Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

by Sebastian Junger

Tribe is about how disconnected people people feel. How disconnected we are from society. The book suggests that people are happier– and saner– if we live in close knit groups.

The examples that stand out are PTSD sufferers. Junger suggests that if veterans (in this case) felt better understood and accepted then the incidence of PTSD would be lower. Citing Israeli soldiers, since most Israelis have done military service, everyone has a shared experience and feels part of the tribe.

Another reason why people feel disconnected is the way that companies are structured. They are artificial communities where we should be taking care of each other and pulling our own weight. Maybe the leader gets a bit more, but he/she is a leader because of generosity. But in our world today, our leaders are taking more than his/her share of the good stuff. The result is that people work together because they have to (for a paycheck) but not to a greater purpose, not to help each other out. It is in times of struggle that people help each other out, like 9/11 or London during the Blitz.

I’m also reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, which I find compliments Tribe. In Predictably Irrational, Ariely writes that people react differently when money is involved. You try to incentivize someone to work hard with money and it doesn’t go far. You incentivize with social capital (I do you a favor) and people are much more willing to go above and beyond. This makes sense to me. We live in a world out of balance.

The book was well-written and engaging. It used personal examples as well as research. Tribe wasn’t really a “book”, though. It was more of a thick pamphlet, only about 160 pages that the author admitted grew from an article published in Vanity Fair. It was bite-sized, which was kind of good. But it was also twelve bucks. I’m glad I read it. And I’m glad if Junger got a cup of coffee or so in royalties. I’d be happier if I got another hundred pages, though.


2 thoughts on “Tribe

  1. PTSD can also be improved upon once you remove someone from the situation and help them develop new support structures for their brain. (I’ve apparently had a mild case of it and am recovering. It’s nothing compared to what soldiers get. I had a great-grandfather who lost an arm in a leather factory due to “shell shock” after serving in the cavalry in World War I.)


    1. Yeah, I think that what Junger is trying to say is that we all feel a lot of stress. But if we have more community then we won’t feel as lonely when it happens. Then you won’t have as much depression or have to take Zoloft just to make it to your workplace every Monday.


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