Tribe (Hardcover) by Sebastian Junger

I can’t recall exactly how I stumbled onto Sebastian Junger. I had never read any of his books or watched any of his films before. Whatever it was that initially peaked my interest I do remember it was a long form interview shortly thereafter that convinced me to buy this book and cemented the idea that Sebastian Junger is a form of exemplar worth investigating.

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On the surface it looks like a book about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which I feel is a bit unkind. Better to say that it is a book that also covers PTSD. It never felt like a book about a psychological condition, but rather a treatise on our broader society.

Tribe stitches together the fields of western philosophy, anthropology and sociology. It broadly covers the belief that western culture has deviated significantly from the social mammal paradigm that we derived from our ancestry, which has led to unexpected social and psychological problems.

At about one hundred and seventy pages it’s a quick and easy read. That’s not to say that it’s basic. The author has a great, clean almost minimalist style with great flow and an intrinsic ability to communicate concepts efficiently. Wherein lies my only gripe, it’s all over way too soon. Afterwards I ended up buying the audio version on Audible so I could listen to it on my commute. Well read and also highly recommended.

I find the author remarkable. Having worked on or very close to the front lines most of his adult life and having seen all manner terrible things, I marvel that he can still find something positive to say about our species.

To quote Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster, when you stare long into the abyss the abyss also stares into you’.

Certainly I appreciate my own limits and can confidently espouse that I would not be the arithmetic mean of mental health or indeed have anything good to say about Homo sapiens after leading such a harrowing life. I can barely keep my misanthropy in check during morning traffic and that’s without being painted with blood of my familiars.

This book led me to ponder its content long after I packed it back on my shelf. It made me ask questions and critically consider social convention. This can only be a good thing.