Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
Sebastian Junger is an author, journalist and documentarian. He spent his working life in Sarajevo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
covers the tribal connection and how we lost it. Why suicides and depression rates fall in war and during natural disasters. Why PTSD is soaring in American veterans as the casualty rate plummets.
Tribe is a joy to read; I did it in an afternoon. Junger explains the lack of footnotes is due to it not being an academic text. Instead, they are in the source notes at the end. This makes for a lean and elegant book where the work ripples under the skin. A huge change from my earlier review, The Last Lion.
“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.”
The directness of Tribe is its strength. Some ideas I wanted to explore further but Junger sticks tight to his story. An evolutionary explanation for the two party electoral system is gets a passing mention but no real discussion. This is where the source notes are so valuable. The best books lead you to further reading.
Tribe has only five chapters and stays focused throughout. While Junger tells stories to explain his points he never wanders off course and doesn’t fall into the trap of memoir.
The idea that our lives aren’t suited to our biology is compelling. We are wealthier, healthier and safer than ever. So why are so many people unhappy?
“What you would 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 answering that question, which is both an enormous blessing and a significant loss.”
I recommend Tribe to anybody with an interest in society and what we can do to improve it. Junger is an excellent writer and I will get more of his books. His documentary, Restrepo is going to the top of the to watch pile.
Do you want to read Tribe? Let me know in the comments or your thoughts on it if you have already.