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.