612: Sebastian Junger, part 1: Humans Thrive on Mutual Dependence, Feeling Needed, But Our Culture Isolates.
When I wrote up my experiment to live with my apartment off the grid in Manhattan for a month, I looked up what I did the morning I started. My library records show I borrowed and listened to Sebastian’s book Tribe, then my browser history shows I watched a ton of videos featuring him. Soon after I read Freedom, watched Restrepo and The Last Patrol.
His work makes you question your values, the values of our culture, and what you do about it. In my case, his exploration to why in a culture of material plenty, that according to, say, Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now or The Better Angels of Our Nature, which say life is the best its ever been, in head-to-head competition, people who know civilization choose to live in other places. His books and our conversation clarify and refine the conditions, but the main appeal of not-civilization is feelings of mutual dependence and feeling needed. Our culture isolates. With affluence has come anxiety, depression, and suicide.
His research and writing helped me understand why I enjoy each step of polluting less. People from the outside read me as extreme, but America pollutes extremely much. I’ve reduced over 90 percent, but I still pollute. I’m finding myself not extreme but traditional.
Sebastian shares the main points of his books on community, mutual support, feeling needed, war, love, and more versus isolation and anxiety. At the end we talk about how to restore what we’ve lost and the prospect of changing culture to sustainability, which looks promising.