Saturday, July 29, 2017


Tribe by Sebastian Junger is a scientific and journalistic consideration of the correlation between societies with egalitarian tribal structures and low rates of mental illness, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers returning home.

The sense of tribal belonging was documented in the eighteenth century among settlers in North America, who often joined Native American tribes eve after those tribes held them as prisoners or waged war against the settlers. those tribes were particularly egalitarian in nature, and despite lacking what were then modern amenities, members seldom worked as hard as the settlers in towns. The tribes also had low rates of depression and suicide.

Crisis in a community, whether that crisis is was or a natural disaster, tends to inspire people to return to a more collaborative, tribal mentality by sharing their resources regardless of social divisions and by working to help each other. During these crises, mental health markers also tend to improve. Men are more likely to risk their lives for others, and women are more likely to receive the benefits of life-risking heroics and to offer assistance when they empathize with victims in a crisis.

PTSD is a natural response to stress, especially when soldiers witness harm visited on others even if they were never in danger themselves. Serious symptoms are likely to occur when soldiers struggle to transition back to life among civilians. Israelis have remarkably low rates of PTSD, possibly because such a large proportion of the population has been in the military and therefore understand their fellow veterans’ experience. On the other hand, anything that encourages former combatants to hold onto a sense of victimization causes them to recover from trauma more slowly.

Tribal societies ease the transition from war to civilian life through egalitarian, cohesive communities that make ex-combatants feel useful and do not assign them victim status. In societies where communities are divided and selfish people can steal from the community with relative impunity, that transition is more difficult and can result in violence by community members. Veterans particularly need ways to communicate their emotions to the civilian community and to experience unity among the people on whose behalf they fought.

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