Lately my social media and news feeds are too often an open sewer of ranting hatred towards those with differing political views. Maybe yours is too. It’s not healthy. In fact, it’s diseased. In his new book Tribe, war journalist and adventurer Sebastian Junger talks about the very high PTSD rates returning US soldiers have. Maybe, he says, it’s because when they were in the military, they had a purpose, they were part of a tribe that protected and took care of each other. Then they return, see the open sewers of hatred, wonder WTF happened to my country, and get depressed. Not only is there not a tribe to come home to, our country is at war internally.
Excerpts from his Ted Talk video, available on his home page at SebastianJunger.com.13 minutes and absolutely worth listening to.
“Maybe what determines the rate of long-term PTSD isn’t what happened out there, but the kind of society you come back to. And maybe if you come back to a close, cohesive tribal society, you can get over trauma pretty quickly. And if you come back to an alienating, modern society, you might remain traumatized for your entire life. Maybe the problem isn’t them, the vets. Maybe the problem is us.
40% of US military have filed for PTSD compensation. They were not in combat. Maybe they had an experience of sort of tribal closeness when they were in their unit overseas. They were trusting each other with their lives. And then they come back to a modern society which is hard on people who weren’t even in the military. It’s just hard on everyone.
The highest rates of depression in the world are urban woman in North America. They are also the wealthiest.
Israel has a PTSD rate of 1%. Maybe that’s because everyone serves it, comes home, and everyone understands the situation they are in. It’s as if they’re all in one big tribe.
After 9/11, the murder, suicide, and violent crime rate in New York City went down. The reason is, if you traumatize an entire society, we don’t fall apart and turn on each other. We come together, we unify. Basically, we tribalize.
US soldiers used to come back to a unified country. We were sticking together. But that’s changed. Now, American veterans are coming back to a country that is so bitterly divided that the two political parties are literally accusing each other of treason, of being an enemy of the state.
Veterans know that any tribe, any platoon that treated itself that way would never survive. They come back, see the country with new eyes. No wonder they are depressed.
We ask, can we save the vets. I Think the real question is, can we save ourselves. If we do that, the vets will be fine. It’s time for this country to unite.”
From Sebastian Junger’s newsletter:
I’m thrilled to announce that my new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, is out now from Twelve Books. The book started as an attempt to explain the high rates of PTSD among American soldiers, but wound up as an inquiry into why people tend to be happier and healthier in small, tightly-knit communities–“tribes.” That was as true along the American frontier – where settlers were constantly running off to join the native population – and it still seems to be true. One of the most complicated reactions soldiers have about war is that they miss it: they miss the platoon, they miss the closeness they had with others, they miss having something that was so important that they would die for it. Today’s America is a deeply divided country where many people live without any such connection. Tribe explains what this has cost us, and what we still may be able to do about it.