Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Sebastian Junger's View of Tribes

Sebastian Junger, whose breakthrough book was The Perfect Storm, is a guy from privileged Boston. And by the time he got out of college in 1986 he wanted an adventure. So he hitchhiked out West.

On the way, just outside of Gillette, Wyoming, he met a marginal guy who was worried Junger didn't have enough food, and gave him the contents of his lunchbox. He treated Junger "like a member of his tribe." So Junger wrote a book about Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.
This book is about why that sentiment is such a rare and precious thing in modern society... It's about what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty and belonging and the eternal human quest for meaning.
And, most importantly,
It's about why -- for many people -- war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to he a great blessing and disasters are remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations.
What people don't like is "not feeling necessary." And these days there are a ton of people that feel they are not necessary. And are alone, and depressed and so on.

Here's something to puzzle over. When the whites first came to North America they started to experience a real problem.
[A] surprising number of [white] Americans -- mostly men -- wound up joining Indian society rather than staying in their towns... And the opposite almost never happened: Indians almost never ran away to join white society.
Maybe that's because Indians "lived communally in mobile or semi-permanent encampments that were more or less run by consensus and broadly egalitarian... Anyone who didn't like it was free to move somewhere else."

I was glad to read this because it confirms what I had read from C.R. Hallpike, that hunter-gatherers lived in "bands" and when men got into a row with the other men they would leave and join another band. (Yeah: I'm glad you asked. Whatabout the women? I bet they were being named and shamed and shunned by the other women just like today!)

But, of course, when it came to a fight, the whites rolled up the Indians, starting in 1763 when the Swiss Henri Bouquet rolled up the tribal army assembled by Ottawa chief Pontiac.

Maybe that's the definitive thing about modern man and agricultural man vs. the hunter-gatherers; we industrialist and agriculturalists always beat them in battle. Except at Little Big Horn.

But, I thought, after reading 170 pages of the glories of the North American Indians and our dysfunctional society. Whatabout slaves? Aha! Wouldn't you know, from an internet search:
Indigenous American slavery, rooted in warfare and diplomacy, was flexible, often offering its victims escape through adoption or intermarriage, and it was divorced from racial ideology, deeming all foreigners—men, women, and children, of whatever color or nation—potential slaves.
The Native Americans even got into the plantation slavery business with West African slaves!
In the Southeast, an elite class of Indians began to hold African Americans in transgenerational slavery and, by 1800, developed plantations that rivaled those of their white neighbors.
No kidding! But probably, in their Noble Savage innocence, this "elite class of Indians" had no idea about plantation slavery until a racist sexist homophobe white supremacist suggested it.

But aside from this embarrassment -- not covered in his book -- Junger praises the social nature of hunter-gatherer life.
They would have experienced high levels of accidental injuries and deaths. They would have countered domineering behavior by senior males by forming coalitions within the group. They would have been utterly intoleratnt of hoarding or selfishness. They would have occasionally endured episodes of hunger, violence, and hardship. They would have practiced extremely close and involved childcare. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others.
Yes. And they also experienced, according to scholars, 500 violent deaths per 100,000 per year against our 5 per 100,000 per year.

But now, after the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution, we have property. And alienation.
The accumulation of personal property allowed people to make more and more individualistic choices about their lives, and those choices unavoidably diminished group efforts toward a common good. And as society modernized, people found themselves able to live independently from any communal group. A person living in a modern city or a suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day -- or an entire life -- mostly encountering complete strangers. They can be surrounded by others and yet feel deeply, dangerously alone.
Speak for yourself, lefty. I'd say that the industrial revolution birthed a whole universe of communal inventions, from the workplace to mutual-aid societies.

But then along came lefties. They taught workers to hate their bosses. They drafted children into government schools. They replaced the pro-social mutual aid societies with administrative dominations like "social" insurance and government pension plans. And they subjugated the financial system to finance their wars and then their entitlement programs.

Hey! Suppose the men were all "going through the chairs" at the local Masonic lodge or the Elks club. Suppose the women were all involved in home-schooling and cooperative child care with their neighbors. Suppose the care of the poor was delegated to billionaires and millionaires and their charitably-minded wives -- or else! Hey, if that had been allowed to happen everyone would be as happy as clams, living pro-social, meaningful lives.

And that says nothing about the way that employers these days consciously attempt to create the illusion of community in the workplace. And says nothing about the way that the market economy pretty well forces everyone to practice the notion of trusting everyone that demonstrates trustworthiness, or getting along with anyone that demonstrates they will get along with you.

No. I'd say that the reason that people are miserable these days is lefties. Because lefties have harvested all the pro-social roles and said: all social activity is to be controlled and directed by us lefties with wonderful government programs. All you plebs and deplorables have to do is show up to get your benefit. We lefties and liberals and mandarins will do all the thinking and the deciding. Isn't this new world wonderful! (Better say yes, or you will be canceled.)

OK. That's just for a start. More tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. This "tribalism" is strong in the "alt-right". And, it is hard to not sympathize with the motivation. Who wants to criticize a guy for desiring a richer more meaningful cultural life full of strong bonds.

    I always offer such nostalgic ruminations the following choice: achieve strong bonds by force or achieve them through voluntary consent. In a free society no one is stopping the one who longs for a tribe from forming a tribe. But in a welfare state your welfare has been defined by someone else. Hope you like it.