Recently I heard an interview on PBS with a reporter, Sebastian Junger, who spent his career combat situations. He had just written a book called, Tribe. The discussion was about several things but he talked about PTSD. He said he had experienced it when he can back to the States from Iraq. He hadn’t understood why he would have that since he was out of the uber stressful situation of combat. But he had gone into deep depression. As he tried to understand what was going on with him he began to remember hearing many combat veterans say they missed their platoon, their buddies, even combat.
He pieced together that during combat you depended on others for your safety, sustenance and literally your life. He related it to tribal living. The survival of individuals depended on the survival of the tribe. The tribe provided food, shelter, safety, belonging and a sense of being needed. Everything that humans have to have to feel good. He further stated that our current style of life is very independent with each focused only on their individual needs, mainly because there is no tribe to belong to. This is one of the reasons that church has become so important to people. In part because it’s a place where they feel they can contribute and belong.
A pastor I know has been concerned about the school shootings, as we all have, but his concern went further. I remember him saying, “How are we letting down these young white males that they would resort to such behavior?” That was a question I have never heard anyone else voice when trying to deal with the untenable situation. But as I listened to Sebastian Junger’s interview it began to make sense. These young men who have been committing such heinous acts have all been acting alone. No gang participation. Alone. It’s easy to see that somehow, they have gotten disconnected from any sense of belonging or tribe. Even in families, people can be isolated. In tribal living, many families work together to sustain everyone. A single family doesn’t quite have that. So, if this minister is right and the lack of tribal belonging is at the root of many things that are not working in our culture, the question becomes – ‘How do we create tribe now?’ How do we become a village again?
Strangely enough, I have seen that sense of village in New York in early days of SoHo. Also in the early days before Red Hook, Brooklyn became fashionable. In New York with huge numbers of people there was a sense of tribe in those areas. People knew one another and everyone went to the same restaurants and shops and had relationships with those owners. Now these areas are over run and the sense of tribe is vanishing.
I had this discussion with a friend when I said I was looking for a place to live that still had the feel of a village. He mentioned some places outside of Atlanta that I had once lived near, saying they now had vineyards and trendy restaurants, etc. so it was the perfect place to live. But I wonder, is that what makes a village or is it a small place with shops and restaurants that are not trendy but authentic? Where the stamp of an individual personality can be felt in a business. Maybe trendy is not the way to go even though we seem hooked on it as an American culture. Probably that can be said for Europe as well. The places where researches found the happiest people were in Bhutan and a small village in China. Not trendy at all, but they are tribal. Maybe they are on to something that we are missing here. And just maybe tribal and individual are not mutually exclusive. I say that remembering a factual book I read about a woman who went on Walkabout in Australia with Aborigines. Each person in the group was praised for their uniqueness. Each took a turn leading the group to find water and were followed unquestioningly because each person was seen as capable of doing what they set out to do. Unfortunately, as they moved into the cities, Aborigines also lost their sense of tribe.
But, I think the longing is so deep in many of us that we will find a way to be individuals in a tribe once again.
My wish is that you find your tribe and get the support you need to soar.
Best to you,
Dianne, Destiny Coach