Books: “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger

Reading ‘Tribe’ at the end of this tumultuous 2017 year was necessary. As I performed my end of the year reflections, highlighted the accomplishments of moving to a new city and projected my place in society, it was a great reminder of the simple ideas we have forgotten. How much we have grown apart from each other. But at the core, continues to yearn for a sense community. While I wish he added more valid references and data, the ideas were true.

  • “Personal gain almost completely eclipses collective good.” The dangerous feeling of being alone, despite being surrounded by others, is not how we usually how human nature interacts. Financial independence and accumulation of wealth leads to isolation. This is no news, but how modern society frames it, is that the poor people are interreliant and share their time and resources, living in closer communities.
  • “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 diminish group efforts toward a common good. And as society modernized, people found themselves able to live independently from any communal group.”
  • Adversity and disasters prompt us to depend on one another: “If anything, he found that social bonds were reinforced during disasters, and that people were overwhelmingly devoted their energies toward the good of the community rather than just themselves.” THis reminds me of Rebecca Solnit’s interview at On Being, were she talked about disasters being a way of reinforcing community and social resilience. This is why people coming back from war, or large environmental disasters feel a solid bond and solidarity with others, even missing the feeling. It isn’t due to danger or loss, but the sense of community and unity it engendered. I am reminded of how veterans feel a sense of discord towards the life they left before war. They return to a life that is cold, mechanical and lacks brotherhood.
  • But when else can we remind ourselves of our role in the community? “The beauty and tragedy of the modern world is that it eliminates many situations that require people to demonstrate a commitment to the collective good.” It’s not our primary role to be a neighbor anymore or to help each other out. In times of emergencies, we rely on policemen and firefighters for relief. What are the reasons nowadays and causes that prompt us to risk our lives? We can live our whole lives without asking that question. For some, it becomes a relief, but to society, a significant loss.

We need to create a society that once again encourages and allows each other to be close to others, as opposed to alienate each other. Rather than living in a society that is at war with itself, we need to focus on the parts of the society that work hard to keep it running, the ones that let us live comfortably and away from discord. Harbor that connectedness rather than acting in trivial but selfish ways. Most importantly, we need to focus on the things that unite us.  

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