Modern civilization may be swell, giving us unimaginable autonomy and material bounty. But it has also deprived us of the psychologically invaluable sense of community and interdependence that we hominids enjoyed for millions of years. It is only during moments of great adversity that we come together and enjoy that kind of fellowship — which may explain why, paradoxically, we thrive during those moments. (In the six months after Sept. 11, Mr. Junger writes, the murder rate in New York dropped by 40 percent, and the suicide rate by 20 percent.)
War, too, for all of its brutality and ugliness, satisfies some of our deepest evolutionary yearnings for connectedness. Platoons are like tribes. They give soldiers a chance to demonstrate their valor and loyalty, to work cooperatively, to show utter selflessness. Is it any wonder that so many of them say they miss the action when they come home?
As a former anthropology major, Mr. Junger takes a special interest in tribal life. He notes that a striking number of American colonists ran off to join Native American societies, but the reverse was almost never true. He describes the structure and values of hunter-gatherer groups, including the ones that lasted well into the 20th century, like the !Kung in the Kalahari.
FPF’s mission is to help neighbors connect and build community. We work toward that mission by hosting a Vermont-wide network of online neighborhood / town forums where people find lost pets, sell cars, give away couches, seek rides to the airport, ask for plumber recommendations, borrow ladders, find part-time jobs, organize block parties, attract crowds for community meetings and events, debate school budgets, and more. And all of this occurs daily among clearly identified nearby neighbors, building connections. Counter to our national trend toward individual isolation, for an increasing number of Vermonters, their neighbors form a healthy part of their tribe.