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182 pages, Kindle Edition
First published June 21, 2016
I do not use footnotes because this is not an academic book and footnotes can interfere with the ease of reading. Nevertheless, I felt that certain scientific studies about modern society, about combat, and about post-traumatic stress disorder had the potential to greatly surprise or even upset some readers. [sic] After giving the matter much thought, I decided that doing so was within my journalistic standards as long as I was clear with my readers about my lack of documentation.I read this as "caveat emptor" aka brace yourself for some unsubstantiated and perhaps unpalatable bull pucky.
Benjamin Franklin lamented that English settlers were constantly fleeing over to the Indians-but Indians almost never did the same.Junger felt like the pioneers had too much technology and materialism.
First agriculture, and then industry, changed two fundamental things about the human experience. The accumulation of personal property allowed people to make more and more individualistic choices about their lives, and those choices unavoidably diminished group efforts toward a common good.And in all honesty, philosophically that resonates with me. Fast forward to modern times with our big cities and high tech and wow have we faltered…
Although happiness is notoriously subjective and difficult to measure, mental illness is not. Numerous cross-cultural studies have shown that modern society—despite its nearly miraculous advances in medicine, science, and technology—is afflicted with some of the highest rates of depression, schizophrenia, poor health, anxiety, and chronic loneliness in human history. As affluence and urbanization rise in a society, rates of depression and suicide tend to go up rather than down.It is as this point that I remember "caveat emptor" because wow that is some unsubstantiated stuff. Though I can admit that it feels very true, the intellectual part of me that thinks that he's wildly extrapolating and/or misinterpreting studies and data aka manipulating to influence thought, though I can't prove it because he has very few notes. But I enjoyed the journey. Junger goes on to say that natural disasters and warfare (in other words stressors) make communities closer and more egalitarian. No he is not advocating for war, he is presenting an observation:
Communities that have been devastated by natural or man-made disasters almost never lapse into chaos and disorder; if anything, they become more just, more egalitarian, and more deliberately fair to individuals.According to Junger (and it again "feels" true)
If anything, he found that social bonds were reinforced during disasters, and that people overwhelmingly devoted their energies toward the good of the community rather than just themselves.He by the way seems to think that being poor is in the realm of natural disaster and warfare (again "feels" true, but also biased and unsubstantiated)
The mechanism seems simple: poor people are forced to share their time and resources more than wealthy people are, and as a result they live in closer communities.But things get a little tilted as Junger continues to assault modern society
Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.and,
Financial independence can lead to isolation, and isolation can put people at a greatly increased risk of depression and suicide.and,
The beauty and the tragedy of the modern world is that it eliminates many situations that require people to demonstrate a commitment to the collective good.and,
As modern society reduced the role of community, it simultaneously elevated the role of authority.
Such public meaning is probably not generated by the kinds of formulaic phrases, such as “Thank you for your service,” that many Americans now feel compelled to offer soldiers and vets. Neither is it generated by honoring vets at sporting events, allowing them to board planes first, or giving them minor discounts at stores. If anything, these token acts only deepen the chasm between the military and civilian populations by highlighting the fact that some people serve their country but the vast majority don’t.Junger seems to be talking almost exclusively about combat veterans not the entire military, however he doesn't seem to know there is a distinction. His references are to a shared trauma that binds veterans but he also has this rather stunning negativity towards veterans.
The one way that soldiers are never allowed to see themselves during deployment is as victims, because the passivity of victimhood can get them killed. It’s yelled, beaten, and drilled out of them long before they get close to the battlefield. But when they come home they find themselves being viewed so sympathetically that they’re often excused from having to fully function in society.and those folks familiar with Hillbilly Elegy may find this thinking a little familiar:
Instead of being able to work and contribute to society—a highly therapeutic thing to do—a large percentage of veterans are just offered lifelong disability payments. And they accept, of course—why shouldn’t they? A society that doesn’t distinguish between degrees of trauma can’t expect its warriors to, either.Essentially, he's saying that veterans are not that different than other traumatic experiences in life and he's not sure they deserve special dispensation.
The public is often accused of being disconnected from its military, but frankly it’s disconnected from just about everything. Farming, mineral extraction, gas and oil production, bulk cargo transport, logging, fishing, infrastructure construction—all the industries that keep the nation going are mostly unacknowledged by the people who depend on them most.In Jungers view, being a warrior is just another job within the community (tribe) and should be treated in the same way as other occupations. Again, incredibly thought provoking, and again "feels" like a ton of manipulation of data and intellectual bullying to arrive there.
It may say something about human nature that a surprising number of Americans—mostly men—wound up joining Indian society rather than staying in their own.or the
To the extent that boys are drawn to war, it may be less out of an interest in violence than a longing for the kind of maturity and respect that often come with it.The book is peppered with such examples that indicate to me that Junger is concerned about the patriarchy. By the way, all of the veterans that he refers to are men. My earworm reading this book was "I'm a maaan, yes I am and I can't help but let you know…" Yes, I know that isn't the real lyric. Look, it's my earworm…