Book Discussion Series

Book Discussion Series: Tribe

On the surface, Tribe: Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger seems to be far from a gripping read for most people not affected by life in the military. Famous for works such as The Perfect Storm and War, in this book, Junger discusses an aspect of military life often overlooked – coming home.

Most of us are familiar with terms such as PTSD and have heard about the devastating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but most of us cannot fully comprehend what it means. While the focus of Junger’s book is primarily the military and PTSD, it isn’t the only focus. The idea of belonging is at the heart of Tribe and that idea isn’t exclusive to people who serve our country. Junger contends that feeling like a productive member of a community is essential for people coming home from military service, and really for anyone in our society.

As part of his argument, Junger reaches into the past and presents stories and quotes from new settlers of America who talk about people leaving the “civilized” world to join American Indian tribes. He provides quotes from both leaders questioning why these people left, or in some cases stayed after being kidnapped, and from people who decided they would rather not return home after experiencing life with a tribe.

He also offers expert commentary on other tribal communities around the world and the role each person plays to ensure everyone’s survival. The individual self is not considered because it is only the survival of the entire community that is important. Junger describes how modern Americans are too individualistic and how our technologies, meant to bring us together, actually allow us to disconnect even more.

A few questions to consider while reading:

  • Do we focus too much on being an individual? Why do we feel the need to be distinctive from our community?
  • What can we do as society to improve how we reintegrate military personnel back into the everyday community?
  • Does Junger’s arguments make sense in today’s modern technological world?
  • How else could the ideas presented by Junger be applied to our society?
  • Is the feeling of being a necessary part of a community worth sacrificing a safer existence? Would you make that sacrifice?

Though some may not agree with the ideas presented in Tribe, at the very least, Junger provides a different viewpoint to consider. It is worth the time it takes to read the 133 pages to think about how our society interacts with one another and the unintended consequences, good or bad, of our individual thinking.

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