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review 2016-07-18 13:15
Extremely one sided and opinionated based on his personal political predilection!
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging - Sebastian Junger
  • Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger, author and narrator
    I must admit that I thought this book was going to be about our men and women in the armed forces who have suffered from PTSD, and about other causes of that particular disability that has inhibited the normal function of so many with this affliction, and yet there is no adequate explanation, diagnosis or treatment. I hoped to learn about how they could be helped. Instead of that, I found a book that talked more about their, and our, basic inability to fit into a communal type society in which we all had a job and a purpose in a productive lifestyle. The theory sounds eerily like a treatise on Socialism.
    The author decried our way of life as negatively impacting the environment and our relationships and interactions with others because we have created a society of people who consistently take more than their fair share and give less than he deems necessary to create a more egalitarian society for all. He minimized the trauma that is PTSD and glorified the trauma, tragedies and catastrophes that brought it on, by insisting it was a short term "illness". In early societies, he insists that extreme trauma and tragedy actually caused euphoria since it engendered the community to come together in selfless ways, rather than selfish ways which is what we are experiencing in the modern world. Essentially, he blamed modernity for acknowledging the problem that it inherently caused because of our own behavior.
    When the book begins, Junger discusses the American Indian, but first he issued a disclaimer concerning his lack of footnotes and then discussed his controversial use of certain terms, one of which is American Indian vs. Native American. Then he sang their praises while basically trashing what he believes is our own selfish way of life. We, the author notes, have lost our sense of community, of sharing, of belonging. This, he eventually concludes, citing chapter and verse of instances I have never heard of, that it is our isolation and greed that are some of the reasons for our mental health issues. We have forgotten how to share. We have forgotten how to care. He judges and makes moral equivalents that make no sense simply because he wants to, in order to prove his point, often comparing apples to oranges, and then claiming his examples prove his point without adequately referencing his conclusions. It seemed as if he decided what he wanted to prove and simply chose only examples that supported his viewpoint.
    He used Beau Bergdahl as an example of our habit of rushing into making conclusions and often drawing false conclusions. He admitted he was a deserter who left his post and caused the deaths of his fellow soldiers, who went to search for him, but he thought it was wrong to judge him more harshly than those who caused the collapse of the financial market which he blamed on banks and other institutions. He believes the consequences from the economic debacle led to far greater casualties. He failed to note the fact that the government regulations were deeply at fault, and if bankers should be punished, so should those in the government, like Democrat Barney Frank, who insisted on regulations which encouraged the sub-prime mortgages that were the underlying cause of the failures.
    Junger’s progressive agenda becomes more and more apparent as he writes. His political views and ideology guide him rather than the facts, and his political leanings were obvious from word one. He used many single-minded, one-sided opinions to reach conclusions he preferred, and he found obscure bits and pieces of personal experiences or ideas which backed him up, but often defied general knowledge and the real personal experience of soldiers and others who had experienced war and lived through monumental disasters.
    He lost me when he decided that chaos and extreme danger often engendered euphoria! He actually cited experiences like 9/11, to prove his point, but my own personal experience with family contradicted his conclusions. Perhaps those who were not directly in the actual tragedy of 9/11, were able to be euphoric, but those affected were not! PTSD is a serious problem, once referred to as shell-shocked and battle fatigue. It has been around a long time and is not a newly discovered dysfunction. In some, it may be short term as Junger believes, and that is lucky for those so minimally affected. In others, there is often a trigger which provokes a response that had remained hidden or submerged until that catalyst., like a memory, a sound, or a conversation, caused the disability to reemerge. There may be some that take advantage of the disability as some do in all areas of life, historically, but for many the experience of PTSD is disabling through no fault of their own for long periods of time. Those afflicted are not trying to take from society unfairly, as those who knowingly took loans they could not repay, or as Bergdahl did when he knowingly set out to betray his fellow soldiers. Even the bankers did not knowingly set out to destroy the economy; they followed the current banking requirements. Yet the author makes no mention of their culpability.
    I think Junger may have been right about the failure of society, in that society does use people for its own ends and does take advantage of them for selfish reasons, but usually it is for the benefit of the larger society. When real harm is caused there are usually appropriate actions taken to correct them and alter the course. Junger seems to be espousing communal living, perhaps as I mentioned earlier, Socialism. I hope he will look further into the anecdotes out there that prove that his idea of a "collective" type of society fails as it expands, and then rethink his own Pollyanna approach to a societal problem which is, in his unfortunate view, the "ugly, selfish American"! He also seems to be trying to prove that bravery is a negative behavior, but depression can serve as a positive influence. I simply could not get my head around that premise.
    I was very disappointed in the obvious political agenda this book seemed intent on presenting during our current contentious political environment. He seemed to want to encourage a world in which everyone and everything is equal, without recognizing that when the ambition to succeed declines, the amount of money to be redistributed declines, and everyone grows poorer together. The ultimate end result of economic equality turns out to be simply that everyone is poor rather than everyone is uplifted!
    Disclaimer: This represents my own opinions from my own experience in much the same way as the author and his sources represent theirs. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts, so remarked Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
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review 2016-04-04 00:00
The Perfect Storm
The Perfect Storm - Sebastian Junger Follows the chain of events that led to the disappearance of the Andrea Gail during 1991's perfect storm of the title.

Using interviews with survivors from other ships, and friends and family of the missing crew, Junger puts together a potted history of the fishing industry and the effect it has on the people who live it.

The prose flows really well, and you get a sense of the people along with the horror of the storm and the suspense as everything combines.

He admits in the introduction that there will be some conjecture to how things actually happened, using instead accounts from people who have gone through similar experiences in the parts where they are in the most danger.

It's tense all the way through, saddening and exhilarating in equal measures.
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text 2015-08-26 14:29
Just Couldn't Do It
The Perfect Storm - Sebastian Junger

I tried. I tried but I just could not get into this book. 

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review 2014-07-14 00:20
Gritty, raw, adrenaline charged -what war actually feels like
War - Sebastian Junger

Opening Line: “O’Byrne and the men of Battle Company arrived in the last week of May when the rivers were running full and the upper peaks still held snow.”


Great cover on this, a haunting image and an equally powerful read. Written by Sabastian Junger (of The Perfect Storm fame) here he spends 15 months following a single platoon based at a remote outpost in Eastern Afghanistan. His objective is simple, to convey what soldiers experience, what war actually feels like.

Divided into 3 “books” Fear, Killing, and Love from the very first pages you are dropped right onto into the thick of it. Arriving on a remote hilltop in one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous outposts in the Korengal Valley, Junger gives insight into the truths of combat, how these soldiers live and what they see. He describes things that few civilians will ever witness or go through, the fear, the anticipation, the honor and the trust among men. Their outpost is inaccessible, hot, hilly, remote and mortally dangerous. It’s also home to (as I’ve come to understand) the ultimate testosterone filled boys club.

As with (The Perfect Storm) this is not so much a story or novel but a series of events (patrols/battles) tied together with the mechanics of war. How fast bullets travel, military strategy & history, studies on fear and courage and body armour. Lots of things you didn’t know you wanted to know. Junger also manages to get some fairly intimate stories from the men; and you do get a feel for them as they describe what it means to fight, why they’re serving, how they deal with boredom interspaced with sheer adrenaline, chaos and terror and how life will never be more pure or sharp than in that moment when there’s a good chance that you could die.

Between the sounds of gunfire and the agony of loss there are also some surprisingly funny moments, the jocularity and bromance of these guys who may not even like each other but would also die for their “brothers” It is the ultimate commitment not so much to their job but to each other.

Junger does spend some time (at the beginning and end) describing how the men are adjusting back to civilian life and I wish I could say something positive about that.

WAR is gritty, raw, eye opening, funny, adrenaline charged, futile and heartfelt.

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review 2014-04-25 13:36
A Death in Belmont
A Death in Belmont (P.S.) - Sebastian Junger

Sebastian Junger is a great non-fiction writer in any circumstance, but he's especially well-suited to cover the Boston Strangler story. Why? Well, because the man who was in all likelihood the culprit of said stranglings was also working on an addition to his family's house in 1962 in Belmont, Massachusetts. At the very least, the fact that his mother, Ellen, was home alone with this man on multiple occasions is a creepy anecdote.


Of course, Junger's family connection to the case serves only as a starting point for an examination of a larger story (or stories). The first is of the murder of Bessie Goldberg in Belmont in 1963, a murder that closely fit the pattern of "the strangler," but for which (through an interesting series of events- read the book for these) an Oxford, Mississippi man, Roy Smith, was ultimately convicted. While there's no hard and fast conclusion that exonerates or condemns Smith, his story is, nevertheless, inextricably entwined with a closed-circuit and fallible legal system.


Roy Smith


However, it wasn't Roy Smith who was working in the Junger residence circa 1962, that man was Al DeSalvo. The DeSalvo story (which Junger covers reasonably well) is one you can read in any number of volumes on "the Boston Strangler," as he confessed to those murders. What Junger examines, though, is his potential involvement in the Belmont murder for which Smith was convicted.  


 Al DeSalvo


As far as true crime goes, this was a reasonably good book. While Junger undoubtedly points out some "miscarriages of justice" and certainly had me on board with his conclusion, his reasoning, at times, seemed flawed. In furthering his own case, Junger uses some of the same tautological arguments of innocent men acting innocent etc. that can result in false convictions; though, my take on that is heavily influenced by my recent reading of Mistakes Were Made (but not be me).


Junger did a great piece for Vanity Fair, "Alone with the Strangler," that covers some of the more interesting pieces of the book- so if this sounds more six pages worth of interesting to you than 288, go check that out.


Alone with the Strangler

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