"'You'll have to be prepared to say that we are not a good
society--that we are an antihuman society,' anthropologist Sharon
Abramowitz warned when I tried this idea out on her. Abramowitz was
in Ivory Coast as a Peace Corps volunteer during the start of the
civil war in 2002 and experienced firsthand the extremely close bonds
created by hardship and danger. 'We are not good to each other. Our
tribalism is to an extremely narrow group of people: our children,
our spouse, maybe our parents. Our society is alienating, technical,
cold, and mystifying. Our fundamental desire, as human beings, is to
be close to others, and our society does not allow for that.'"
Ah, the blizzard of '98!!! I remember it as if it were
yesterday. My kids were 7, 4, and 11 months old. We woke up one
morning to find everything outside covered by or encased in ice.
School was cancelled for the week. We quickly lost power. We had no
heat. The electric stove wasn't working. (Thank God for Eugene's
camp stove!) Since we were still using a well rather than city water,
the toilet didn't either. You should have seen me going out with my
son in his pack on my back, chipping ice into pots, and melting it on
a camp stove just so we could flush. Eventually we doubled up with
Eugene's brother and his family who had a wood stove. Driving over we
saw all those military people in full emergency handling mode. The
kids and I filled up on junk food and slept on a matress on the floor,
continually hearing the gun shot like crack of frozen tree branches
Those were some of the best days of my life!
Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
would not be surprised by my fondness for that time in my life. He
contends that humans are hard wired to crave belonging, being a part
of a purposefully united community. Life in America is inimical to
this need. Our lone ranger competitive society has us more and more
This all comes at a huge cost.
"Bluntly put, modern society seems to emphasize extrinsic values
over intrinsic ones, and as a result mental health issues refuse to
decline with growing wealth. The more assimilated a person is into
American society, the more likely they are to develop depression
during the course of their lifetime, regardless of what ethnicity they
are. Mexicans born in the United States are wealthier than Mexicans
born in Mexico but far more likely to suffer from depression...By
contrast, Amish society has an exceedingly low rate of depression
because, it is theorized, many Amish remain utterly unassimilated into
modern society--to the extent that they won't even drive cars."
In the early years in America's history whites and the tribes
from they stole land often were not on congenial terms. Kidnapping
took place on both sides. Indian children raised as whites escaped to
their own people at the first opportunity. White children, however,
who were raised by natives and recaptured by "their people" also
escaped at the first opportunity. In fact a number of whites ran away
to join up with the Indians. Junger contends that the material
benefits of the white world could not compete with the communal nature
of the native lifestyle.
He also contends that the incidence of post-traumatic stress
disorder in returning vets may have less to do with what they
experienced over there and more with what they return to .
Tribe is a must read for anyone who has wondered if America's
lone ranger, intensely competitive society is really what makes it
On a personal note, as my kids became more independent I sought ways
to segue to post child raising employment. For a year I studied the
listings of Americorps, seeing this as a bridge to meaningful work.
All their jobs required a valid drivers license. But the commercial
world scared me witless. Belonging and meaningful are my number one
priorities. Not exactly what you get cashiering at WalMart or
flipping burgers in fast food. I can't get those where I reside--
status symbol land AKA Veazie. Fortunately I discovered college
student services as a vocational goal. Helping my favorite
demographic be all they can be among others who share my values? Win
A great big shout out goes out to all who recognize the importance of
community and belonging.
Sent from my iPod