Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tribe by Sebastian Junger ****

Tribe by Sebastian Junger is a short (140 small-format pages) book about PTSD. Many conditions are on the increase in recent history. Examples include cancer, autism spectrum disorder, and, as this book explores, post-traumatic stress disorder. Explanations fall into two broad areas: better reporting or environmental changes. Junger comes down in the environmental change column.

Junger appeals to self-determination theory: humans require feelings of competence, authenticity, and connectedness. These outweigh beauty, wealth, and status, even though the latter three are more emphasized by modern society. The general lack of self determination can both explain the attraction of military service and the difficulty in returning from combat.

Echoing The Paleo Diet, the book argues that people evolved to live in tribes and connectedness, while today's society is about division, difference, and individuality. How bad is it?
"The United States is so powerful that the only country capable of destroying her might be the United States herself... the ultimate terrorist strategy would be to just leave the country alone... America's ugliest partisan tendencies could emerge unimpeded by the unifying effects of wars."
This is an interesting take on war and PTSD, but it seems long on problems and short on solutions.

One question in the 21st century is how to achieve equality? Income equality? Racial equality? Gender equality? Interestingly, the only proven method is a disaster, either human-made, such as war, or natural, such as a large earthquake.
"An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain," one of the survivors [of the earthquake in Avezzano in 1915 that killed 30,000 with mortality rates as high as 96%] wrote, "The equality of all men."
In war, there is more equality than in peace. In tribes, there is more equality than in cities.

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