Sky

& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.

 

With reviews of books that cover these topics

Contact

sandb@paulsmiddy.co.uk

Tribe

Sebastian Junger

 

4th Estate (Harper Collins)   16 June 2016

Tribe is a little beyond my usual remit, but Junger’s last title, War, was such a brilliant book, that I knew why further work would be worth reading. I was not mistaken: this slim volume is a thoughtful and thought-provoking sociological and anthropological treatise  on why 21st century man (around the world) has lost his sense of community.

 

As Junger develops his ideas, he drops in many very interesting observations, for example in Cape Cod in the 1600’s (now a liberal region, but then at the forefront of the Plymouth Brethren/Puritan invasion) “colonial boys were whipped if they were caught talking to a girl they weren’t related to”. Shades of Daesh…

 

The central theme is that increasing levels of affluence have brought increasing rates of depression (and anti-social behaviour): poverty binds. He also points out that in strong happy societies those who harm the common good are punished – usually severely. Junger  points out several instances where this is no longer the case in Western societies: insurance fraud (amounting to $billions p.a. in the US), veterans’ aid claims, and most pungently, the extraordinarily selfish behaviour of bankers that led to the 20008 crisis. (The film The Big Short should be required viewing on this topic). Regarding veterans, Junger notes that rates of PTSD are twice the level in the US of the UK (where combat exposure has been broadly similar in the last 2 decades).

 

Another central theme is that war binds communities: his study of Native American tribes showed that the focus on defending the tribe from external threats was a very unifying common bond.  From War he knows  precisely how strong is the sense of community at platoon level in the armed forces.

 

The timing of the book’s publication could not be more apposite – we read of Junger’s thoughts on what he terms ‘rampage killings’ at a time when the US is reeling from Orlando, and the UK is reeling from Birstall. Junger implies a more holistic approach to welfare and political life is the very least to avoid such atrocities. Finally his comments on contemptuous rhetoric will make uneasy reading for those politicians engaged in the fatuous mud-slinging of the Brexit campaign.

 

Altogether a very thought-provoking volume which is highly topical.