violence from everyday life, anyone who does suffer those things is deemed to be extraordinarily unfortunate. This gives people access to sympathy and resources but also creates an identity of victimhood that can delay recovery.” ( :40)

“and Sierra Leone, found that international relief organizations introduced the idea of victimhood to combatants who until then had rarely, if ever, thought of themselves in those terms. “The language of ‘I am a victim too’ did not originate from the combatants themselves,” Hoffman told me. “[Aid organizations] would come in and say, ‘This is how you’re supposed to be feeling… and if you do, then you’ll have access to food supplies and training.'”” ( :40)

“”In tribal cultures, combat can be part of the maturation process,”” ( :41)

“”When youth return from combat, their return is seen as integral to their own society— they don’t feel like outsiders. In the United States we valorize our vets with words and posters and signs, but we don’t give them what’s really important to Americans, what really sets you apart as someone who is valuable to society—we don’t give them jobs. All the praise in the world doesn’t mean anything if you’re not recognized by society as someone who can contribute valuable labor.”” ( :41)

“First, cohesive and egalitarian tribal societies do a very good job at mitigating the effects of trauma, but by their very nature, many modern societies are exactly the opposite: hierarchical and alienating. America’s great wealth, although a blessing in many ways, has allowed for the growth of an individualistic society that suffers high rates of depression and anxiety. Both are correlated with chronic PTSD” ( :41)

“Lifelong disability payments for a disorder like PTSD, which is both treatable and usually not chronic, risks turning veterans into a victim class that is entirely dependent on the government for their livelihood.” ( :41)

“Iroquois warriors who dominated just about every tribe within 500 miles of their home territory would return to a community that still needed them to hunt and fish and participate in the fabric of everyday life.” ( :41)

“something called “social resilience” have identified resource sharing and egalitarian wealth distribution as major components of a society’s ability to recover from hardship. And societies that rank high on social resilience—such as kibbutz settlements in Israel—provide soldiers with a significantly stronger buffer against PTSD than low-resilience societies. In fact, social resilience is an even better predictor of trauma recovery than the level of resilience of the person himself.” ( :42)




“What I liked about the encounter was that it showed how very close the energy of male conflict and male closeness can be. It’s” ( :44)

“The ultimate act of disaffiliation isn’t littering or fraud, of course, but violence against your own people. When the Navajo Nation—the Diné, in their language—were rounded up and confined to a reservation in the 1860s, a terrifying phenomenon became more prominent in their culture. The warrior skills that had protected the Diné for thousands of years were no longer relevant in this dismal new era, and people worried that those same skills would now be turned inward, against society. That strengthened their belief in what were known as skinwalkers, or yee naaldlooshii.” ( :46)

“A rampage shooting has never happened in an urban ghetto, for example; in fact, indiscriminate attacks at schools almost always occur in otherwise safe, predominantly white towns.” ( :46)

“A rampage shooting has never happened in an urban ghetto, for example; in fact, indiscriminate attacks at schools almost always occur in otherwise safe, predominantly white towns. Around half of rampage killings happen in affluent or upper-middle-class communities, and the rest tend to happen in rural towns that are majority-white, Christian, and low-crime.” ( :46)

“Gang shootings—as indiscriminate as they often are—still don’t have the nihilistic intent of rampages. Rather, they are rooted in an exceedingly strong sense of group loyalty and revenge, and bystanders sometimes get killed in the process.” ( :46)

“There were no rampage shootings for the next two years. The effect was particularly pronounced in New York City, where rates of violent crime, suicide, and psychiatric disturbances dropped immediately.” ( :47)

“American Indians, proportionally, provide more soldiers to America’s wars than any other demographic group in the country.” ( :47)

“But the spirit of community healing and connection that forms the basis of these ceremonies is one that a modern society might draw on. In all cultures, ceremonies are designed to communicate the experience of one group of people to the wider community. When people bury loved ones, when they wed, when they graduate from college, the respective ceremonies communicate something essential to the people who are watching. The Gourd Dance allowed warriors to recount and act out their battlefield exploits to the people they were protecting. If contemporary America doesn’t develop ways to publicly confront the emotional consequences of war, those consequences will continue to burn a hole through the vets themselves.” ( :48)

“”That,” Karl finally said into the stunned silence, “is one of the things that’s going to happen if you truly let vets speak their mind about the war.”” ( :49)

“It’s entirely possible that that gentleman saw little or no combat and simply harbors strong feelings about war.” ( :49)

“But a community ceremony like that would finally return the experience of war to our entire nation, rather than just leaving it to the people who fought. The bland phrase, “I support the troops,” would then mean showing up at the town hall once a year to hear these people out.” ( :49)

“On Veterans Day 2015, the town hall in Marblehead, Massachusetts, was opened up to just such an event. Several hundred people filed into the hall and listened for more than two hours as veteran after veteran stepped forward to unburden themselves of the war. One of the first to speak was a Korean War vet who had tried to join the Marines at age fifteen. They turned him down but took his three friends, who were all killed in combat and buried next to each other on Okinawa. A couple of years later he paid his respects at their gravesites on his way over to Korea. An older woman stood up and said that she’d fought in Vietnam as a man and then had come back and had a sex change. Another Vietnam vet simply read quote after quote from Bush administration officials who—in his opinion—had lied about the Iraq War. My friend Brendan O’Byrne talked about meeting the mother of his friend Juan Restrepo, who had been killed two months into their deployment to Afghanistan. Restrepo’s mother asked Brendan if he’d forgiven her son’s killer, and he said that no, he hadn’t. She told him he had to. “That’s when I began to heal,” Brendan told the room. “When I let go of the anger inside me.”” ( :49)

“Today’s veterans often come home to find that, although they’re willing to die for their country, they’re not sure how to live for it.” ( :49)

“To make matters worse, politicians occasionally accuse rivals of deliberately trying to harm their own country—a charge so destructive to group unity that most past societies would probably have just punished it as a form of treason.” ( :49)

“In combat, soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion, and politics within” ( :49)

“their platoon. It’s no wonder many of them get so depressed when they come home.” ( :50)

“Unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker.” ( :50)

“Unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker. Contempt is often directed at people who have been excluded from a group or declared unworthy of its benefits. Contempt is often used by governments to provide rhetorical cover for torture or abuse. Contempt is one of four behaviors that, statistically, can predict divorce in married couples. People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long.” ( :50)

“The perennial conservative concern about high taxes supporting a nonworking “underclass” has entirely legitimate roots in our evolutionary past and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.” ( :50)

“will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past.” ( :50)

“Yehuda has seen, up close, the effect of such antisocial divisions on traumatized vets. “If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different —you underscore your shared humanity,”” ( :50)

“The collective outrage at Sergeant Bergdahl was based on very limited knowledge but provides a perfect example of the kind of tribal ethos that every group—or country—deploys in order to remain unified and committed to itself” ( :51)

“Joseph Cassano of AIG Financial Products—known as “Mr. Credit-Default Swap”—led a unit that required a $99 billion bailout while simultaneously distributing $1.5 billion in year-end bonuses to his employees—including $34 million to himself.” ( :51)

“Joseph Cassano of AIG Financial Products—known as “Mr. Credit-Default Swap”—led a unit that required a $99 billion bailout while simultaneously distributing $1.5 billion in year-end bonuses to his employees—including $34 million to himself. Robert Rubin of Citibank received a $10 million bonus in 2008 while serving on the board of directors of a company that required $63 billion in federal funds to keep from failing. Lower down the pay scale, more than 5,000 Wall Street traders received bonuses of $1 million or more despite working for nine of the financial firms that received the most bailout money from the US goverment.” ( :51)

“are quick to heap scorn on Sergeant Bergdahl. In a country that applies its standard of loyalty in such an arbitrary way, it would seem difficult for others to develop any kind of tribal ethos.” ( :51)

“City. The firm found people for top executive positions around the country, but that didn’t protect it from economic downturns, and in the 1990s, Bauman’s company experienced its first money-losing year in three decades. According to the Times notice, Mr. Bauman called his employees into a meeting and asked them to accept a 10 percent reduction in salary so that he wouldn’t have to fire anyone. They all agreed.” ( :51)

“Then he quietly decided to give up his personal salary until his company was back on safe ground. The only reason his staff found out was because the company bookkeeper told them.” ( :52)

“powerful people to put themselves last, and that he was one of those people. I contacted the office manager, Deanna Scharf, and asked her what Mr. Bauman had thought about the behavior of Wall Street executives during the financial collapse of 2008. “Oh, he was very angry,” she said. “He was a lifelong Republican, he was a poor kid from the Bronx who made some money, but he was furious with what happened. He didn’t understand the greed. He didn’t understand if you have a hundred million dollars, why do you need another million?”” ( :52)

“He clearly understood that belonging to society requires sacrifice, and that sacrifice gives back way more than it costs. (“It was better when it was really bad,” someone spray-painted on a wall about the loss of social solidarity in Bosnia after the war ended.)” ( :52)




“”Suppose, now, not to give them flour, lard,” he explained. “Just dead inside.” There, finally, was my answer for why the homeless guy outside Gillette gave me his lunch thirty years ago: just dead inside. It was the one thing that, poor as he was, he absolutely refused to be.” ( :53)

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