TRIBE

Post #99

The reason people buy into a narrative, regardless of whether it makes sense or not, is because it gives them a feeling of belonging to a group. So many young people turn to alternative lifestyles because they are seeking solidarity with a group. Being socially isolated is painful, and there is comfort in being connected to other like-minded people. Once more, the more radical the beliefs, the more the group diverges from the norm, the more the group speaks out against tradition and shared ideas, the stronger the pull to be involved in a heroic struggle. This new solidarity gives hurting people a feeling of maximum connectedness. Belonging to the tribe becomes more important than almost anything else, even if it means losing dreams and relationships that do not fit the narrative. In the final stage of this transformation from normalcy to radicalism, people reach a state of hypnosis where the struggle supersedes everything else. In this final stage, during their heroic fight to support the narrative, people are unaware of losing everything dear to them.

Tribe – On Homecoming and Belonging is a book by Sebastian Junger. The book explains how humans are hard-wired to belong to small groups and how that dynamic can play out in real life. Junger writes: We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–“tribes.” This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival. One of the reasons for the high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder in returning veterans is the loss of closeness to a group, their previous comrades. In such cases, war is better than peace, adversity is a blessing, and disasters outrank the good times. Interviews of people who lived through the German blitzkrieg of London, England, tell how these were the happiest times in their life. Their attention on the Nazis brought everybody together, and no one was lonely. 

In the Nazi concentration camps, suicide was rare. Suicidal tendencies come with feelings of isolation when people feel disconnected from others. In the concentration camps, people had a common enemy, a common struggle. Prisoners felt a solid connection to the group. In Tribe, Junger talks about the Salem witch hunts. The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, accused several local women of witchcraft. A wave of hysteria against women believed to be witches spread throughout colonial Massachusetts. In some villages, there were few females left alive. Before the witch hunts, there was an atmosphere of free-floating anxiety, a lack of purpose. Making women a scapegoat to their feelings of despair allowed for a common goal, a reason for solidarity. In times of depravity, when moral corruption is omnipresent, and society tolerates bad behavior, people will embrace an external threat to the point of their destruction. 

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Published by Kenneth E. Long

Author, college professor of economics, swimming and tennis enthusiast

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