Friday, 26 August 2016

tribe: on homecoming and belonging [sebastian junger]

Tribe is a short non-fiction book which examines the role of conflict in the shaping of society. Junger, a war correspondent, recognises the inherent value to a society of living through times of peril. The essay examines suicide rates and medical indices for anxiety, noting that post 911, the New York suicide rate dropped appreciably. In no way is Junger, an opponent of the Iraq war, a bellicose advocate for war. Rather he seeks to make the point that modern capitalist society pays a price for its affluence, a price which is commensurate to happiness. “As societies become more affluent they tend to require more, rather than less, time and commitment by the individual and it’s possible that many people feel that affluence and safety simply aren’t a good enough trade for freedom.” Junger weaves his own personal experiences into his thesis, drawing on his time in places such as Sarajevo and Afghanistan. He also talks to war veterans and, radically, seeks to rescue some of the wisdom of the native American traditions, looking at how those pre-colombian societies functioned and why, he claims, they were frequently far more attractive to white settlers then the ‘civilised’ world. In the end, this is a measured critique of the way that modernity, in search of the placebo of ‘security’, would appear to be making the human race an increasingly unhappy one. 

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