On Homecoming and Belonging

Book - 2016
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Sebastian Junger, the bestselling author of War and The Perfect Storm, takes a critical look at post-traumatic stress disorder and the many challenges today's returning veterans face in modern society.

There are ancient tribal human behaviors-loyalty, inter-reliance, cooperation-that flare up in communities during times of turmoil and suffering. These are the very same behaviors that typify good soldiering and foster a sense of belonging among troops, whether they're fighting on the front lines or engaged in non-combat activities away from the action. Drawing from history, psychology, and anthropology, bestselling author Sebastian Junger shows us just how at odds the structure of modern society is with our tribal instincts, arguing that the difficulties many veterans face upon returning home from war do not stem entirely from the trauma they've suffered, but also from the individualist societies they must reintegrate into.

A 2011 study by the Canadian Forces and Statistics Canada reveals that 78 percent of military suicides from 1972 to the end of 2006 involved veterans. Though these numbers present an implicit call to action, the government is only just taking steps now to address the problems veterans face when they return home. But can the government ever truly eliminate the challenges faced by returning veterans? Or is the problem deeper, woven into the very fabric of our modern existence? Perhaps our circumstances are not so bleak, and simply understanding that beneath our modern guises we all belong to one tribe or another would help us face not just the problems of our nation but of our individual lives as well.

Well-researched and compellingly written, this timely look at how veterans react to coming home will reconceive our approach to veteran's affairs and help us to repair our current social dynamic.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins, 2016
Edition: 1st Canadian ed
ISBN: 9781443449588
Branch Call Number: 616 .8521 JUN
Characteristics: xvii, 168 p. ;,23 cm


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Mar 24, 2021

Nice book. Reads quickly. It seems community and equality, working together more important than personal wealth accumulation . The author describes this through his personal journey so it is like having a conversation with him!

May 12, 2020

A few provoking ideas weaved in and out of otherwise disjointed writing. Read like several short columns. (ish) The author took the liberty of making some big assumptions and drawing parallels where not to be drawn when it comes to voluntary military service, service, reintegration and PTSD. He even contradicted himself at some point. Wouldn’t recommend.

Jan 23, 2020

I enjoyed and recommend this book. It does read like a long magazine article, the kind I would mentally categorize as tl;dr. But as a book, oddly, it was invitingly short.

I appreciated this useful reframe of PTSD: “What I had was classic short-term PTSD. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s exactly the response you want to have when your life is in danger: you want to be vigilant, you want to avoid situations where you are not in control, you want to react to strange noises, you want to sleep lightly and wake easily, you want to have flashbacks and nightmares that remind you of specific threats to your life, and you want to be, by turns, angry and depressed. Anger keeps you ready to fight, and depression keeps you from being too active and putting yourself in more danger. Flashbacks also serve to remind you of the danger that’s out there – a “highly efficient single-event survival-learning mechanism” as one researcher termed it. All humans react to trauma in this way, and most mammals do as well. It may be unpleasant, but it’s preferable to getting killed.”

There were many interesting tidbits, like the difference in kinds of heroism displayed by women and men; the frequency of white people integrating into Indian tribes; the significance of littering as a symbol of the fundamental lack of connectedness in our society...

Junger's references are listed in the back, but it's unwieldy to read through 30 pages of references to find the ones specific to, for example, heroism.... Even including references at the end of each chapter would have been more reader-friendly.

ArapahoeMarcia Oct 30, 2019

An interesting discussion about the role modern society has on soldiers returning from duty overseas. A well researched account about the state of real community here in the US. A thought-provoking read.

Feb 11, 2019

J unger r does an excellent job of articulating the role belonging has on self identity. Helps to explain the sense of belonging and purpose for military members during deployment.

Feb 05, 2019

Fantastic read. I could not put it down. A book about why we connect and what we have lost today.

Gina_Vee Dec 09, 2018

This was a very interesting book. Junger has a unique take on tribes and tribal behavior as it pertains to society as a whole and individuals. His discussion on PTSD was also extremely informative.

Jun 30, 2018

The title says it all. This lovely, rather small book is about belonging (and not belonging) to a group, whether it is a tribe, nation, country or the human race. Why is it that so many returning soldiers find it hard, if not impossible, to re-integrate into society? Why do they miss the war in which they fought? Junger provides some possible answers in this book, some of which are astounding; others plain common sense. Everyone should read this book. It desperately needs an index.

JCLCassandraG Dec 14, 2017

There were a lot of things I didn't like about this book, but it prompted what was probably our best book group discussion of the year. The author's refusal to cite sources internally leaves the reader constantly questioning where his data is from so they can fact-check or do their own research and as an avid non-fiction reader, I found this extremely frustrating! Each page of this tiny book is bursting with ideas and most chapters seem like they could have been fleshed out into books of their own. While I didn't agree with a lot of what the author had to say, Tribe certainly did make me think about society and I highly recommend this for any book groups looking for a short and easy non-fiction read!

JCLChrisK Nov 20, 2017

"During disasters there is a net gain in well-being."

Absolutely fascinating.

A brief, deeply researched book that expands on an article Junger wrote, it examines the evidence that people seem to feel more meaning and contentment during times of catastrophe and war than during ordinary times. Junger's contention is that this is so because it's in these moments people feel most connected to each other. The barriers and classifications that keep us apart in standard society are gone, and we become freer to identify with each other and work together with common purpose, which makes us happier. Whether we know it or not, people want tribes to belong to. Junger makes his case clearly and strongly--though leaves room for a companion volume exploring the implications of the conclusion and what we should do with the information.

It has me thinking.

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Nov 15, 2017

“The beauty and tragedy of the modern world is that it eliminates many situations that require people to demonstrate a commitment to the collective good.” - p. 59

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