Saturday, July 29, 2017

Tribe—Key Takeaways and Analyses

by Sebastian Junger

Key Takeaways and Analyses 

Key Takeaway 1

Tribal culture appeals to human being on a deeply ingrained level. People will often choose to live with fewer modern amenities in exchange for the equality, shared labor, and companionship.


When Europeans settled in towns in North America, they had regular encounters with indigenous tribes and often fought with those tribes over resources. Despite this contentious relationship, Europeans regularly left their towns to live with the tribes and even joined the tribe after natives captured them. few natives ever left a tribe to join colonial society, however. Early accounts of indigenous tribal life seldom mentioned suicide and even less often mentioned depression-related suicide.

Tribal society in the United States is very different today than it was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It more closely resembles the rest of American Society in its economic pressures with the aded disadvantage of the uneven overlap of criminal justice and health services between the US government and tribal governments. Poverty, suicide, and diseases resulting from alcohol abuse are disproportionately common in the Native population, as is diabetes. Given the displacement and the extreme violence that Native American communities experienced as colonists expanded across the continent, it is not surprising that Native American tribes lost many of the quality of life advantages of their former tribal cultures. Native American were forced into non-tribal education, their children were adopted into white families, and their tribal religious practices were sometimes prohibited. Quality of life in Native American communities suffered as a result.

Key Takeaway 2

War and crisis can temporarily trigger i\an increased sense of community and generosity accompanied by decreases in suicide rates and rates of depression.


During World War II, people renewed community ties and were more willing to share resources. Despite the stress of bombing in London, data shows that evidence of psychiatric distress,  particularly depression and suicide, dropped until the end of the war. This trend is common in times of war. The growth of tribal feelings within the community could be the cause of the public welfare initiatives that became law immediately after the end of the war.

Over time, the feelings of community have decreased in many regions as an emphasis on authority has increased, a fact that is reflected by the tendency of authoritarian leaders to manipulate tribal and community dynamics in order to control a population, Authoritarian leaders often intentionally form rifts in society, an activity that constitutes the ultimate betrayal of the tribe and a crime that would be worthy of harsh punishment. Both Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin designated large portions of their countries' populations as unfit for society, most notably Jews, political dissidents, homosexuals, an the European Roma, also called gypsies. As president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein waged persecution campaigns against Shia Muslims, the Kurdish people, and the Marsh Arab tribes, all to quash dissent and increase his own power. With the evidence supporting the mental health benefits of greater community involvement, it is worthwhile to consider the advantages of a cohesive, egalitarian tribe when others engage in rhetoric that attempts to vilify a subset of the community and unite groups against immigrants, religions, or political parties. 

Key Takeaway 3

Men and women differ in the ways they respond to crises with men more often committing heroics to save women and children and women being moved by empathy to meet others' emotional needs. 


Gender roles influence differences in the ways that men and women exhibit heroism. When others are not present to fulfill a particular role, men and women can adapt their gender roles; women may commit acts of heroism and men may assist the needy. Gender roles are thus influenced but not determined by sex.

Historical examples of ruling couples and women who succeed men as leaders in war reinforce the notion that members of both sexes adapt in response to crisis. When Ethiopia fought against attempted Italian colonization in 1895, Emperor Menelik managed challenging diplomatic situations and treaties while his wife, empress Taytu Betul, became a cunning strategist, a confrontational negotiator, and a respected military leader. Remedios Gomes-Paraiso became the commander of resistance fighters in the Philippines during World War II after Japanese soldiers publicly killed her father, a resistance organizer. Although gender roles have historically been enforced by social mores, sex difference cannot reliably be used to predict how anyone will act when a community is in danger.

Key Takeaway 4

Symptoms of PTSD arise in People who experience trauma regardless of whether they were involved in combat or were ever in danger. PTSD is most apparent when soldiers transition from war to civilian life.


People who conduct drone strikes remotely and other service members who do not erectly experience combat are just as likely to experience PTSD as people who experience combat firsthand because they all see the harm that war does even if they were never in danger themselves. PTSD symptoms are less common among people who are still deployed but more common when they end their tours of duty and return to the United States.

On top of the trauma that results in PTSD among non-combat veterans, treatment for PTSD can cause traumatization to the people involved in veterans' treatment. This is called secondary trauma, vicarious traumatization, or secondary traumatization, and it refers to the trauma non-combat treatment staff experience when they see and discuss the trauma that soldiers witnessed firsthand. This phenomenon is also called compassion fatigue, and it is particularly common among psychiatrists, counselors, therapists, and medical personnel. This vicarious trauma was even blamed for a rampage shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30. The suspect never was deployed or saw combat, but he worked daily with soldiers who were struggling to recover from PTSD. Given that the transition from traumatic wartime experience to civilian life is an important facto in managing PTSD symptoms, psychiatrists would be especially vulnerable because they transition between the stressful environment of treating soldiers back to the civilian world every day. They likely have little tie to coop with those emotions aside from a commute and little access to specialists who understand and can treat compassion fatigue.

Key Takeaway 5

PTSD recovery is hindered when soldiers feel alienated by their experiences, can identify no purpose for their sacrifices, or feel useless when they return home.


The societies with the lowest rates of PTSD are the ones where everyone, even civilians, understands the trauma of military service. Low-PTSD societies can also b those in who civilians also feel a constant sense of danger and feel that their lives are at risk. Above all, societies that ensure veterans will be employed thereby help to prevent PTSD because employed veterans feel they are needed and useful rather than a burden on the community.

Veteran unemployment affects other matter of US veteran health and wellness, particularly their housing and mental health treatment. As of 2015, the unemployment rate for veterans of active duty since September 2001 was 5.8 percent, compared to 5 percent for the general population. Veterans of all wars were unemployed at a rate of 4.6 percent, slightly less than average, but the rate for female veterans alone was 5.4 percent. homeless people in the United States are disproportionately likely to be veterans and also disproportionately likely to be minority veterans. The apartment of Housing and Urban Development estimates that at any given time, about 47,725 veterans are homeless, and an additional 1.4 million are at risk of homelessness. While they are homeless, veterans have inconsistent access to treatment for PTSD and substance abuse, making them less employable. To address this, the US government has established programs to encourage employers to hire veterans and numerous programs to sport wounded veterans. There are also innovative programs such as Mission Continues, founded by a veteran Marine, which connects wounded post-September 2001 veterans with volunteer opportunities that give them a sense of purpose despite being unable to serve in the military anymore.

Key Takeaway 6

Societies with relatively low rates of PTSD transition soldiers back into society more carefully, offer a cohesive and egalitarian environment, do not identify them as victims, and give them purpose.


Rituals practiced in indigenous tribes encouraged a gradual, community-involved transition back to normal life for returning soldiers and offered spiritual programs of treatment that were also community-involved. Iroquois soldiers were expected to contribute to the community when they returned as well.

Israel may have unusually low rates of PTSD connected in part to the constant existential threat that civilians and veterans feel in everyday society and to the fact that military service is mandatory for most Israeli citizens. However, there are significant numbers of minorities whose experiences as Israeli Defense Force soldiers differ from that of Israeli Jews. Members of Arab populations, such as the Druze, Bedouins, and Palestinian Christians, regularly sign up for IDF service. The Druze are included in the mandatory conscription law and Bedouins are encouraged to volunteer for the economic advantages. Muslim Arabs of Israel and Palestine also volunteer for the IDF, at lower numbers. As soldiers, Arabs in the IDF often experience unequal treatment from their fellow soldiers. When they return home after their service, the Israelis with whom they served do not usually maintain their relationship, and the Arab soldiers in their own communities lack the support networks and shared experience of service that help Israeli Jews recover from PTSD after their service. This disparity suggests that it's likely that Arab IDF soldiers experience a hight rate of PTSD than the general population of IDF veterans.

Key Takeaway 7

In the United States, where a small proportion of the population serves in the military, veterans can feel isolated because so few people understand their experiences. Divisive rhetoric and unpunished greed prevent them from identifying with the people for whom they fought.  


In the United States just 1 percent of citizens serve in the military, meaning that soldiers who return home have few people who understand what they experienced and who can support them as they recover. Similarly, soldiers who return from war may struggle to understand whether the results of their service are worth their sacrifice. For example, individuals who take advantage of the community for personal gains, such as those who commit large-scale theft and fraud, give the impression that they receive a disproportionately large amount of the national security benefit from the armed forces, and they often then misuse that benefit to protect their ill-gotten pains, Moreover, divisive political rhetoric may unite people against a common enemy, which research suggests is one cause of the findings on shifts to tribe communities during war against a common enemy, but in peacetime it also forms rifts domestically between citizens who would be best served cooperating together toward a common goal.

The dissonance between the sacrifices that US culture expects from soldiers and the support it gives when the come home is more frequently addressed in literary fiction. Ben Fountain's 2012 novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk follows a squad of soldiers returning to the United States from Iraq to be honored for their bravery. Along the way, the soldiers encounter characters who reflect the sometimes hypocritical or inappropriately focused attitudes of civilians when they discuss war. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2012. In 2014, Phil Klay won the National Book Award in Fiction for Redeployment, a short story collection that presented a variety of fictional soldiers' experiences, based on Klay's service and that of veterans he interviewed. The book features stories of both soldiers overseas, in the heart of warrior culture, and of soldiers attempting to transition back to their lives in the civilian world, where they sometimes struggle to communicate what they feel or what they experienced to people who never served.

Key Takeaway 8

Veterans most of all need ways to share their emotional burdens with civilians, should feel like part of a united community, and should see that people who take advantage of the system are held accountable.


In addition to more obvious actions, such as ensuring better veteran employment and health care, creating a better support system in the United States would involve some fundamental changes in the way civilians communicate with soldiers, particularly the way they listen. Some events that foster open communication between soldiers and civilians have already occurred in a town hall format and these could become more commonplace. Civilians should mitigate divisive rhetoric when it damages the sense of community that inspires generosity and equality toward others including veterans. Additionally, people who take advantage of the system, such as white-collar embezzlers who steal millions and sometimes billions of dollars, would need to be more fairly punished for the damage they do to communities.

One place where these changes would have the most impact is Guam. On the island, one in eight adults has serve in the US military, but as a US territory, Guam has just one non-voting delegate in Congress and has no electoral college votes in the presidential election. In 2014, Guam received the lowest amount of medical spending from the Department of Veterans Affairs per capita of all states and territories, and it was not well-staffed to served veterans with PTSD. Until recent changes in the VA system, Guam veterans were required to travel 3,000 miles to Hawaii to access an intensive treatment program for PTSD. While they could find comfort in a shared experience, given the higher than average rate of military service, Guamanians will not feel equal to the mainland US residents whose votes actually affect US policy, so the sacrifice they made has less meaning. Similarly, the lack of accessible PTSD treatment programs is an obstacle to healthy recovery because PTSD treatment can address underlying causes of symptoms, such as substance abuse or childhood trauma, that tribal community structures are less equipped to handle.

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