Interview with Sebastian Junger, author of “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging”


Hey Everyone,

Recently, I hosted renowned conflict journalist, author, TED speaker, and filmmaker Sebastian Junger to discuss his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, as well as his National Geographic documentary Hell on Earth, which looks at the Syrian civil war. This is a two-part talk. The first part is about Sebastian’s bookand the second part is about his documentary (which you can find here).

I’ve read Tribe twice. It’s an incredible book that talks about the struggle of finding belonging in our society and the importance that the feeling of belonging has to our psychological health. Probably one of my favorite quotes of all time comes from this book.

In 1915, an earthquake killed 30,000 people in Italy. Some towns almost lost their entire population. The earthquake didn’t discriminate on who to kill. Rich, poor, educated, and uneducated all died the same. A citizen from one of the ruined cities said, “An earthquake achieves what the law promises, but does not in practice maintain…the equality of all men.”

If you would like to read a free chapter of Tribe, you can find it here.

Sebastian Junger’s talk covers the following topics:

  • Why did some early European settlers flee “Western” society to live with the native people?
  • Are humans built for tribal living?
  • Why do crises bring out the best in people?
  • Why did reported PTSD and murder rates drop after 9/11?
  • Is there a link between economic prosperity and depression?
  • Is political partisanship more harmful to our democracy than terrorism?
  • Leadership styles and gender roles in a mining disaster
  • The tribal roots of  liberal and conservative ideologies and their importance to our democracy
  • PTSD rates and what we can do to help our veteran population

Topics covered in this talk:

[00:20] Why Sebastian wrote Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

[01:50] Why Europeans fled their modern world to live communally

[03:00] Prosperity and suicide rates

[03:30] Why are modern PTSD rates increasing when war casualty rates are lower than they were in WWII?

[06:20] Why do tragedies bring us together?

[08:00] How 9/11 impacted murder rates, PTSD, and depression

[09:00] The sad irony of modern society—that the country never asks anything of us

[10:00] How divisions, identities, and political parties melt away during a tragedy

[11:57] The beauty and tragedy of safety

[18:00] How political parties are in the business of division

[23:00] Politics in Britain after the Blitz

[24:39] The coal mining disaster in Canada and different leadership styles

[30:30] The leadership of the Iroquois (Sachems)—peacetime and wartime leaders

[34:50] The tribal roots of liberal and conservative ideologies, their importance to our democracy, and the genetic influences that affect political ideology

[38:30] How partisanship is destroying America (and why it’s more dangerous than Al-Qaeda)

[42:40] The different types of courage: ‘risking your life’ versus ‘moral courage’

[47:00] Veterans and their reintegration into society

[51:00] The psychological cost of technology and depression rates between Nigeria and the United States

[54:00] How can we find our own tribes?

[1:00:40] How can we better support our troops when they return home?

Book Recommendation:

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

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