5 Lessons from Tribe | Sebastian Junger

The Truth of Our Tribal Nature

Jack Yang
3 min readJun 6, 2020
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Overall Impression

A short book (about 150 pages) centered around the topic of community. Since the author, Sebastian Junger, has a lot of background in reporting combats, the book examines the subject through the lens of veterans. In my opinion, this is a thought-provoking book but occasionally I find Junge’s argument unsettling. He suggests that modern societies are not as cohesive as the tribal communities and people, especially veterans, suffer from the division. Even though I see his points in making such claims, I do not completely agree with it because I believe there are other ways to unite people together with other than through catastrophes and wars. However, I still enjoy this book because it allows me to have a better understanding of what veterans are going through and the bigger underlying problem behind it.

Score: 3.5/5

Recommendation: people who want to learn more about the community in modern society or veterans experience back home


1. Veterans suffer PTSD because they do not know what they were fighting for.

This is the key theme throughout the book: modern society is very disconnected from the veterans. Veterans go to war because they want to fight for their countries, but they come back to find a country that is extremely un-tribe-like where people act selfishly to advance their own interests instead of the common good and people are extremely unequal. They realize they are fighting for their own units, instead of their own country. At home, veterans have to victimize themselves in order to receive compensation from the government. In addition, they are treated with sympathy instead of with respect as a fully functional individual in society. All these factors contribute to veterans suffering from PTSD.

2. Prosperity can make people sad.

Societies are becoming increasingly prosperous. Yet the wealthiest countries often have the highest rate of mental illness such as depression. Junger argues that it is because society requires more commitments from its members as it becomes more affluent while the wealthy individuals are already independent and do not rely on the community. Moreover, resources are unevenly distributed and people are no longer equal as tribal times. Such trend detaches people from the tribal lifestyle that human lives in for thousands of years and contributes to the increasing loneliness despite a society's prosperity.

3. Wars and Catastropy unite people together.

During the times of wars and catastrophe, people, who are growing distant from each other during normal times, are uniting together to fight for a common cause. In fact, in areas where natural disasters occurred, there are usually lower crime rates. In times when wars took place, there are usually lower rates of depression and other mental illnesses. This is because people are living in a tribal lifestyle where everyone is equal and has the opportunity to serve the community instead of themselves, which give people a sense of purpose and belonging.

4. Focus on our shared humanity instead of our differences.

The media and politicians have a tendency to focus on differences rather than similarities, which gives people a sense that their community is more divided than ever. This belief contradicts with the tribal belief that everyone is equal. We should learn from the fact that people are people more united during hardship and focus on what we have in common rather than how we are different. Such views increase not only the cohesion of a community but also the happiness of individuals.

5. Find your purpose.

This sounds like a cliche that can be found on every self-help books, it is nevertheless true. As members of a community, we should not focus solely on our work itself, but on how our work would benefit our community as a whole, therefore giving us a sense of purpose and belonging. This is a better way for communities to bond together rather through wars and natural disasters. In this case, the term “community” is not restricted to society but is also applicable to groups or companies. When everyone within the community contributes to a common good, something bigger than themselves, the community is usually happier and work itself becomes more meaningful than just to make a living.