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Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS 
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 Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
THE MEN AND THE DOGS

Please use this thread to discuss the chapter "THE MEN AND THE DOGS."



Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:26 pm
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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Alright, I'm in, I read the first chapter.

From the intro,

Quote:
[This book is] about why -- 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.


Very interesting insights into human nature and modern society

The first chapter is the story of how some English settlers in the US didn't want to leave their Native American captors because they preferred their tribal lifestyle.



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Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:37 am
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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Just got my copy today.


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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Dexter wrote:
Alright, I'm in, I read the first chapter.

From the intro,

Quote:
[This book is] about why -- 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.


Very interesting insights into human nature and modern society

The first chapter is the story of how some English settlers in the US didn't want to leave their Native American captors because they preferred their tribal lifestyle.


I had never heard about whites who were abducted by Native Americans, who ultimately preferred to stay with their captors than return to civilization.

It reminds me of the movie Avatar, directed by James Cameron of Titanic fame. Some fans said they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because it awoke some kind of deep longing within. After enjoying the immersive, pristine beauty of the alien world Pandora, it was hard to return to their mundane lives. Maybe it's that sense of belonging that we yearn for. The movie gives you a sense of what tribal existence must be like just as the movie's protagonist feels when he plugs into the virtual reality of this world and becomes part of the tribal community.

That feeling may itself be an elusive longing that cannot be realized fully in real life. But maybe living amongst the Native Indians was a little closer to that ideal existence than what the cold world of industrialism wrought in the early 19th century. It might be relevant to point out that the Native Indians (Junger's preferred term) lived more attuned with the natural environment, while the Industrial Revolution was itself a transplant from Europe, a mode of life that merely serves to extract natural resources from the environment to support a life that is really quite separate from nature, thus the sense of loss we see in the Romantic literature of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, etc.


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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
That's right, I remember that story about Avatar, they did portray a very appealing village life. I mean, who wouldn't want to have their own dragon thing, and chill out in those hammocks.

I wonder if the story of the Indians is overstated given how relatively primitive (by modern standards) the English settlers lived as well.

However, what struck me about the descriptions of life among the Indians was not just that they preferred it, but one person described it as just extremely pleasurable all the time.

Also, it seems surprising how willing the Indians were to accept outsiders.



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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
I just received this book from the library and was surprised at its thinness--even in the large print version they gave me. Not complaining, though. Junger does acknowledge that American Indian life involved cruel, hideous torture of enemies, but in general he paints a rosy picture of its psychological environment. He also admits that affluence might be a good thing in itself. It's just that there was a trade-off in the transition to agriculture-based society that isn't always admitted.

There is a contrast here with Stephen Pinker's much longer book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker shows that injury or death through violence was more common in hunter-gatherer societies that in the more complex societies that came afterwards. So Pinker wants to tell us that the march of civilization brings us safer, more peaceful lives. Accepting his data on this for the moment, that still doesn't rule out Junger's claim that more "primitive" social organization better serves our psychological needs.

It wasn't so long ago that an entire generation took up the ethos of tribalism in rebellion against the individualism and materialism of its elders. I speak of the Hippies, of course. That was just a blip, as it turned out.



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Thu Jun 16, 2016 7:49 am
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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Thinking about Stephen Pinker again, I think it might be true that being safer, less exposed to violence, in modern societies because war and assault are, statistically, less common, isn't the whole story. Is a longer life so great if we lack some deep psychological connection to each other? That's the question Junger raises. He puts it bluntly: "The alienating effects of wealth and modernity on the human experience start virtually at birth and never let up." Yet I think it is human nature--and the nature of all animals--to seek safety and security, the instinct to preserve life being the strongest in us. In the desperate situations that Junger tells us about, in which people report having the most intense feelings of being alive, the objective is nevertheless to get back to the state of security and lower intensity. I mean, no one who is in the middle of a disaster says, "Let's keep things like this, isn't this the way we want to always live?" People do report missing something when the situation normalizes again, but I doubt that they yearn for the continuation of death and privation. It's the degree of close, emotional contact that's missing, as well as the feeling that when engaged in helping others in trouble, you were doing something truly important.

So the trick is to have it both ways, to some extent. Maybe some societies today succeed at this better than others do. Junger thinks that in the West and especially in the U.S. we don't. We "emphasize extrinsic values over intrinsic ones, and as a result mental health issues refuse to decline with growing wealth."



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Sat Jun 18, 2016 8:27 am
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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
DWill wrote:
So the trick is to have it both ways, to some extent. Maybe some societies today succeed at this better than others do. Junger thinks that in the West and especially in the U.S. we don't. We "emphasize extrinsic values over intrinsic ones, and as a result mental health issues refuse to decline with growing wealth."


I didn't read Pinker's book, but one of his arguments is that war and violence are less prevalent today than in our past. According to William Blake, the role of the poet or artist is to render a vision of the world that is "habitable, and meaningful, by virtue of beauty and truth; a vision of the freedom brought about by the release of our pent-up energies, so pathetically spent in fighting the wars of a much lesser world that tears itself apart, dulls and degrades itself futilely, mindlessly, for nothing that is of any worth."

Those aren't Blake's exact words, but a paraphrasing of them.

http://www.blakesociety.org/2014/11/02/ ... e-is-open/

It could be that humans were forged in perpetual struggle against other tribes and that we don't quite know what to do with ourselves in times of peace and prosperity. Most of us live today as kings did a few hundred years ago. But we don't get along very well and it seems that we fight over stupid things. Seemingly we splinter into divisive groups, manufacturing dissent. As Blake feared, we tend to tear ourselves apart when we are not united in a larger cause.

By the way, here's an interesting article by John Gray, who refutes some of Pinker's "orthodoxy."

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/ ... -declining


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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Hi geo, good find with the article by John Gray. Always good to consider the counterweights to arguments that seem to be carrying the day, like Pinker's that we can count on the moral progress of our species. I was surprised to see that Gray is the author of Men Are from Mars.... I didn't read that book and prejudged it as mere pop psychology. I accept Gray's central point in the article that the statistics Pinker produces tell less than the full story about the moral state of the advanced world. Gray seems to be a deep skeptic and that is usually a good thing. His latest book, The Soul of the Marionette looks intriguing.

Are you becoming interested in William Blake? I remember that lit survey courses never went beyond Songs of Innocence and Experience. The rest of Blake appeared esoteric and imposing. He was truly a mystic, as the piece you linked to demonstrates. I wonder if his longer works might be more accessible than I've always assumed. Have you read any of them?



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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
I got Tribe on my kindle today and look forward to reading it. Some general prior points, it reminds me of the argument that Jared Diamond made in The World Until Yesterday that a small clan was the normal scale of social organization for by far the longest proportion of human evolution, so we have a challenge of replicating the social networks of a clan within the anomie of a mass industrial urban civilization. That is partly what churches and other social organizations and clubs try to do, but these networks are nowhere near the intensity of bonding of soldiers in war. The culture of individual competition promotes isolation, loneliness and depression.

Hillary Clinton also raised related themes in her 1996 book It Takes a Village. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Takes_a_Village


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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
DWill wrote:
Are you becoming interested in William Blake? I remember that lit survey courses never went beyond Songs of Innocence and Experience. The rest of Blake appeared esoteric and imposing. He was truly a mystic, as the piece you linked to demonstrates. I wonder if his longer works might be more accessible than I've always assumed. Have you read any of them?

Hi DWill, I dabble in Blake from time to time, though he’s certainly a tough nut to crack. You’re lucky to have studied Blake in college. I imagine there are few professors who still teach Blake and even fewer who teach Milton. Many years ago, I picked up an illustrated copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience and have read it many times. Most of these poems are fairly approachable. At the very least, you can always enjoy his fantastical art. I have always been strangely drawn to Blake, although I have a limited understanding of him. I sort of grasp around the edges of his symbolism like a blind man.

I have not delved much in Blakes other works, though I recently read one of Jacob Bronowksi’s (out of print) books on Blake, The Man Without A Mask. It’s a short book and helps to unravel Blake to some extent. At least, it gives a good historical context for the poet’s work and explores many of his mythological figures like Los and Urizen and the four zoas. Bronowski as you may know was the host of a 1973 BBC television documentary series, The Ascent of Man. I didn’t know he was also a Blake scholar and had written two books on Blake years before the famous BBC series.

Blake was a mystic, as you say, at a time when the Industrial Revolution was redefining society. He created his own mythology because he didn’t want to be “enslaved” to anyone else’s. In that sense he ignored many of the conventions of his day, living in relative obscurity and poverty during his life, and was seen as eccentric by those who knew him. He was very much opposed to the crass materialism of capitalism and, yet, fully embraced the scientific advances of his day. He was a Christian while rejecting the authority of the Church. He once defended Thomas Paine as more “Christian” than Bishop Richard Watson, mainly, I gather, because Watson was against the French Revolution.

Here’s a great overview of Blake that was written largely to discuss the online Blake archive.

http://www.neh.gov/humanities/2004/mayj ... and-verses

http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/


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Sun Jun 19, 2016 10:22 am
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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Robert Tulip wrote:
I got Tribe on my kindle today and look forward to reading it. Some general prior points, it reminds me of the argument that Jared Diamond made in The World Until Yesterday that a small clan was the normal scale of social organization for by far the longest proportion of human evolution, so we have a challenge of replicating the social networks of a clan within the anomie of a mass industrial urban civilization. That is partly what churches and other social organizations and clubs try to do, but these networks are nowhere near the intensity of bonding of soldiers in war. The culture of individual competition promotes isolation, loneliness and depression.

Hillary Clinton also raised related themes in her 1996 book It Takes a Village. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Takes_a_Village

Glad you'll be reading the book. In addition to churches and social organizations, perhaps sport also has this binding effect for many people.

The city represents this environment in which anonymity is possible, presenting the ills Junger talks about. But we can forget how many young people have been hell-bent to escape the grasp of the country clan for the freedom and excitement of the city. Or, as I once heard someone put it, rural people have deep roots but few branches, while with city people it's the opposite situation.



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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Some comments on the first part of the Men and Dogs chapter. The fascinating theme here is how primitive tribal life is happier than modern affluent life. It is a paradox, against the assumption that material possessions produce happiness, but should be possible to explain if we can find flaws in that assumption.

The historical time horizon that Junger considers is far longer than our conventional “civilized” limitation of history to the period of written records. Human history is in one real sense as old as the earth, in terms of the origin of our genes, and in another sense is as old as primate social organization, considering how long our ancestors have had most of our genes. Hominids have lived in small bands for a million years, and this practice only started to die out with the rise of agriculture ten thousand or so years ago, or over the last 1% of human existence. Just considering our species, homo sapien, we have been around with our big brains for about two hundred thousand years, vastly longer than agriculture.

The relation between the rise of agriculture and the decline of human happiness is possibly the biggest single story in human history. What happened was that the rise of population in the middle east meant that the old hunter gatherer lifestyle was no longer possible due to scarcity, so people had to grow crops and herd livestock more intensively to feed the growing population. This shift involved a loss of freedom, with people tied to one location, but had the adaptive tradeoff benefit of delivering an increase of power. A sedentary kingdom with an army can tax nomadic tribes, and if the tribes rebel, the king can kill them.

It does not matter that the subjects of the king are not as happy as the free nomads. The intensive productivity of settled agriculture provides power and stability to support soldiers and priests, in a world that can no longer support nomadic life. Naturally, this loss of happiness has to be somehow explained, and that is where religious deception enters the picture, with stories such as the afterlife.

I go into this background to help explain the problem that Junger describes, namely why American whites saw Indians as happier, and why the puritanical culture of civilization saw this view as heretical and requiring suppression.

If we consider the case of my country Australia, before white settlement/invasion the land supported about three million people, whereas now it supports about sixty million people, mostly through food exports. This twentyfold increase in productivity illustrates how the clash between the stone and metal ages could only end in grief for the stone age community. Their greater happiness required a lot more land to support them than the lower happiness of metal based society.

My own take on this broad historical analysis uses the traditional religious concepts of grace and corruption, seeing stone age society as living in a state of grace and metal based civilization as living in a state of corruption. The issue here is that the population density of more advanced societies requires some comforting myths to provide security and stability, with the result that mass psychotic delusion becomes an essential feature of social organization. For example, the corrupted delusion of belief in supernatural entities is a major source of alienation and suffering, but this delusion has proven highly adaptive, able to easily conquer more nature based primitive societies.

So what to do? We cannot return to a hunter gatherer lifestyle with ten billion people on the planet. Nor should we indulge in fantasies about a reduced population. Several points emerge.

The primary function of religion is to enable social organization at the congregational level, equivalent to the primitive band. For such organization to produce happiness, its false beliefs have to be considered only as symbolic, not literal, since believing things that are not true cannot produce wisdom or happiness.

We should look at restoring the practice of so-called primitives where it leads to higher levels of happiness. For example, the Protestant practice of forcing children to sleep alone is something that Junger likens to child abuse, a severe inculcation of traumatic fear designed to rip children away from a sense of comfort and belonging and instill a psychology of isolated individualism.

We should be optimistic about the future. It is entirely possible that emerging technology will generate super abundance which could enable us to return to something like the happiness of the Kalahari Bushmen described by Junger, who only work for twelve hours a week. If abundance can be combined with ability to pursue spiritual and cultural interests, there is no reason why our planet cannot advance towards universal peace and freedom.


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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Robert Tulip wrote:
Some comments on the first part of the Men and Dogs chapter. The fascinating theme here is how primitive tribal life is happier than modern affluent life. It is a paradox, against the assumption that material possessions produce happiness, but should be possible to explain if we can find flaws in that assumption.

There is tremendous space between primitive tribal life and modern affluent life. Junger is saying that the earliest tribal life had solidarity going for it, despite what must appear to us to be a life of hardship and lack of opportunity. Presumably, this solidarity didn't disappear when people began living in larger groups. As Junger says, it is still possible for people to feel united even in our own century, but it takes some extraordinary event to make us snap to attention to the presence of one another. Otherwise, the forces of individualism and inter-cultural war separate us and weaken us as surely as if we were being attacked from without. (I jump ahead here to his topic in the final chapter of the book.)
Quote:
The relation between the rise of agriculture and the decline of human happiness is possibly the biggest single story in human history. What happened was that the rise of population in the middle east meant that the old hunter gatherer lifestyle was no longer possible due to scarcity, so people had to grow crops and herd livestock more intensively to feed the growing population. This shift involved a loss of freedom, with people tied to one location, but had the adaptive tradeoff benefit of delivering an increase of power. A sedentary kingdom with an army can tax nomadic tribes, and if the tribes rebel, the king can kill them.

I don't consider this happiness deficit an established fact, though. Junger makes much of the numbers of whites (how many?) who did not want to be repatriated. I'm not sure this supports a conclusion that life with the Indians was happier. For one thing, we have here a somewhat negative view of happiness, that is, as the relative infrequency of depression and suicide. This view would not qualify as happiness in the Jeffersonian sense, by which each individual was by natural right enabled to pursue his own vision of happiness. As well, the surplus that agriculture made possible resulted directly in specialization and with it the growth of arts and industries, elements that we would like to cite as essential to our happiness.
Quote:
It does not matter that the subjects of the king are not as happy as the free nomads. The intensive productivity of settled agriculture provides power and stability to support soldiers and priests, in a world that can no longer support nomadic life. Naturally, this loss of happiness has to be somehow explained, and that is where religious deception enters the picture, with stories such as the afterlife.

I'm not really with you here, Robert. The afterlife figures in many indigenous traditions that were not the creation of a priestly class. Deception was also part of shamanistic practice. The key word is "trade-off," indicating a loss compensated for by a gain. Junger acknowledges but not not emphasize that we may have gained as much as we lost in becoming modern people.
Quote:
I go into this background to help explain the problem that Junger describes, namely why American whites saw Indians as happier, and why the puritanical culture of civilization saw this view as heretical and requiring suppression.

If we consider the case of my country Australia, before white settlement/invasion the land supported about three million people, whereas now it supports about sixty million people, mostly through food exports. This twentyfold increase in productivity illustrates how the clash between the stone and metal ages could only end in grief for the stone age community. Their greater happiness required a lot more land to support them than the lower happiness of metal based society.

My own take on this broad historical analysis uses the traditional religious concepts of grace and corruption, seeing stone age society as living in a state of grace and metal based civilization as living in a state of corruption. The issue here is that the population density of more advanced societies requires some comforting myths to provide security and stability, with the result that mass psychotic delusion becomes an essential feature of social organization. For example, the corrupted delusion of belief in supernatural entities is a major source of alienation and suffering, but this delusion has proven highly adaptive, able to easily conquer more nature based primitive societies.

There is really no state of grace in shortened lives in which brutality will not be unknown (see Steven Pinker and others) and in which the harsh law of nature prevents the old and handicapped from being cared for. I just don't think religion and myth give us any ability to objectively view our past. I also take issue with your view that it took religious delusion, foisted on the masses, to fuel the destruction of cultures that stood in the way of wealth-producing societies. That wasn't the engine because there was no singular engine in such onslaughts.
Quote:
So what to do? We cannot return to a hunter gatherer lifestyle with ten billion people on the planet. Nor should we indulge in fantasies about a reduced population. Several points emerge.

The primary function of religion is to enable social organization at the congregational level, equivalent to the primitive band. For such organization to produce happiness, its false beliefs have to be considered only as symbolic, not literal, since believing things that are not true cannot produce wisdom or happiness.

We should look at restoring the practice of so-called primitives where it leads to higher levels of happiness. For example, the Protestant practice of forcing children to sleep alone is something that Junger likens to child abuse, a severe inculcation of traumatic fear designed to rip children away from a sense of comfort and belonging and instill a psychology of isolated individualism.

If we look at the beliefs that have sustained cultures with greater solidarity than our own, we'll find things that aren't "true." But can that be the point? For example, American Indian traditions have never recognized evolution, but should it be a deal-breaker? I also think that "only as symbolic" will vitiate whatever tradition we're looking at 100% of the time. These beliefs have always been held as more than symbolic and need to continue to be in order to hang on.

Quote:
We should be optimistic about the future. It is entirely possible that emerging technology will generate super abundance which could enable us to return to something like the happiness of the Kalahari Bushmen described by Junger, who only work for twelve hours a week. If abundance can be combined with ability to pursue spiritual and cultural interests, there is no reason why our planet cannot advance towards universal peace and freedom.

We misjudge the lives of the !Kung people if we think they had super-abundance. It may have taken them only part of the work-day to gather what they needed to survive because that's about all the land offered. They adjusted their lives to be attuned to the environment, as we have not. They were content with very little, as we are not. We need super-abundance today, but only so that all the people of the earth can have enough, which implies a socialistic leveling process that doesn't work in the U.S. or, I'm guessing, in Australia.



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Post Re: Tribe: THE MEN AND THE DOGS
Tribe wrote:
In the fall of 1986, just out of college, I set out to hitchhike across the northwestern part of the United States. I’d hardly ever been west of the Hudson River, and in my mind what waited for me out in Dakota and Wyoming and Montana was not only the real America but the real me as well. I’d grown up in a Boston suburb where people’s homes were set behind deep hedges or protected by huge yards and neighbors hardly knew each other. And they didn’t need to: nothing ever happened in my town that required anything close to a collective effort. Anything bad that happened was taken care of by the police or the fire department, or at the very least the town maintenance crews. (I worked for them one summer. I remember shoveling a little too hard one day and the foreman telling me to slow down because, as he said, “Some of us have to get through a lifetime of this.”). Junger, Sebastian. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (Kindle Locations 55-61). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.


I have just finished reading Tribe, and enjoyed it a lot. With Kindle for PC, it is easy to cut and paste text from the book into a Word document. The above is the first paragraph in the Introduction. The themes it raises include adventure, discovery, risk, the staid boredom of affluence, privilege and community. This book is social psychoanalysis. It explores how America’s wealth, epitomized in this first paragraph by Boston suburbia, brings a downside of an absence of need for the mutual aid that has always been central to human existence. Junger is not looking for sympathy for lonely rich boys, but rather asking the broader question of how the competitive individualism of modern society is a pathology that helps cause trauma, including post traumatic stress disorder.

Quote:
How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage?
I fear the answer to these questions is that you don't. You remain a child, in a disturbed delinquent immaturity. That is why the surrogate courage of sport, movies and war has become an ersatz replacement for personal involvement.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:29 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:29 am
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