Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Book review time.

Today I read Tribe by Sebastian Junger, and it resonated with some of the thoughts I’ve been having about modern life and how technology is carrying us further away from the way we evolved to live. The premise of the book is that hunter gatherer tribes offered many advantages to mental health that modern societies lack. As a member of a tribe you were around many others at all times. Everyone shared their resources and relied on one another. Class distinctions could not afford to exist, people were judged purely by their contribution to the group. Life was less complicated and one spent less time working overall. People trusted each other and worked for the benefit of the group. Liars and cheats were dealt with harshly.

Skip forward to the future, and for all of our material wealth, rates of depression, PTSD and other mental illnesses are on the rise, presumably due to the loss of such communities and the support they offer. People now spend much more time alone, often rely on the government instead of on each other, feel utterly unneeded when they are unemployed, and have less shared experiences that they can relate with. We have strangers looking after our kids and grandparents. We seek individual wealth at the expense of others. We talk contemptuously about others instead of trying to understand them. We let political leaders turn us against each other over small differences, even though most of us agree about most things.

There’s a lot to sift through there and the solutions aren’t obvious. But in general the message is to strengthen family and community bonds, focus on the many things we agree on, and to be vigilant against those who try to take advantage of the group – bankers, frauds, polarising political speakers and others. I feel like these issues will grow in severity as technology leads to more unemployment and more isolated lifestyles.

Anyway. Tribe is quite short and is an accessible read, but if you don’t like reading you can also get a gist of it from this interview with the author.

There’s a lot of food for thought in there.

6 thoughts on “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

  1. Librocubic

    Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harrari also goes into this, but it also details how humans made the transition from tribes to what we are today. It goes through languages, collective imagination, the invention of writing, trade, farming, and eventually goes to capitalism and genetic engineering. I find it a good read if you have some time.

  2. Joseph Howard

    I am afraid that I have not read either of those books, but they sound very interesting. However, I have read several other books by Michael Crichton, who is a great author. Mark Twain also has various incredible novels, some of which focus specifically on American Society. Books like these give us lots to think about, and I enjoy reading a lot.

  3. Irae

    You should read “State of Fear” next, by Michael Crichton. There’s a lot of issues with current system in USA(idk about EU), but I don’t believe technology is the problem. What you described in blog post is basically a collectivist society, like some places in Asia. All technology does is offer us greater comfort, convenience, safety etc. Also, if this book you described really stated that village hunter-gatherer ppl worked less than avg person now, that is a blatant lie lol; before technology, ppl had to hunt/search for many hours per day JUST to put food on the table. They constantly put themselves in danger from wild predators, armed with nothing but a bow&arrow or spear, doing far more walking and manual labor than your average present-day desk job person would even want to THINK about. Mental health issues, mainly depression, are common among Teens nowadays b/c of a combination of issues(one being their own families, contrary to all the propaganda about how important family is), poor education systems, and excessive fearmongering by both the media and their families/teachers/neighbors etc. I can’t watch any local news channel on TV(or listen on radio) without hearing about some shootout or at least individual murder..despite the fact that USA’s murder rate is VERY low, and most of the stories are not even local..they put ‘breaking news’ about a mass shootout in ANOTHER STATE on “local” channels all the time. They specifically go digging for those types of stories, then proceed to over-dramatize them, which makes watching any ‘local news’ station just depressing. “Everything is on fire, and everything is a catastrophe” – That’s all they have to say.
    Lack of support for individuals who do have mental health issues does not help either – our medical system likes to just push pills and call it a day, and the rest either discriminate against you or deny that your problems are real and/or tell you to “just think positive” – which is just another way of telling you to deny your own problems even as they stab you in the face daily.
    Essentially all it comes down to is ppl with too much power taking advantage of the rest, due to a general lack of ppl willing to stand up for themselves – whether it’s b/c they are afraid to, or they are blind due to USA’s terrible education system; technology has nothing to do with it.

    1. Matt Roszak Post author

      You don’t think technology is leading people to become unemployed and more isolated? It’s definitely working hard at removing human interaction from most activities.
      Also I’m no expert but if I recall correctly people work longer hours today than they ever have in history – and desk work is soul crushing compared to hunting, safer sure, but soul crushing.

      1. Irae

        Not really. Automation replaces certain types of jobs yes – but mostly horrible, low-paying jobs that nobody really WANTS anyways, such as manufacturing, manual data entry, etc. These types are jobs are repetitive, dull, and pay you peanuts, just like working at McDonald’s..ppl only take them if they lack the qualifications for actual skilled jobs. Meanwhile technology replaces them with more skilled positions – someone has to support all the infrastructure and software behind said automation..among other things, since nearly every company has some kind of online presence.
        There are recent issues with unemployment in U.S, hundreds of ppl competing for entry level positions at their local fast food joint/retail store etc, this is moreso due to poor education however – anyone who does not have a family willing/able to pay for their college will find it difficult to get a decent job, b/c basic High School education is pretty much useless. That said though – even when these types DO get low level positions at their local McDonald’s…it’s a trap; these jobs are low-paying and college is expensive as hell for someone just starting out in their life. It also doesn’t help that most of them are part-time, meaning you need 2 to keep up with living expenses..which means working >50 hours a week and NOT getting paid for the overtime! That’s draining physically as other words, ppl who take these jobs have neither the time nor $$ to spare to get the education they need to move on. THAT’s the problem! Society just point the finger at technology, instead of fixing the real issue here: Terrible EDUCATION systems!

        As for amount of work – have you ever consider how physically exhausting it is to go through hunt/gather for that many hours a day? Safety isn’t the only difference here; it’s more draining if you are actually doing physical labor than sitting at a desk. As for ‘soul-crushing’, that depends on the job and the culture. Manual data entry sucks..that’s one of the jobs being replaced by automation. Tech support however isn’t – this is a mental challenge, plus you never know what types of calls/tickets you may get on a given day..aka it has none of the boring/repetitive aspects of manual data entry. Culture is also relevant..there is such a thing as a workplace where you are with a team who are as much a group of friends as they are co-workers..and can have fun on the job. You just have to find the right place.
        As mentioned above..many jobs still involve working with a team as well – aka not isolated.
        The only ppl who DO become isolated are the ones who choose to use technology in this manner – like the ppl who are glued to their phones, whose idea of ‘social interaction’ is to log on Facebook/Twitter/etc and type shit to their ‘friends’ (who may be ppl they barely know).
        Yet this same type of technology can also bring ppl voice&video chat allows you to make friends not only with your neighbors/co-workers, but also ppl on the other side of the planet who just like the same game as you or something. At the end of the day, technology is just a thing, like any physical tool…it can be used to help ppl or harm them, and the only determining factor of which one occurs is how you choose to use it.


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