07.19.19 | Tribe
I am often asked, “Why did you start City Club?”
To be perfectly honest, at the time I did not have a clear answer, but 14-years and millions of dollars later, now that City Club is a social and commercial success, I can answer, “to heal myself.”
Last week I listened to a great short book called TRIBE, by Sebastian Junger. More of a long essay than a book, the author posits that we are social animals in need of community to survive and thrive. If you are too busy to read or listen to this book, take a quick look at the book summary below, or visit the author’s site HERE.
An Immigrant to America, like myself, gives up everything to get here, from country and language, to family and friends. A Mohamed from Iran who becomes Mo from Italy hoping to attract a mate has no idea who he is. But the heaviest and most dramatic price an immigrant pays is the loss of tribe and community, highlighting the fact we are nothing unless we are rooted in something.
I encourage each City Club member to ask, at least once a month when paying dues, "Why do I continue to belong to Highland City Club community?” When in doubt, read Tribe for a possible answer.
One day while hitchhiking across the northwestern US as a young man, Junger sees a man approaching who he fears may be coming to rob him or ask for some of his minimal travel rations. Junger is then surprised (and ashamed) when the man unexpectedly offers him his own lunch.
Junger writes that this unknown man treated him “like a member of his tribe”; in essence, “acting in a tribal way means being willing to make a substantive sacrifice for your community -- be that your neighborhood, your workplace, or your entire country.” He then spends the rest of his book exploring the rarity of this kind of act in modern society compared to tribal societies and societies in times of war or hardship, and what this means in respect to our individual and collective happiness and well-being.
The entire book is rich with story and fact, and I highly recommend reading it in full (~150 pages). In this brief summary, I share the main points that continue to stick with me, and how lessons from Tribe apply to today’s job seekers.
Modern society may be more comfortable and prosperous overall, but it also displays unprecedented symptoms of disconnectedness and unhappiness, as seen in:
Some of the highest rates of mental illness, depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide in human history
A greater emphasis on extrinsic values (e.g. wealth, consumption) over intrinsic values (e.g. well-being, community)
Higher rates of fraudulent and selfish behavior (e.g. insurance fraud, the 2008 financial crisis, littering, rampage shootings)
“For many people—war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations.”
Charles Fritz, U.S. WWII strategist posits that existential threats to society erase the importance of class, income, race or other individual differences and create more opportunities for individuals to serve the group -- in turn helping people find a sense of value, connectedness and purpose.
Examples include: crime rates dropping after Hurricane Katrina, lower psychiatric hospital admission rates and improved patient symptoms during WWII, asylum seekers re-entering war zones voluntarily.
Modern soldier PTSD rates exemplify this, although not all modern societies are created equal
High modern soldier PTSD rates are in part due to the stark transition modern soldiers make from a group characterized by total belonging, shared resources and experience and a shared goal of serving the collective good, to the total opposite in modern society.
The U.S. military has the highest reported PTSD rate in its history (21-29%) -- twice as high as the rate of British soldiers who were in combat with US soldiers, and significantly higher than groups like the the Israel Defense Forces with PTSD rates as low as 1%.
The question we’re left with: “How do you make veterans feel that they are returning to a cohesive society that was worth fighting for in the first place?”
We are exceptionally disconnected from our military and many industries that provide for us but are less revered in society (e.g. infrastructure, fishing, construction)
Junger and the research he shares posit we need to focus on shared humanity, listening and uniting around commonalities instead of focusing on differences.