This article made me consider why we would rather be at war (with anything in general) than be alone…
Why we’d rather be at war than be alone: How humans desire a tribal sense of belonging that is missing from modern life
- This book argues that people need to feel connected to others
- During Second World War, people mixed in a way they hadn’t before
- Sebastian Junger shows what our modern way of living has cost us
by Sebastian Junger
(4th Estate £12.99)
During John Ford’s celebrated western film The Searchers, John Wayne’s character spends years hunting for his niece Debbie, kidnapped as a child by Comanche Indians.
When he finally finds her, she initially wants to stay with her Comanche husband rather than return home.
Although shocking in the film, it’s historically accurate. White people captured by American Indians (author Sebastian Junger’s preferred name for Native Americans) commonly chose to stay with their captors – and the book cites a case of a captive woman who hid from her would-be rescuers.
Sebastian Junger argues in this book that people need to feel connected to others. During the war, people from different classes mixed in a way they hadn’t before and joined together in the face of a common enemy
Even more astonishingly, from the earliest days of Europeans in America, settlers of both sexes ran away to join Indian tribes. This wasn’t just a few people, it was hundreds and hundreds. The practice was so rife that in the early 1600s settler leaders made it an offence with harsh punishments, but over the following centuries people still ran off in huge numbers.
And it hardly ever happened the other way. Indians didn’t want to join white society.
The attraction, argues Junger, was the sense of community, the importance of the tribe, evident in other primates and in primitive human societies. The superficial attractions of American Indian life were obvious: sexual mores were more relaxed, clothing was more comfortable, religion less harsh.
But mostly it was the structure of Indian society that appealed. It was less hierarchical, essentially classless and egalitarian. As the people were nomadic, personal property hardly mattered, since it was limited to what you or your horses could carry.
What changed this natural way of living for humans was first agriculture, then industry. Accumulation of personal property led to people doing what they thought best for themselves, rather than for the common good. But, suggests Junger, we’re not happy like this. We’re wired to the lifestyle of the tribe.
Take the London Blitz during World War II. Before it began the government feared there would be riots and maybe even revolution as people fought one another for space in bomb shelters or for food.
In fact, exactly the reverse happened. People from different classes mixed in a way they hadn’t before and joined together in the face of a common enemy.
Historians credit the ‘spirit of the Blitz’ as the cause of the Labour landslide victory in the 1945 election, its strong feeling for community leading to the foundation of the NHS and a robust welfare state.
Percentage of buildings in Hull destroyed in the Blitz
Junger, an American journalist and former war correspondent, gives many examples of what our modern way of living has cost us. In a modern city or suburb you can go through an entire day meeting only strangers. As affluence and urbanisation rise, rates of suicide and depression go up. According to the World Health Organisation, people in wealthy countries suffer eight times the depression rate of those in poorer ones. But when we revert to the tribe, things improve.
Those caught up in the bloody conflict in Bosnia often say they were happier during the war. The reason, they say, was they all pulled together, felt connected and part of something bigger than themselves.
Junger spent time embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and says he was never alone there. Soldiers slept a dozen to a shelter. You couldn’t stretch out an arm without touching someone. Men of all colours, classes and creeds bonded as they had to look out for one another.
In a tribe the survival of the individual depends upon the survival of the group. The lack of this brotherhood is what makes it so hard for returning combat veterans to reintegrate into contemporary, fragmented societies.
Community spirit in the U.S. rocketed after 9/11. The suicide rate dropped dramatically. There were no rampage shootings in public places like schools and colleges for two years.
Interestingly, such shootings happen only in middle-class rural or suburban areas. There has never been one in a poor inner-city location, where gangs provide a tribal sense of belonging.
This sense of bonding with the larger group begins almost at birth. In less developed countries, children sleep with or in close proximity to their parents and often an extended family group.
It’s only in Northern European countries (and the U.S.) that small children sleep alone. It’s only here that they go through a well-known developmental stage of bonding with stuffed animals or so-called ‘comfort’ blankets.
In Junger’s small, but convincingly argued, book he quotes the self-determination theory, the things necessary for contentment. People need to feel competent at what they do. They need to feel authentic in their lives.
Above all, they need to feel connected with others. It’s a good starting point for rethinking the way we live our troubled modern lives.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-3634383/Why-d-war-humans-desire-tribal-sense-belonging-missing-modern-life.html#ixzz4BB5oeHEx
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