tv In Depth with Sebastian Junger CSPAN July 3, 2016 12:00pm-3:01pm EDT
junger. he will take your questions for the next three hours. >> host: sebastien younger how didout end up in gillette, wyoming? >> guest: i graduated college, and i had grope up on the east coast in a suburb of boston and felt like i'd never really been challenged in my life. i grew up in an affluent environment and decided to set off, like many young people, to set off to see my country, and to hitchhike across it. i put my stuff in a backpack and got some food and was all prepared. very responsible young man. and i set off and i wound up in gillette, wyoming, a tough mining tonight, back then it was. i was outside of town trying to get a ride for hours on a freezing cold --
>> host: you hitchhiked. >> guest: yeah. and guys were throwing beer bottles at me from pickup trucks, and i'd hitchhiked from twin cities and here i am in gillette and i'd never seen the west before. i was awestruck by it but gillette was a tough town, and i saw someone walking towards me from town that looked like bad news. and i'm a young kid out in the great land and kind of jumpy. this guy is walking towards me and i remember he was in a carhartt canvas union suit that was filthy dirty and his hair was matted and he clearly was homeless and struggling. he was big dude. he came up to me, and i was instantly on my guard. and he said, hey, man, where are you going? i said, i'm going california. and he said, how much food you got? now, i would give food to anyone who was hungry, but i didn't think that's what was going on. thought he wanted to rob me. wanted me to get me to open up
my bag. i didn't know what was going to happen but i was definitely jumpy. so, i said, i just got a little cheese. and he shook his ahead and said you can't possibly get to california on a little cheese. in his world, what you got in your bag is what you got. you don't have traveler's checks in your wallet. and he was carrying a lunch box and he said, you know, i live in a broke down car in town. in other words he was homeless, living in a car. he said i walk out to the coal mine every day to see if anyone is sick and they can hire me. most days they don't need to hire me. and today they don't need me so i won't be needing my lunch. and he showed me his lunch box and he had a baloney sandwich and an apple and a bag of potato chips elm said i want you to have my lunch because you're going to need all the food you can get to get to california.
you can imagine how bad i felt. my first really profound lesson not in generosity, but in taking responsibility for another person that you don't know. he looked at me out on the highway and he saw a brother. he saw someone who was on foot, homeless in this huge land. he didn't know i was just a college kid having an adventure. he thought i was a brother and walked out there to check on a brother and make sure i was all right. >> host: did you ever make it to california? >> guest: i did. went on up through idaho, and to seattle, and down the coast, wound up in l.a., and i was going to hitchhike home and i ran out of steam. back that people's express would fly you across the country for $150 and i got a midnight flight home. >> host: how did you end up in sarajevo in 1994? sunny graduated college. studied anthropology and did my
work on the navajo reservation. i was a good long distance runner and i trained with thirst best runners. summer of 1983, i think. at any rate, i got out of college and wanted to be a writer, journalist, and so i immediately got a job waiting tables and started writing, and publishing for local newspapers some short stories. just didn't get vower. and i eventually got a job as a climber for tree companies, and so i would work 50, 60, 70, 80 feet in the air on a rope with a chainsaws, taking trees down and i got hurt doing it. it's a dangerous job and i got hurt and was recovering from that and i thought maybe i should write about dangerous jobs. was about to turn 30. i got to do something itch got to figure this out. one of the dangerous jobs i wanted to write about what commercial fishing. i lived in goster,
massachusetts, and a huge storm hilt the town and sunk a boat and that send me on the trajectory toward my first book "a perfect storm." another dangerous job i wanted to write about was war reporter and in case i couldn't sell my storm book, i thought i'll go to sarajevo, there's a self-war going and in'll learn to be a war reporter and write about war -- i was trying to buy as many lottery tickets to my future as possible. so i wound up in sarajevo during the war as a free lance war reporter in the summer of 1993, and 1994. >> host: how did you survive over there dade-to-dade? did you have money at that point in backup system? >> guest: no. i went over there with the same backpack i hitchhiked across the country with, and the same sleeping bag, and the same everything, i think. and i had a couple thousand dollars. and i fell enough with some other free lance reporters, and we were living squeezed into one
room in the radio and television building and sharing our expenses and sharing everything, and they'd been over there a lot longer than i had. just emplated them and started doing radio reports and a little newspaper. i spent more money than i made, but it was a kind of journalism school, and i learned how to be a journalist in a foreign environment, in a war, and mostly i fell in love with that, and i had to come home to write my book "the perfect storm." by some miracle i had an agent back then. never made him a dime but he believed in me. he faxed me over there and said i've sold your book. you got to come home to write it now. was quite disappointing because i had fallen in love with war reporting but also a first-time author and i went home and spent a couple of years writing "the perfect storm. "as soon as i delivered the
manuscript and -- this is 1996. so back then, when you turned in a map uscript you didn't hit send. you put it in a box and you got on she subway and went uptown to where my publisher was, w.w. norton, and gave it to your -- hand it to your editor. the next day i was on a plane to delhi and then into afghanistan and in the summer of 1996, to watch the taliban offensive that would eventually take kabul and overrun most of afghanistan. so this is five years before 9/11. i went right back to foreign reporting as fast as i could, like literally the next day. >> host: is it addicting? >> guest: is war reporting addicting? technically, addiction is a chemical issue, and i don't think addicting on that level. metaphor include, yes. you develop a -- what i would say it's more like this. your identity develops independence on the drama and
the importance of the job. soldiers have the same thing. when you've say addiction it sounds misleadingly mechanical and chemical and i isn't. it's an identity problem. >> host: from your most recent book "tribe" you write that: humans don't mind hardship. in fact they thrive on it. what they mind is not feeling necessary. modern society is perfectedded the art of making people not feel necessary. it's time for that to end. >> guest: also i said i studied anthropology in college and i feel we're a primate species. humans are a primate species, we're social species. we clearly evolved to live in groups of 40, 50, 60 individuals. our psychology reflects that. the wiring in our brain reflects that. our behavior during crises
reflects that. the size of a platoon in a modern military force reflects that. and so what we have are -- we in modern society are basically walking around in our sort of bodies that haven't evolved physically in 25,000 years and we're walking around in this amazing society that we created, and we could list the blessings and the benefits of modern society almost endlessly. the cost is that we're no longer living in small communal groups and in groups like that there is no individual survival outside of group survival. the group in the individual completely share interests and concerns, and so you get your sense of security in the world by being necessary to the group. if you're not necessary to any group, you're in danger because
they don't need you. you don't belong to them and they won't sacrifice for you. and you're alone in the jungle and you're going to die. that's what is wired into our brains. so when you feel necessary, when you volunteer to do something for a group, when you suddenly realize a group of people are counting on you, it feels good because it means you have physical and emotional security around you. and the modern society has allowed individuals to live very individualistic lives where their community does not need them. your neighborhood doesn't need you to help them gather food. you don't need your neighborhood to help defend you from the other neighborhood. there's a great freedom in that kind of individualism. the downside is you don't feel necessary to anything bigger -- any group bigger than your immediate family probably, and we're wired to think that's bad news. that we are now in an insecure
place, a dangerous place. when soldiers come back from combat, they come back from a platoon where each person is necessary. a practice to an that preproduces our evolutionary past closely in the group dynamics and relationship between the individual and the group. they come back with that to this marvelously individualistic society where you can crank your music as loud as you want in your bedroom, and do whatever you want, and it's all wonderful. except you lose that sense of safety that comes from being part of a group, and one of the things soldiers struggle with, even soldiers who weren't in combat, and most soldiers are not in combat. even people who weren't in combat come back from the close communal environment to third individualistic society and encounter pretty significant psychological struggles. peace corps volunteers, 25% of volunteers when they come back to this country sink into a real
depression. much like soldiers do, and again, soldiers who weren't in combat. it seems to be a transition problem. >> host: well, what i learned from your book "tribes" is two things. the suicide rates of communal organizations or communal living arrangements, the suicide rate was either nil or very, very low, and that a lot of white people, when the indians were being pushed west, went to the indian side of life. >> guest: yeah. the proportion of people along the frontier who absconded to the indians or were abducted and then didn't want to return. of course it was quite low but while a significant was that it never went the other way around. benjamin franklin and other thinkers and writers of the time were wondering why is it we have
a superior christian society in their mind. why is it that white people were always running off to join the tribes? these are their words. not mine. why was that happening? and tribal peoples were never running off to join the indians. people go native. they don't go civilized and it was matter of real puzzle and concern to colonial authorities and christian thinkers. they called the indians -- called them savages. why? what's the appeal exactly? and i thought about that. i'd known that fact most of my life, and always wondered if it was true, and then when i was in afghanistan -- i was with a platoon in combat, 20-man position. a lot of combat, a lot of closeness, a lot of human connection. and the guys -- we were on this ridgetop, getting attacked a lot. there was no internet no communication with the outside
world no way to bathe. no cooked food there was no women. there was nothing. right, except combat and each other. and the guys couldn't wait to get off that hilltop and get back to italy, where they're based, and have themself others good time. you can imagine what that looked like. but after a few months of that, when i caught up with them in italy where they're based, a real depression has sedset in and a lot of them wanted to go back to afghanistan and did not want to return to the united states, that if they had a choice they would go back into combat. made me think of what i had read, the phenomenon i read along the american frontier, why no one wants to go back to six. what this problem? it it's an obviously wonderful thing. we have cars and air conditioning and television and anesthesia, surgery. where is the problem? and that is basically what my book is about. what is it about modern society
that is unappealing. >> host: did you have that reaction after returning? >> guest: i had a lot of psychological problems when i came back. wasn't even a soldier. i was just a civilian journalist but i spent a fair amount of time out there and your -- i mean, this is what i was saying. your sense of physical safety comes directly out of the experience of being part of a group. the deal, though, is if you're in a group that you're counting on for your own safety, it means that you have to be prepared to risk your own life for them as well. it's reciprocal, and so the experience you end up having is one -- it's an odd one because you feel safer in that situation because you identify a willingness to risk your life for other people. that's what gives you your sense of safety, the willingness to take a risk for others and the kind of altruism that you really
don't need to feel in -- back home in civilization. and along with that altruism comes an incredibly powerful bond and love. and one guy said to me, there's guys in the platoon who hate each other but we'd all die for each other. when you're experiencing that kind of unity, it's a very, very profound thing, and i experienced enough of it, even as a civilian, that when i came home i felt -- i was married at the time. i was in my 40s. and i felt incredibly dislocated and incredibly depressed. my marriage didn't last, actually. i fell completely disconnected from my wife and everyone i loved. i was a really, really strange experience, and what i kept thinking about was those guys, and it was extremely confusing. >> host: this is from your
previous book "war": men can completely remake themselves in war. you can be anything back home. shy, ugly, rich, poor, unpopular and it won't matter because it's of no consequence in a firefight. and therefore, of no consequence, period. >> guest: yeah. that's one of the -- thick unconsciously appealing things about the military and about combat or any extreme environment. i think you probably happens on teams that climb everest or whatever, and crews of forest firefighters and firemen in the city and loggers and -- all these situations where people depend for their lives on other people and on everyone doing their job and functioning well. it really doesn't matter what kind of funky past you might have had. as long as you do your job well. and that means that everyone is sort of self-defining.
in other words, if you do your job well, your past, your history, what you look like, what your father did or didn't do, whether you are in prison or not, none of it matters and you basically have access to a completely fresh start in the eyes of your peers around you, and these are people that you love. and who wouldn't risk their life for that? the reason that high school is so miserable for so many people is that you are judged for things you have no control over. what you look like. what kind of family you were born into. in combat you don't bring any of that with you out there. you just bring your willing ins to die for others or not. >> host: this again is from "tribe." the sheer predictability of life in an american suburb left me hoping, somewhat irresponsiblefully, for a hurricane or tornado or
something that would require us to all band together to survive. something that would make u.s. feel like a -- make us feel like a tribe. >> guest: yes, again, we evolve to live in small groups groups e people completely depended on one another for survival, and i felt the tug of that very, very strongly as a young man. and i looked around and we lived in this very safe suburb and i -- i was acutely aware i had over in demonstrated my personal value to my community. my community didn't need mitchell was a strong, healthy, 18-year-old man, going completely unused by my community. that is new in human history. the young people, the 18-year-old men and women both, obviously, are absolutely vital to the survival of the community, and in modern society, we are wealthy enough and stable enough that actually a young man can feel not
necessary to the people around him. it's extraordinary. it doesn't feel good. >> host: so when you got your draft card, when you turned 18, why didn't you sign up? >> guest: well, i grew up -- i was born in 1962, now up during vietnam, a very liberal part of the country. every adult i knew was outraged by vietnam, and then the ended the draft. right? so i got this card in the mail in 1980 when i was 18 -- >> host: selectiontive service card. >> guest: yes. selective service card. girls don't get this. many of them don't even know about it. boys get and it they still get it. if you're male and you turn 18, you'll get acat card from your government saying we want no know where you live so we can draft you in case we need you. and i was like, what is this? i thought the draft was over. and anyway, war is immoral and -- whatever. so i showed it to my father, and my father had green up in
europe. his father was jewish and they grew up in france and when the germans rolled into france they left and wound up in the united states. and he -- i said i'm not signing this. this rice-diculous he said, no, you're signing that card. he said theirs thousands of brave young americans. your age, in france, they died freeing the world from fascism. saving the world. and he said, never forgot these words. you don't owe your country nothing. you owe your country something and you might owe your country your life. if a war comes along you think is immoral, that's unnecessary, then it's your moral duty to protest it. but if it's a necessary war, like world war ii was, it's your moral duty to fine it so you're signing that card. when when he put that way, it was my chance to be part of something bigger to demonstrate to any community i was willing to be of service, i'd be a great
soldier. all of a sudden it completely turned it around and i felt like i was part of something bigger, and that feeling of being part of something bigger is really intoxicating to people. and for great evolutionary reasons. we are the way we are for a very good reason, and i signed that card quite proudly. >> host: sebastien junger, you live here in new york city. how you found that community for you to feel like you're part of something bigger? no tribal structures have virtually disappeared in modern american life in modern society. the reason that things like sports teams, intramural hockey, or the work group in your office, or -- the construction crew, whatever it is, the reason that those things feel good is
because they mimic the kind of tribal connections that, whichized our living groups for hundreds of thousands of years. so i live in the lower east side of manhattan. it's a neighborhood that is quite poor. and as a result quite familial. i know the street crossing guard, the meter maid, the car garage down the street. everyone kind of knows each other, and it feels human and connected in ways i really like, but -- during hurricane sandy there was -- the building i'm in organized a kind of community defense. they posted guard shifts at the front door with a machete, and they changed the guards every two hours because there was a lot of break-ins bus people left their apartments because there
was nolight or power and had children so they left their homes and these are not wealthy people. a woman organized guardships at the front door. she had a machete and they took turns standing there and kept the building safe. so that -- when i was a kid, in belmont, outside of boston, i would have loved to have been part of a situation where i had to stand guard. that's -- my god, you moon my building needs me? that really would have been an intoxicating feeling for me. >> host: corn valley. >> guest: it's a six-mile long valley in eastern afghanistan in kunar province where i was for about a year. it was lot of combat there for a period while i was there, something like a sixth of all the kinetic activity which is what the military calls combat,
was happening in and around the immediate area, and i and my colleague, tim, made a movie that brought a lot of attention to that area. my book "war" is about that and the second platoon company we were with. so it became -- and a lot of other great journalists wound up there as well, and so the corn belt became emblematic for a certain frustrating fight we were having in afghanistan as a whole. >> host: how long -- >> guest: they were deployed for 14 months and tim and i each did five one-month trips so we both bounced back and forth a lot. so we were there -- the two of us covered a fair amount of time. >> host: how much technology was used there? the military technology. >> guest: well, depends --
depends on what you mean by technology. if you mean sort of electronics and eavesdropping devices, they had eavesdropping drones over us. they had some kind of motion detection systems outside the bases. but not a lot. out of -- we really were 20 guys on a hilltop and the fighting was pretty old style. it was like infantry on the ground with heavy packs and guns. i wouldn't say that technology really tipped the balance particularly. >> host: when the americans left the valley was that controversial? >> guest: i'm sure. they'd fought hard for and it then pulled out. so inevitably it was. i think that the people -- the controversy failed to understand what the point of being there was in the first place. it was never met as -- never
meant as' permanent base each eventually the country was planning on and did pull out of all of afghanistan. so the first thing they started to do was pull out of finger valleys that were using up a lot of air resources to resupply the tiny outposts and they also de -- the point of the american base in the valley was the valley was being used as a staging area for insurgent attacks along the peshmerga valley, an important area. so when they put u.s. troops in the korngal it locked that capability for the taliban and then when they finishes the development project they pulled out. but of course the controversy was a political one, not a strategic one, and the korngal was emblematic of something and that's where the controversial took, what it stood for in the public's perception.
>> host: send besten junger, when you look at your body of work in your books, your "haven't fair" articles, there is a common threat -- thread or common theme? >> guest: well, let's see. i guess i've often written about small groups of people mostly men who are relying on one another to survive. my book in bell mon has nothing to do with that. it's a cold case, murder case from the early '60s. completely different. but my other books, yeah, people in small groups doing -- working at the margins of society in dangerous places. i was an anthropologist ask that was fascinating to me, and i feel like you can really see human behavior, you can see our evolutionary capacity in very, very stark ways, in those kinds
of situations, and i'm just end legislationly fascinate it by that. >> host: good afternoon and welcome to booktv's "in depth." our guest this month is send sebastien junger. he has written books as me mentioned, "a murder in bell honest," "the permanent storm. "," fire, "," war," and "tribe." if you want to participate here are the numbers 202-748-8200, 202-748-8201 in the mountain and pacific time zone and you can send a text message. this is not for phone calls. 202-838-6251. and if you would, if you you do
send a text message, give us your first name and your city so we can identify you that way. there are several other ways of getting ahold of us. you can make a comment on our facebook page. facebook.com/booktv. or you can join us on twitter,@booktv is our twitter handle. and finally send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so a lot of ways to connect with us. so, mr. junger, i want to read a quote from an interviewow did and this is about how you write and what you look for. they don't really care that much what town they grew up in. i really try to avoid the details that seem per funk tori, not necessary -- per for tri,
not necessarily and ultimately not that interesting. you don't think your background affects who you are? >> guest: oh, i do. if someone's background was affecting their behavior in front of me and the situation i'm reporting on, i would absolutely talk about it. but in a lot of -- in certain newspaper reporting, there's a so and so from illinois. if you're writing long form nonfiction, or writing nonfiction books, whether someone is from evanston or chicago or boston or whatever, it may be important, but if it's not you don't really need to say it. when i was out -- i had no idea where those guys were from because it wasn't part of who they were. what interested me is who they were there. one guy, bobby wilson, had a
very strong southern accent. he was what a lot of people would have thought of as like a classic redneck. super smart guy. one of the smartest guys out there. but his southern identity was very, very strong as part of his character and of course i talked about that. but i have no idea what town he was from. doesn't really matter. >> host: who is brendon o'burn. >> guest: he was in second platoon and is the main character of my book "war." he and i are extremely good friends now. we talk almost every day. he was the first one to get out of -- he got out of the army after that deployment, and as a result he was the first one to suffer significant psychological consequences. the guys that stayed -- it noticed this early on. war is traumatizing, particularly for a unit like that. like i said, only 10 percent of u.s. military is engaged in combat. they were definitely in the 10%,
and you think the guys who stayed in and kept deploying would have the most severe psychological consequences. actually, it was the guys who got out. as one by one they got out of the army they just crashed psychologically and that got me thinking maybe it's coming home that is hard, not combat itself. so brendon what's first to get out and he crashed. we were really good friends and i did offering i could to help him, and he is good now. he is almost three years sober. had a terrific drinking problem from when he was young. i write about this in my book so there's no secrets. his dad shot him during -- twice during an argument when he was a kid. brandon went to juvenile detention because of it. and he told the police that his dad shot him in self-defense. so he went to juvenile detention and from there he went into the
army and we out out on a freezing cold night in january in a god for saking place and he told the story of getting shot by his dad but he said, it's all good. everything happening for a reason because without that i want be out here tomorrow. he meant it literally. joining the army and being part of this group was -- he felt was something that had become absolutely essential to his well-being and he was quite grateful it turn out that way. >> host: what is he doing today? >> guest: he is in college actually. just got his straight a's on this first full academic year, and he is doing great. he is doing really well. >> host: where disthe them restrepo come from. >> guest: the name of the platoon medic who was killed almost two months into the deployment. the first town when i was with those of guys we got into a pretty serious firefight, and
then a few weeks after i was there my first trip, res strep o'was killed and they named the outpost after herm. he was born in colombia. immigrated to america as a child with his mom, and he died fighting for this country at the bottom of a hill in afghanistan. >> host: you made a documentary. >> guest: my colleague, tim and i made a documentary called restrepo. named for the outpost that by extension about the guy and it is about what it feels like to be in war for these guys. all men out there bill the way. the platoon was all men. and it wasn't a political film. if the soldiers argued the merits of the war in their bunkers behind their sandbags, on patrol,ed that hey been having that conversation, the way the rest of the country has been, it would have been in the film. but they just weren't. they were fighting and they were
surviving and trying too do their job and that's what the film is about. and i'm politically liberal. right? but very interestingly, the fact that the film was not political, was occasionally criticized by people on the left. that i somehow abdicated my duty as a journalist to condemn the war, which is really ironic because the press is not supposed to pass judgment. supposed to report. and when fox news does it, the left gets pretty upset. and then it was so funny to watch them turn around and do exactly the same thing about their own hot-button issue. >> host: you have made a couple of documentaries now. do you enjoy that process. >> guest: i've made four documentaries. yes, i -- yes, i do enjoy it. it's a labor of love. you can't really make a living at it.
but it compliments writing books very well. books go -- books engage a spirit part of your -- engage a certain part of your graham and film engages a different part of your brain. so if you're reading a book about war and a firefight breaks out and you read that the -- whatever you read the sound of machine gun fire, whatever that looks like in text, or there's an explosion you down jump in your armchair because there's an explosion on the pages of the book. your brain doesn't think you're over there. your brain thinks you're in an armchair read about war. if you're in movie theater, dark theater, and you'rewatching a film about war, and an explosion goes off, the humvee i was riding in was hit bit a roadside bomb and i happened to have the camera running. everyone in theater jumps because they're brain doesn't know they're not in the humvee.
the wonderful thing about documentary and books you can do these two things that affect different parts of the brain and they compliment each other, and they can give you a really, really complete experience of war or, i suppose, marriage or work or whatever your focus is. >> host: sebastien junger, how does libya figure into your story. >> guest: restrepo did veil well with won the grand jury prize at sundance. we both shot the video for restrepo. we were codirectors can coproducer, everything together, and then we won the grand jury prize and went on to get a nomination for an oscar, and we were out in hollywood together, we did not win an oscar but we had a wonderful time. amazing, and tim and i were
brothers. and beyond friends, beyond colleagues we were brothers, both almost killed doing this project and we were going resume our careers a journalists. the arab spring -- here we are on red carpet, meanwhile the arab spring is exploding in the middle east, and we couldn't wait to get back out into the field and keep reporting on this extraordinary time that the world was in. and we had an assignment vice-president -- with vanity fair to cover the war in libya and for personal reason is couldn't go. tim went on his own and on april 20, 2011, five years ago, tim was in the city of -- on the front lines and he and the group he was with were hit by a 81-millimeter mortar farred by gadhafi's forces and tim bled out in the back of a pickup
truck, racing for the hospital. and i got the phone call in new york, probably within an hour of his death, and my whole life changed in that moment. it was the first time i'd lost a brother, first time i'd lost a peer, someone i was really close to. within an hour i decided that i was not going report on wars anymore. i was married at the time, and my wife was like, you can't keep doing it. she was like even if you survive, every time the phone rings i'm going to jump. i'm going to think it's phone call like that but about you, and you can't do that. i realized there's a certain point where doing -- risking your life becomes -- goes from being sort of like potentially noble and courageous to injure selfish. what your gambling with isn'tor own life. it's the emotional well-being in the lives of everyone around you
that loves you, and in my late 40s, i just didn't want to be that guy anymore. >> host: officers don't seem to play a big part in your book. or as big a part in your book. >> guest: not for any particular reason. they have a job to do, a very, very difficult job, but part of it deps on remaining a certain -- retaining a certain emotional remove. a certain professional distance. and from both the press and their own men, and those guys -- the thing that is so hard on the officers is that they're making decisions that potentially will get people killed or almost guaranteed to get people killed. that's a real psychological burden, and they deal with it the best they can but it means that they're not as easy to
write about. they're not as open and forthcoming as brendon oburn who doesn't have those kind of awful, awful decisions to make. >> host: at what point when you were in afghanistan, did you determine that brendon o'burn would be your focus in war? >> guest: i didn't dish one thinking about how to write the book when i was out there i was just taking notes as fast as i could, and shooting as much video as i could, and he was just a guy that i got closest to, and i don't think i was write thing book and i realized the extraordinary store he told me would actually make an interesting through-line for the book itch didn't realize it when i was out there. >> host: "tribe" on homecoming and belonging. this become is dedicated to my
brothers, john, emery, and chief. who are they? >> guest: those were -- john was my best, best, best friend from grade school. and emery was his blood brother. and chief was emery's best, best friend from his early years, and the four of us were brothers, and john and emery's uncle by marriage was man named ellis. ellis and joanna. were aunt and uncle to john and emory, and ellis was half apache, have lakota sioux, borne in 1929 in a wagon outwest, very well read. read everything from the greeks on up. and he was the one who early on said to me -- he was a real mentor and uncle figure to me. very, very important to my life. and he was the one who said --
it's funny, white people are always running off to join the indians but the indians never join the white people. that one sentence from ellis gave me this perspective on modern society, like all of a sudden i was able to see it from the outside a little bit. that's crucial if you're a journalist and you're an anthropologist. it's crucial to see things from the outside and that went back to ellis in some ways. >> host: this is from the neiman story board, an interview, august 19, 2013: i try to jet edit my works on different state offered mind. so i'll iran on a hot day and then read the 2,000 word i just wrote, or if i'm upset or sleepy or drunk i'll read this stuff. if you're sleepy and your find yourself skipping over a paragraph because you are bored by it, just want to get to the interesting part, it comes out. >> guest: yeah. you put yourself in a -- i don't drink miami by the way but you
put yourself in a different state of mind, it's an interesting sort of screening mechanism for what is not reality. when you find yourself skipping over a section of what you wrote, because you're tired and sweaty or upset or whatever it may be, it probably shouldn't-people are going to read your work in all different kinds of state mind you. better write it in a way that can survive a fight with your husband or with your wife, a couple of drinks after dinner, whatever. you better be such compelling solid writing that it can survive those different states of mind and keep the person engaged. so you do it to yourself. >> host: why don't you drink anymore. >> guest: i just realized debit want to anymore. bat year ago. just stopped drinking. i just stopped because i had a health problem that drinking can affect. i had arrhythmia in my heart and i was told that alcohol can affect it so i didn't have a
drink for a month. had absolutely no affect on my heart. but i real use liked the way i felt. i realized there was only one version of me walking around out there, and there was something about that was really exciting, really -- almost actually intoxicating. and it was simple, clear, and i just really liked it. so i just kept doing it. >> host: was alcohol at one point a big part of your life? >> guest: no. no. not at all. but even moderate drinking changes you, which is why people do it, and certainly why i did it. liked it. i enjoyed. but got to ain't where i was i just want one version of me. just simpler, easier and quite exciting to just keep track of one person's problems. >> host: what's the half king. >> guest: a bar aim half owner of in chelsea. me and a couple of friends start it, built it in -- my partners
are involved in journalism, involved in filmmaking and wented a place that both welcomed the neighborhood and was kind of a home for people in our profession, so we have author reading there and all kinds of stuff. it's a cool place. >> host: is it a community? >> guest: the bar? >> host: yes. >> guest: okay. metaphor include, -- metaphorically, yes. in a literal sense a community is the people that you share food gathering efforts with that you share defense with. in the april sent sense a community is who you -- the modern metaphorical sense i think you can say -- we employ 50 people, they all know -- it's about a platoon. not coincidentally. they all know each other very,
very well. we're sort of -- i guess you could say it's a kind of transitory community. >> host: sebastien junger, what is interesting you this day? you're done war reporting. >> guest: i hate to put it this way. i'm not sure. what i wrote about in "tribe --" it's a short book but includes a lifetime of thinking about who we are, why we are the way we are, why modern society is the way itles. why people respond to combat the way they do. thinking about what my uncle ellis said about people constantly running off to join the indians and never the other way around. i kind of cleaned out the refrigerator in this book. all the -- whatever, all the stuff that -- i cleaned it out and tried to make sense of the
world that i live in, that we all live in, and i don't know what i'm going to -- i don't know what i'm going to put in the refrigerator again. i'm looking forward to a couple of months of resetting my brain. i've been a reporter for 30 years, and "tribe" is an attempt to integrate all of the things i experienced and learned into one coherent theory about what makes us feel good and what makes us feel bad. >> host: one thing you write in "tribe" is that the suicide rate among veterans is a little misleading. >> guest: yeah. the statistics, of it are -- it's 22 vets a day is really misleading. it was a very, very narrow study, and psychologists eventually sort of figure egged out it wasn't representative. it wasn't really accurate.
the suicide rate is very, very confusing to psychologists. they had a hard time determining if the experience of combat even affected the likelihood of suicide. one study found that if you deploy, you're actually less likely to commit suicide. very, very confusing, and there's a great psychologist named craig bryan who has done a lot of studies in this area, and he actually looked at student veterans and found their suicide al ideation was i'd dollar the regular general student -- identical to the regular student public. the relationship between combat and suicide -- there's a slight connection there but seems to be exposure to atrocities. not combat per se. expose sure to atrocities. exposure to really violent killing. it's a very particular thing. it's not come bat per se.
so when you get into the statistics of this, it's very complex and even the some shrinks are unable to kuwait come to agreement about the relationship between serving and the risk of suicide. >> host: sebastien junger because of what you write beside have you had world war 2 korean war vets come up to you and say, that's what i was feeling or that's what i felt? because the studies have really come a long way since that period of time. >> guest: well, yeah. one of the things i have written about is the sort of bizarre thing that almost feels rude to say that soldierses often miss the war. they're not psychopaths. their civilians who put on a uniform and had an experience, but they're us. so what is going on with that?
and what was able to determine was that they missed the very close communal bond. their very close human bond that is necessitated by hardship, by danger, by adversity, and you can take civilians in modern society and sort of collapse modern society and watch them act the same way. the blitz in london was traumatic to people in london, killed 30,000 londoners, and yet mean panel afterwards -- many people afterwards, many civilians, said they is inned to the dies strangers sleeping shoulders to shoulder on the subway platform and everybody pitching in to survive, like hellish as it was, that shared group that effectively recreates our evolutionary past was incredibly moving for peel. so i tack but it like this and i
once gave a ted talk and a significant -- about why soldiers miss war. a significant portion of the comments are vietnam vets talking about how much they miss vietnam. opposite i gave a talk at the sanders theater in cambridge, massachusetts, and a very, very old guy came up to me and said, thank you for everything you said. i now understand why i have the feelings that i do about the war the korea. it was like 50 years earlier. and he started crying, and he left. this man had been bottling something up for half a century. something about what i said clicked for him. he missed his brothers. i just talked with a gentleman a couple weeks ago in gloucester, massachusetts, who was at iwo jima in world war ii and out of
his company, 300 men, out of his company, seven survived. seven out of 300. and he said, you know issue don't miss the war but i sure do miss my brothers. he said i think about them every day. and i think that the trauma of war includes a real nostalgia and longing for something that existed in a hellish place. i think that's what is complicated for people to sort out, and it's complicated for spouses and families and society to understand. >> host: do you think as a country we have if shared that group ethos? >> guest: i think we have shared it more than we do now. i don't think a modern society -- a modern society is too individualized. it's too compartmentalized, economically, socially, politically. to actually have a group
experience. if you reply i planes into buildings in new york city, too little while, a modern city like new york will have a shared experience. and interestingly, the suicide rate went down in new york after 9/11. the rate of violent crime went down. antisocial behave that happens in modern cities went down. but, no, we live in this mass industrial society, and we subcontract out the things we need done to survive. so, i don't know any oil workers but i drive a car. put gas in my car. don't know any oil workers and i don't understand them. it's a tough job and super dangerous but i don't have an emotional connection. i live in a house made of wood. don't know anything about loggers. you can go on and on through all the things that keep all of us alive. we're not personally connected to most of the people doing most of the stuff we depend on.
soldiers are just one group, one professional group that most people are not connected to, and i think that's evidence of some good things but also there's a down side that makes us feel like we're actually not part of a tribe. we're not part of a whole. we don't have shared common goals and common ethos. we lose that and there's a down side. >> host: sierra sierra leone. what is it connection to you? >> guest: i was in the civil war in sierra sierra leone in 1999. the war has gone on, off and on throughout the '90s -- no, 2000, right before the war ended, the last spasm of violence, and i was the first african civil war i'd seen. completely terrifying. way more frightening thatting in it was doing with american
soldiers and then later the civil war in liberia, came home from covering those wars pretty affected. didn't know what pesticide was so i didn't know it was post-traumatic stress disorder, but i -- had real consequences for me for a while. >> host: from "tribe" what i had was classic short are term post-traumatic stress disorder from an evolutionary perspective. it's exactly the response you want to be vigilant and avoid situations where you're not in control youch want to react to strange noises you. want to sleep lightly and wake easily. you wasn't to have flashbacks and nightmareses that remind you of specific threats to your life and you want to be by turns angry and depressed. >> guest: i mean, we're primates. we're mammals. we obviously evolved to survive hardship and stress and danger. if your life has been in danger,
it will probably be in danger tomorrow, too, and the day after that, and so you don't want to keep acting the same as you always have. you want to change your behavior you. want to be alert you want to jump at sudden noises. you're in a dangerous environment now and want to have reaction to that. that helps survive. those are adaptations for survival. all mamas do this. what is not adaptive is long-term ptsd. so the trauma reaction has survival value for some weeks or months, which is exactly what happened to me. every time i came back from a bad war, i would be psychologically affected for some weeks or months and then it would go away. that's what evolution programmed in us. but when you get stuck in a long-term traumatic reaction, it's called chronic long-term post-traumatic stress disorder and that's not adaptive and is actually dangerous, and that seems to happen to around one in five people who are traumatized.
>> host: let's take some calls. sebastien jung are is our guess. time from alameda, california good afternoon. please go aide ahead. >> caller: good afternoon. this is fascinating. i wanted to ask about the experience of women. i know you talk about men in these platoons but do you have insight how women respond and where they're in this small group belonging is any different from men? >> guest: during the blitz in london, women were absolutely part of the societal reaction to the cries that -- the crisis going on. ...
appeared i have not been around women in combat. i'm sure they're excellent at it. women have a different physical and psychological makeup that manager they react slightly differently. when the ships are down to we humans are wired to survive. women obviously are excellent at that as well, just like men. close quote dave in tennessee, texas. mr. junger, will technology to her what it means to be human? >> i've been asked to stay into the future. i don't think it's going to change. it means to be connected to other humans. that is the basic rupaul truism at the core of our human mix. spirit that is what separates us from others vcs. our survival is predicated on group interaction and sacrifices
of the individual for the group. i don't think technology will change that. technology during peacetime is to an end of visualization which makes people anxious and depressed. as well as in a society, the suicide rate 10 to go up. but i think at our core, we are humans and the reason the rates are going up is because we are human of the winners surrounded by this technology that is so new. >> host: job is calling in from dayton, wyoming. >> caller: high. i was going to say that i have read all of your books and i am very impressed with them. i remember about a month ago i was reading an interview that you gave in "the new york times" book review and a book that you
gave a great deal of attention to an even recommended that the president reid is one that i recently ordered. i wonder why you're so impressed with this book. the brief history of humankind. >> yeah, and often in harare goes -- it starts around 2 million years ago when the first hominid societies were performing and takes us right on up to the internet. it talks about humans as a mammalian species, as a very exceptional primate pcs. the way he takes that body of knowledge and understands modern society with that, understands capitalism, industrialization, the great religion to me was just incredibly exciting to read about. i recommend it to people because people like to think about things and not up made me think for months.
the best books do that. i hope a lot of people read it. >> host: you also recommended that the next president read thomas paine. >> guest: yes, thomas paine was sort of a devilish writer. he wrote a book called the age of reason, where he looked at the sort of logical fallacies of established religion. the use of rationality, the use of logic i feel is where our salvation will come or not they vcs. i think we get ourselves into trouble when we are taken over by our passions. thomas pink clearly believed that. he was one of the architects of the american revolution and american independence. the whole idea of the inalienable right of men,
individual right that teams don't have a divine right, that no one is born inherently superior to any other person, you can't be born into power over others. you have to earn it. not power, but authority. a three -month-old baby will have authority over other people. how do you know? the divine right of kings obviously is an incredibly questionable idea that what european society has an based on an thomas paine took all of that on as he helps construct the ideology of american independent and individual rights. i am no expert. i just sort of fell in love with the guy. he took -- they took, the
framers took as one example individual right in the sort of very profound egalitarianism that they were inspiring to. they check is one of their sources the american indian and the tribal society is profoundly egalitarian. no one is born into a kind of inherent inherited privilege authority and they were intoxicated by that converted into the constitution. >> stephen. jane in washington. did you like the hollywood filmmaker book, "the perfect storm." you prefer doing document? >> guest: thank you for that. i enjoyed the film enormously. it was a big dramatic
representation of the book i wrote, which was a journalistic interpretation of some did not really happen. i felt that will scan peterson did a great job at turning it into a hollywood movie. i had nothing to do with making a "the perfect storm" and i've been very involved in the making of documentaries. i've got to say it's kind of apples and oranges. >> host: pat or not, illinois asks that the tribal benefit of inclusion and meaning are so low, why has the arc of his jury apparently curved in an opposite direction? >> guest: well, benefit doesn't always doesn't always come from meaning. the engine of capitalism and modernization is extremely powerful. another evolutionarily programmed response that we have is towards individualization and individual benefit.
human society is this balance in the concerns of the group. you sort of need those. what's captured in modern society is the accumulation of capital has started without ultra 10,000 years ago and i will refer you to harare for this because he had a very interesting chapter about agriculture. he domesticated us rather than the other way around. those processes are very recent go. i started 10,000 years ago. those processes have resulted in the feedback loop of capital and technological development and more capitalization. i think are very ancient wiring as humans can't quite keep up with it. it works. we landed men on the moon.
we are working on a cure for cancer. we have a polio vaccine. it worked in a lot of ways that evolution -- the evolutionarily adapted, the consequent that were not that happy. at least judging by modern society. >> host: may is calling in from columbus, nebraska appeared you are on booktv with sebastian junger. >> caller: you've been around a lot. how can we have the foreigners respect us more? >> guest: that's a simple hard to ask questions. thank you. i have worked all over the world. we are enormously respect that and a lot of the world. we have also done a lot of damage. my father grew up during world war ii and america was seen to have saved the world from
fascism by a lot of people. i was in kosovo. i was in bosnia. we sat american led nato intervention, stop those genocides, stopped those wars. there are a lot of very, very grateful people in those countries. all over the world, people want to immigrate to the country. they want to immigrate here and work here. we are very worse record around the world. that doesn't mean we don't make terrible mistakes and withal so, for as much as we are but backed it, and desired in some ways, we are also deeply resented. that is a complicated alan >> that a superpower has to circumnavigate is how do you keep from being resented for the very things you are also admired for.
i don't think there is a simple answer. >> host: sebastian junger, what is your connection to the state of idaho? >> guest: i was in idaho when i was 23 or whatever it was and then i went back in the early 90s and wrote about forest fires in the crews that brought fires north of boise in the summer of 1992. >> host: how does that compare? >> guest: i've never been in a war when i was covering the forest fires. i remember turning to my buddy, john, whom i book is dedicated. we were out there together. we were in a helicopter looking for some fresh lime to flyover. something germanic was going on and i yelled at him. i said something like this forest fires are exciting,
imagine what war is like was the thought that came to my mind. >> host: our next call is from steve in poona, idaho. zero ahead, steve. >> caller: thank you. i appreciate that. we certainly do with buyers. that is part of living in the west. i wanted to ask him if seems historically that our wars are more episodic. they have a beginning to when we look back from the world war ii era even though i would argue it, today's wars seem to be centralized, very open-ended. i am just wondering, is it more difficult for the veteran should reconnect to society because msn they don't have a clean ending?
i had the cold war so i could look at the berlin wall and make some connection to an event. in a sense, is a harder for the veteran today? >> guest: i'm not a psychologist, but i'm doing my best to figure all of this out. i think it probably is harder. world war ii was way more to mod more to vatican the current wars but it had a finite ending. america is engaged in struggles that don't end. you know, the war on quote, the war and crime, war on drugs, these are after is the cost a lot of money, the cost a lot of blood. they've been going on for decades. i don't know if it's psychological research on the psychological reason and not
going after that we will fight or not say. there is a debate. that compared to finite things, i don't know if anyone sent it back, but it's certainly possible. really interesting idea. >> host: robber, blaine, washington. go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: thank you very much for all of your work. i am a survivor and the third marine division in 1969 i have been 100% physically and mentally disabled. i have two survivors of two groups of casualty replacement that fit into the dac by the regulars between 1969 and we still haven't got a record. it's basically an unknown event. thank you for doing what you do for the veteran. i lost everybody. all of my friends were killed. everyone except for one.
we still are in the unknown. we are in twilight tone here, but we are okay. semper fi and thank you very much. just go thank you for calling. honestly, i really cannot imagine what that must feel like to lose all of your friends, all of your brothers boat wine and decades later to have it not really be acknowledged by your country. one of the things i was looking at in my book, transfixed, is hunter gatherer societies are they better off coming back to the battlefield to their community than soldiers in a modern, mechanized industrialized mass society. as far as i can tell, they are. the community, the civilian community and the warriors are deeply intertwined.
they come back to a society that is very, very cognizant not only of the importance of the site to what went on out there and the sort of divide between the warriors and the society is basically nonexistent. the analogous situation is inconceivable in a tribal society. i really can't imagine how that is odd entity or sub or he and i really hope you find some peace. >> host: from your book "tribe," veterans come home to find that although they are willing to die for their country, they are not sure how to live for it. unfortunately for the past decade, american soldiers have returned to a country that displays many indicators that those social resilience. resources are not shared equally. a quarter children live in poverty. jobs are hard to get. and the wages almost impossible to live on. instead of being able to work and contribute to society, a highly therapeutic thing to do
you write large percentage of veterans are just offered lifelong disability and they except of course, why shouldn't they come a society that doesn't distinguish between degrees of trauma can't expect the warriors to either. >> guest: today's veterans are coming back to a fractured society. inc. about it, they risk their lives to fight for us and then they come back to find we are fighting with buyers loves. i mean not on every level. there is a political fight going on. political fights are contentious. they don't have to be ugly and this is ugly. there is a disparaging of the president, a mocking of the government. there is contempt for segments of the population. i can't imagine how dispiriting that is to soldiers who bought her this.
the issue of ptsd is complicated because the nation is trying to do the right thing for people who fought hard for us, but also some pain were soldiers are allowed to sell what is called self diagnose a basically if you have ptsd, the doctors have to consent that you do and they believe -- psychologists believe that leads to an error rate of 50% in the diagnosis. and then you get disability. the thing about disability payment is yes, they allow you to get by, but they also marginalized people. people return to society by among other things, working. when you have disability papers you could live off of, you don't have to work and then you don't rejoin society and it winds up almost ghettoizing veterans in the subculture and there are
real psychological consequences for that better known to be negative and i think that is one of the problems going on with this generation of veterans not transitioning. i found it an amazing painting by winslow homer. it was painted -- this is important. it was painted in the fall of 1865, a few months after the civil war ended. the harvest season after the civil war ended it shows a young man with a side in a wheat field, cutting weight. you realize this is a civil war veteran. a young man who mugged earlier with carrying a rifle in a came home to wherever he lived and he was immediately put to work and i'm sure his community come his family was like well done out there in the battlefields of the
bayonet, what have you. we still need you. there is something enormously psychologically healthy about asking someone who is returning to society, asking them to continue serving and can give you engaging. don't go away. we can't get by without you. here's the side. get to work with asked. >> host: next call comes from maryland. go ahead. >> caller: how are you, sebastian? >> guest: and pretty good, how are you? >> caller: pretty well. i'm an english teacher and i tagged her book and i was listening to your interview, i heard some things that was though inspiring it's probably incredible people are even watching and listening. earlier i heard you talk about war reporting and watching some of the suffering even in those countries than with arrows
oldsters. i was brought to mind the creative process when it talks about people who are allowed. he states perhaps the primary distinction of the artist, which you are obviously, he must cultivate the state, which most men and all men when the chips are down allowed is a banality frequently stated, but rarely only evidence believed. in hearing back, i heard a lot of that. i was wondering, really quick as an aspiring writer, what type of advice would you give. i've been struggling between my own experience and to put it in perspective so it can help a global perspective. i just didn't want it to be one-sided. imc your work. so, thanks.
>> host: before we get an answer, tell us quickly what it was like to teach "the perfect storm." what was the reaction? >> guest: i chose to teach it because it was an actual event that occurred and this was the author's interpretation of what happened. they responded well. most students today like to see the real deal. they like to know if this really happening, is this real, not real? they were inspired by that and just how life can change in a moment. one of the biggest challenges as a teacher in high school as they are trying to convince kids there is a world outside of where you are and it moves really fast and things can change. i enjoyed the book.
i did watch the movie, but the book was very good and i thought they responded well. >> guest: thank you. the writing process is a mystery. i'm just a journalist. i'm just a nonfiction writer. i gather my information about the world and i sit down with it. if we have writers block, all that means to me is that country section writer not enough research for information and i'm having trouble writing. if you have enough in her mission, the words can't come out fast enough. and the things that will affect the world are the things that affect you. if you are writing about something that is producing an emotional asked. , it is going to affect other people emotionally and that is going to change the world. if you are writing about something that is just not be
listed in much of a reaction in you, other people will have the same response to it. your own relationship to your work is like a pretty good, if your object didn't come you have to be really honest and open an object is. if you are, it's a good indicator of what other people are going to want to read. >> host: were you familiar with '-backquote? >> guest: no, i wasn't actually. postcode e-mail from robert. you see the expansion of privatization in the military through contractors as a side of private power consuming public power. what do you think about the use of contract is in the military? >> i'm not an expert in this. my guess is the military is using private contractors because it's cheaper, and even though the contractors are paid more than a soldier with d. there are lifelong benefits come
the g.i. bill, all those sorts of things get financial burdens the country carries for the rest of the life of the soldier. so of course they don't have that obligation with contractors. in the long run, with the military is doing is trying to save money by hiring out some of these jobs. is that a good idea or not? i don't know. that's a national conversation. i'm out of my depth on that one. >> host: from san francisco, mr. junger, do you think the suburbanite economy grew up with contribute to the so-called throwaway culture? >> guest: i am guessing here. i think they are all part of the same phenomenon. i mean, there is a feeling in this individualized society that as my father -- as my father protested come you don't owe your country nothing.
there is a feeling that maybe you actually don't owe anything. maybe you can monitor and it doesn't matter. nothing matters except your own personal concerns. if you live in a travel society, it is quite clear your life is not entirely your own. you owe your life to your community because your survival would be impossible without that community. in an affluent suburban society, modern society, it is possible to think that you don't know your survival to anybody else. it's a complete illusion on one that leaves us feeling alienated and alone and depressed and anxious. in fact connected to the throwaway culture because it's not your world that you're walking around in, it's someone el's problem. postcode showed, salem, massachusetts.
murder beaumont was incredible. why do you think relatives of bessie goldberg did not, do not acknowledge the possibility that albert desalvo committed this crime? >> guest: murder obviously is incredibly agonizing personal, painful and and i don't expect the family of an effect than to be open-minded and active about other possibilities. there was a conviction in the case, a conviction that had a lot of doubt at the time and the more i looked in to it, the more it seemed legitimate. i was incapable of proving anything one way or the other and i was very careful in my book not to come to conclusions. only dna with her one way or another who killed classical bird. obviously that's not available so i refrain from -- judgment.
host over people who don't know where talking about the boston strangler. >> guest: just briefly, later confessing to the boston strangler was a carpenter and he worked for my parents had a six -month-old in belmont. i'm older woman, bessie goldberg was sexually assaulted, strangled, classic boston strangling about a mile away in belmont and the father was alone in our house all day that day and after he was caught a few years later, it occurred to my mother when she found out that he had been in our home for six and he could have traveled across town and kill bessie goldberg. it occurred to her that this black handyman who had been cleaning that day, maybe he was innocent. totally circumstantial case of coors. it is that possibility ballot?
i couldn't prove it one way or another. i completely understand the heated emotion and the absolute certainty that the goldberg family had about that conviction. >> host: winnetka, illinois. go ahead with your question. >> guest: i have a lot to say. here is what i want to say to you. i've been listening to other people talking to you and i can't tell you enough that you are a very strong person. i may be six -- at 86 years old. i've been doing psychotherapy in my own practice for 55 years and i have set up in our logical issues that confront you. i was a veteran of the korean war. i didn't serve in combat, but here is what i have found 55 years. the diagnosis of ptsd is 100% correct. what they have found in the research that i have heard and
read is at the same time the diagnosis of ptsd, there is another brain issue that is similar, just like the doctors have two decide whether or not the person has a kidney infection or attach no objection. i would say send them to you about my research. i spend 1,350,000 hours of psychotherapy i've never had to call my insurance company. i work with people for 40 years. some of them have what is called the pmi environmental medical issue, which is also an immune disorder. i respect you highly, but here is what the research has shown. that when they do a scan, and they do not buy another brain issues that are renewed. when they do say studies, which
is when they do scans of people who they had skinned alive and they do studies, they find there is another issue. the issue is there's other brain activities, which resolves around the lack of connection early in childhood. there was the man who went down -- >> host: howard, i apologize. before we get too deep into this topic, let here for a sebastian junger and see if he has a response. >> thank you. i'm not a psychologist. i'm a journalist. i assembled as much data as i could. one of the things that you said really resonated. statistically, one of the predictors of long-term ptsd and almost 100% of people have short-term ptsd or major vatican and. want your ptsd is not.
one of the predictors of who will get the term ptsd or major vatican's event is trauma in childhood. particularly, lack of human connection, abuse, violent abuse, so what you say at the end absolutely resonates with in terms of predicting trauma. >> guest: this is a text message from alan and fort pearce, florida. are you familiar with the work of bowling alone in other books. much of what you talk about reminds me of what putnam says about the decline of the sense of community. >> i haven't read that book and i've heard about it from a number of people obviously i'm looking forward to reading it. were talking about very related things for sure. >> guest: larry, kansas city, missouri. >> guest: great program. let me start off with and a decorated combat vietnam
veteran. two purple hearts, a bronze star. one of the comments made of a woman he interviewed said he missed the work. i didn't understand that. did you have to have a word to feel a closeness for any kind of nourishment or whatever. it just puzzles me. looking at the world today with all these wars going on as vicious as they are, particularly in syria, it's unbelievable to hear that somebody misses a war. it makes no sense to me. it is crazy. it isn't a period can you explain that to me? >> guest: yeah, listen, i agree with you. my book is about trying to understand that. this woman was not in vain. the people in london were not in vain. but they were talking about of course they didn't miss the carnage. in sarajevo, a modern army is
the people for target this for three years then they killed one fist, killed and wounded one fifth of the population of the city. what my friend was talking about was exactly that horror show that forced people to stop competing individualized life in an together. they literally sat shoulder to shoulder in the basement. they planted her hands together. they did everything together. they lived for one another and the war ended and thank god we leave our individual lives and we are not as generous. we are not a selfless. we don't participate in the community, in the groove. she pointed to some graffiti that she had seen in bosnia, that were better when they were
bad. at the end, she said for people to commit something as awful as were means the society we have us be very messed up and i think she's got a real point. >> host: from a shared lines, an irish psychologist, quote, when people are actively engaged in a cause, their lives have more purpose resulting improvement in mental health. this was in 1979. it would be irresponsible to suggest means of improving mental health, but the belfast findings suggest that people will feel better psychologically if they have more involvement with their community. >> guest: his study was amazing. he said it meant solve the northern ireland during 1969, 1970 during a time of great turmoil in northern ireland. he found the districts that have the most violent, saw the most
improvement in mental health across the population. he found that the most violence was correlated with the lowest levels of depression in both men and women and that the only district they saw depression go up with the county derry, i believe it was, that saw no violence at all. basically saying no one is going to recommend for the way of treating mental health issues, but it does say something interesting about the wiring we have is human, that a crisis generates the feeling that they are necessary, but their community needs them to call the action. they are living for a greater purpose. that actually buffers people against psychological demons as
one official said in london during the blitz. he said we have chronic erratics of peacetime now driving ambulance to. it's really interesting way of looking at it. >> host: this is bobby, texting him. good day to both of you. on the naval veteran of desert storm honorably discharged and 92. i still have very vivid dreams of my service. names of the faces and the situations are so clear to me that i have problems recalling what i did yesterday. my memories will never let me forget the significant of belonging that i felt during my service. >> guest: he was in the navy. sounds like he may not have even been directly and calm that. the experience of being in a group, and an urgent tradition is really intoxicating to people. only 10% of u.s. military
actually fires their god and animate they can be. only 10% are getting shot at. a much higher percentage have real difficulty transitioning home. again, maybe not a trauma problem. it may be the difficulty of going from a closed group to an individualized society where everyone is in their air-conditioned room and wondering if they are happy, safe, if this is what they want to be doing. >> host: laura in oklahoma city. as a nurse who worked in the critical care setting for many years, i believe i experienced a moderate depression and sense of self purpose when i left my job for less acute setting, even though i am still a nurse in, what i do now seems lame. what is the difference in the situation it would have gone through. >> this woman is laura. expressing some thing that's
pretty typical. i have heard this since i wrote a book and have been engaging with the public, people say not when they were doing jobs that require collective action, those jobs are very hard to leave. i talked to a young woman who it can't hurt. she said during those terrible days when she was fighting her cancer, her family, community, friend gathered around her and supported her and loved her. she said, you know, i survived. i beat the odds. i survived. and now i miss being sick. there's something missing. i heard that in many different forms, all kinds of different jobs. it's very hard to give up that group endeavor and go back to
individual lives. as great as independents is, it's is, it's hard to give that up. >> host: you are watching tv on c-span2. this is our "in depth" programmer would talk about the body of work. this month is author and filmmaker and journalist, sebastian junger, author of five books, death in belmont, the perfect storm, fire, war, and his most recent book is called "tribe." we've got an hour and 15 minutes left in our program today. the phone numbers in case you'd like to die away, (202)748-8200 in the eastern central time zone. 748-8201 and a not one and the mountain and pacific time zone and if you want to text in a message, please include your first name in your city so we know where you are coming from. (202)838-6251 is the number were
you to text in. and finally, you can reach us on facebook and twitter and e-mail as well, facebook.com/booktv. @email@example.com as our e-mail address. we have talked about your documentaries. we want to show her viewers the trailer for "restrepo." ♪ >> i've been idly on the fhm about it, it can see the picture in my head. [inaudible] >> we are not ready for this.
>> first boss -- [inaudible] went "restrepo" died reshot off flares. >> guest: as they realized they could not knock off. we had the upper hand. it takes a little bit out of you every time you see one of your voice get hurt. it's like a big family. >> guest: i want you guys to get over it and do your job. >> i don't like the way it is. i don't like the way it feels right now. >> i need to know better so i'm not killing these people.
it trajectories for the early list muscles that were on the corporal and sergeant. and then, things changed when the space race happened when nasa was formed. and then these women begin changing. they ended up becoming the first computer programmers and they had this incredibly long careers. 40, 50 years. one of them still works there today. >> host: sebastian junger, you told us you are currently reading letters of seneca appeared what is that? >> guest: seneca was a writer and philosopher or her in ancient greece and he was one of
the stoics. i was just sort of intrigued -- i was intrigued by his philosophy and stoicism in general. i'm hardly an expert, but the stoics had a belief in removing your personal needs from your decision-making and absolute belief in rationality and that they felt that the path to god was through the use of human reason, that someone who is using their emotions, was compared to a person who is running downhill and couldn't control their lands and their rationality with similar purpose will come you don't want to be sprinting downhill out of control with your emotions. you want to be careful and deliberate using a rational mind
to calm to rational conclusions. my father was a physicist and i was raised by my mother as an artist. i was raised -- and an atheist. i didn't go to church when i was a kid. my father as a physicist, explain to me the power of rational thought and i just screw up sort of thinking that way. >> host: you had a physicist and an artist. isn't there again and yang pair? >> guest: there is. my father seemed to win all the arguments, so it's clear to me which way i was going to go. >> host: why are you an atheist? >> guest: i suppose you could say as an historical matter because i was brought up in a religious family. the reason i think i am an atheist is because i haven't encountered a sort of tangible reason to believe in god.
i would love it if there is a god. i just haven't encountered a reason to believe in god. >> host: would he think of the phrase there are not eight years? >> guest: i know empirically that is not true. it also makes me wonder as an atheist, and makes me wonder what a religious person would imagine god would be having to deal with any situation where his creations are trying to kill each other. if there were a god, this is exactly the kind of situation where he would say you guys can figure it out for yourselves. >> guest: the actual e-mail you notice i'm currently reading the letters of seneca as part of a sudden infatuation with the greek stoics. >> guest: you know, what i've read about them and again it hasn't been much. i'm at the beginning of my
quest. it reminded me of myself when i was a kid. i was a long-distance runner. i felt a real imperative to reduce my dependence on physical comfort, physical need. i wanted to be able to fall asleep. when i was hungry and wanted to run all day and all night. i wanted to be able to do anythi. and i worked very hard and i got close. >> host: in your book, "tribe" coming attack about children's bed times. why? children sleep habits. >> guest: we are a socialist pcs and throughout most of human history and still today throughout most of the world, people sleeping groups, x ended families, called cosleeping.
children, young children, and in sleep among the adults in nondescript they get their sense of safety front, their protection. an infant is very vulnerable and in a lot of danger if it is alone in the wild. it is a predator's launch immediately. young children do not like to be alone. they are terrified. northern european society, and i include america is not is really the only society other in human history to force young children teased late by themselves in a dark room. all of our primate wiring is alarmed by that and that's one of the reasons children have a hard time on me. >> host: sebastian junger is our guest. james is in eagle grove, iowa. please go ahead.
>> caller: yes, can you hear me. i recently traveled to the balkans to help bring about a better understanding between americans and people in the balkan region related to the war over there. one of the things we talked to us about is they did not miss a word. we went in travel to sites that have bottomed out in yugoslavia. it was last there is a memorial to the people who died, the day did not feel any nice feelings related to the war. in fact, there was some animosity to the u.s. being involved in the nato bombings. we were there to help revamp our better relations and we did do that. they embraced us. we embraced them. we studied history and culture
of what had gone upon the balkan come at a periodic incursions the roman empire into the balkans and it was an area that had been really divided and have lots of wars. i don't think everybody over there feels that way, yeah the people are coming about and they are building a new way of life despite the wars. they still have goblins with the fact that places like bosnia and no longer to yugoslavia because they could trace back that they had been there long before other people had come into that region. it is still a divided area and we as people in the united states need to embrace those people and help them through the situation.
>> host: >> guest: the serbian state for years ran 150,000 of. belgrade experienced a very short, targeted on campaign when they refused to withdraw their armed forces from kosovo who themselves were committing atrocities. belgrade fortunately for the people in belgrade were not forced into a siege mentality for civilians had to band together to survive. that happened in sarajevo. one fifth of the population was killed or wounded. i am absolutely sure that people in belgrade do not miss getting bombed a nato forces, but that it's a very different situation in bosnia. >> host: when you picture this theory a vote, when you see it?
just goes the modern city had been hammered with mortar and tank rounds per year by the time i got there. shrapnel scars and all the buildings. no class left. it looks like a futuristic post-jake city. at night it was completely dark. it was a very strange thing to walk through a modern city at night and not have any stars and just hear dogs barking. it is very, very strange. at one point during the day, you see people driving firewood down the street. you see odd things like that. people growing vegetables in median strips of the highways. you see women carrying jugs of water. there is nothing.
at one point i was in the courtyard of a sort of modern high rise. it was a man and a suit who worked in the high-rise, even though the war has heard of affected a lot of things, people were still trying to work. he was in a suit and he was crouched on the ground. once he got the fire in the courtyard, it was modern building. he was building a fire in the courtyard and it was copyrighted. you got the fire going up at a coffee pot on top of the fire and boil some copy for himself. if there's an image of the, the post-apocalyptic world, it is a man in a suit cooking coffee on a wood fire. what is that? it was a profound moment. >> host: have you been back? >> guest: last summer we
talked about her nostalgia about the word. as a 17-year-old girl, she was almost killed. she caught a hunk of metal in her leg. her father. her through the shelley night to the hospital. the doctor managed to save her leg that he had to operate on her without an geisha. everyone suffered. and even she had a 17-year-old girl from those terrible days, that's the weird thing. we all missed it because we're better people back then. we lived for others. but it must ourselves. >> host: what is the city look like? >> guest: it's been rebuilt. you can still see sarajevo roses. a mortar hit the pavement is a very particular sort of signature on the ground. indeed it looks a little bit like a rose. everywhere you see that sort of splatter pattern of shrapnel
coming off the pavement and from the detonation, some probably died there. every time you see one, -- >> guest: i want to go back to his feet had to say about resolution. yes, we had a definitive resolution that world war ii, but otherwise, have we really have definitive resolution and you can make a difference? >> guest: the revolution, the war of 1812, civil war, but pulled out of vietnam. was it resolved? i don't know. likewise, we pulled out of iraq, afghanistan. i didn't cover iraq occurred to you like it could be days. i was in a post. i lived in new york and assertive strategic and moral
political rationale are going and getting the guys that do that to us sort of a. i mean, i understood it. i understood the rationale. the war was horribly handled. stakes were made. when we marched off to a non-necessary war in iraq, we pretty much sealed the fate of the guinness jam. we couldn't fight two wars like that simultaneously. but i did cover afghanistan and we kill bin laden. we decimated al qaeda. i was in afghanistan in the 90s. i saw what was going on in afghanistan post-soviet withdraw, the terrible civil war that was happening there. talk about the postapocalypse world. ..
principled leader. and he was killed two days before 9/11 as part of the 9/11 attacks. and i had spent two months with him, and i was, you know, i was very -- i mean, i was devastated when i found out he'd been killed. i didn't realize what it was part of. and then 9/11 happened and then, you know, then i i really understood, like, my god, things are bad. bad things are happening. i was on assignment, actually, when that happened. i was in the country of moldova in eastern europe, the poorest country in europe. and i got back as soon as i could. it took about a week. i got back to my port city, you know, new york, and it smelled of smoke and people still walking around, basically, in shock. >> host: next call comes from east norwich, new york. go ahead. >> caller: what a surprise. i'm a fan of the perfect storm,
and i quote it a lot to people. i love the part about we cleaned up the seas, took the oil off and that, therefore, we're having worse hurricanes. you said something like the water, yes, you're remembering it, the water just races across. on the other hand, the new book sounds wonderful, "tribe." i worked for 30 years for a local newspaper, and that was my tribe. we all worked together with common goals. and now retired, i am creating a few tribe for myself -- a new tribe for myself, joining local groups and working for them. i do have a question though. one thing puerto rican friends said in relationship to america's being criticized, it's really the spanish way of saying it that sounds nicer. what it means is people only throw stones at trees that bear fruit. and then for my question, it appears to me that the
candidates who are saying disreputable things about what we've been doing, i think it's really a reaction from our having to have, be so politically correct. i think that's manager you might enjoy -- something you might enjoy talking about, how we're responding to the need to be politically correct in everything we do. and thank you for speaking to me. my pleasure. >> guest: well, like -- well, thank you, dagmar, and i think your instinct to join groups and serve your community not only is it noble, but it'll make you happier. i mean, you know, political correctness is one of those phrases that's not very helpful. it started out as an attempt to rhetorically respect the dignity and the rights of all people. and like all good things, is
prone to excess. and it's wound up being a kind of tyrannical tool for, a tyrannical tool for suppressing open and honest debate in society. and so when you say "politically correct," you're talking about the second part of it, but what you don't want to do is get rid of the first part of it which is a respect for all people and to make sure that the way you talk about people doesn't denigrate them and dismiss their concerns and their rights. so we just have to be careful when we talk dismissively about being politically correct. i get it, it annoys me too. but, god forbid, we lose the initial impulse that gave rise to this. >> host: e-mail from sebastian yunger to booktv: i never studied english or creative writing in college, but i read an enormous amount. i read a lot of history and
anthropology as a kid, and then i started in on adult fiction. i devoured ma thighson, hemingway as well. i also learned about journalism and nonfiction by reading the masterful john mcfee as well as joan didion. later in my life i was much affected by poet ted hughes and novelist cormick mccarthy. what's the connection between all those people? >> guest: well, they're all amazing writers. i think they're amazing writers. >> host: what does that mean, to be an amazing writer? >> guest: well, they have a profound understanding of the sort of musical quality of english, of how to put rhythm into a sentence, of how to use vocabulary in origin always, of how to be clean and efficient and direct, how to get out of their own way and not use the writing to draw attention to themselves to be a kind of
transparent lens through which the reader can see the world. all of those things. they were amazing. peter matheson, fields of the lord, just this incredible novel takes place in brazil among -- and the indians which i believe are a fictional name for the -- [inaudible] on a boat in the caribbean in the '70s. i mean, just amazing, amazing words. peter matheson just died, and it was a real loss to the nation. >> host: it's been 20 years since you turned in the manuscript of "the perfect storm." when's the last time you picked it up and read it? >> guest: it's been 20 years almost to the day. [laughter] actually. oh, my god, when was the last time i read it, 19 years ago? i don't know. maybe i read it after it was published. i can't remember. i probably did. i can't remember. >> host: why? i mean, why haven't you picked
it back up to go through it? >> guest: i mean, once in a while i'll sort of thumb through some of my past work just to see if, see if i still feel like it's any good or, you know, i don't know, it doesn't interest me. i mean, i was very interested when i was writing it, and i was delighted that other people were interested in it. and then it came out, and i moved on, and now i'm in the middle of thinking about "tribe," you know? that's my sort of central intellectual pursuit. but a time's going to come when that's behind me. and i -- we all hope, authors all hope that their books, you know, like their children, will continue to, continue on in the world and affect people, you know, whatever. [laughter] but if you're not, if you're not moving forward, you know, we're like sharks. if we're not moving forward, we die. and i'm going to move forward into something else. >> host: how many drafts did "tribe" go through?
>> guest: oh, i -- >> host: and what is a draft? >> guest: what's a draft, yeah. as i write, i continually re-edit as i write. for me, a draft is when you decide to use 100 pages' worth of what used to be trees in a forest -- [laughter] to print out your manuscript in your printer. and then you sit and read it with a red pen, and you mark all the self-indulgent stuff and the inefficient prose and the wordiness and the faulty logic and whatever. you mark everything, and you go back to work on it. and i probably did that twice. and then, yeah, then there's the small revisions after copy editing. >> host: do you save those drafts? are they gone? >> guest: i think i saved the draft that i turned into my editor. i think it's in a box somewhere, yeah. yeah, for sure. i mean, i'm not a very
sentimental person. [laughter] >> host: bob's in overland park, kansas. hi, bob. >> caller: hi, peter, great to talk to you. sebastian, i'm a tremendous fan of yours. i think your work is really profoundly insightful. i'm really interested in a couple books i've been reading recently, and they're by the works by samuel huntington on the clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. and also he has another book, who are we, which is, deals with america's national identity. after your explanations of the tribe and your perspectives having been in so many parts of the world where these friction points have been, i'm really interested in your insights and comments about that.
>> guest: thank you very much. i haven't read those books. i've heard about them. my book "tribe" really, it's about modern post-industrial society broadly. it's not just america. and it's about why, it's about our sort of human preference for community and what the consequences are when we lose that. and so it really isn't just america. i think the clash of civilizations was referring to america. i may be wrong, i haven't read it. but at any rate, we, you know, as humans like we now very recently in our history organize ourselves not so much in neighborhoods, not so much in tribes, but in nations. and the trick is how do you keep 320 million people which is, i think, the population of this country, how do you keep that many people sort of -- even though they're politically in conflict, they're economically
stratified, socially stratified, how do you keep them sort of unified by a shared ethos and a common goal, a common sense of purpose? i mean, the bigger the group the harder it is to do that. and doing that with 320 million people has never been attempted before in human history. and, you know, we're inventing, you know, we're going by the seat of our pants. we're inventing it as we go. at the sort of micro end, we don't really live in neighborhoods where we're dependent on one another anymore. i mean, we don't live in communities where we're dependent on one another for our basic needs, our food, shelter, safety. and at macro end, there seems to be a kind of fracturing of our nation along ideological lines, along economic lines, social lines. that doesn't need to happen. we're not going to, we're not going to dismantle society and all live in tightly bundled communities and lean-tos, i know that's not going to happen.
nobody's asking for it to happen. but i don't think we need to be fractured the way we are at the micro level. i think when politicians, when very powerful people speak with real contempt and derision about, for example, our president, our government, segments of the population, you're really undermining the idea that we're all part of something shared, that we all have a common investment in our country. it's a very, very dangerous thing to do. not that we don't have disagreements. we should argue. democracy thrives on argument. it's great. that's not what i'm talking about. i'm talking about contempt. when i was with soldiers in afghanistan, as much as they might have had problems with each other, no one talked with contempt about someone inside the wire that they might depend on for their own survival. and that's what's happening in this country. i think it's extremely dangerous, and i'm not just talking about you know who, i'm talking about both 34reu9 call parties. we've got to stop it. >> host: from your book "tribe," you write: politicians occasionally accuse rivals of deliberately trying to harm their own country, a charge so
disruptive to group unity that most past societies would probably have just punished it as a form of treason. >> guest: yeah. i mean, i understand that it galvanizes your base to demonize the opposing political party and its leaders. i get it. but what you're doing is you're trading support among your base for -- you're trading the unity of the country for an increasing support in your base. you're basically creating a tribe within our nation that does not see its interests as overlapping with the interests of the nation and of all people in this nation. and when you do that, you start fracturing the country. and that really, in my opinion, that kind of rhetoric is extremely dangerous. it's like when couples' counselors tell married couples who are struggling have all the fights you want, just do not talk about divorce. do not use the word "divorce."
you can fight, whatever. fight fairly but with respect. and i feel like right now when you start accusing the president of not actually being an american citizen or of somehow being, like, siding with our enemies, you're basically throwing around the word "divorce." and it's a deeply undemocratic thing to do, and it's more of a threat to our democracy than, you know, isis or al-qaeda ever, ever will be. and, again, both sides do it in their different ways. the left does it as well. >> host: and this is a text message from area code 303, reminder to put your city and first name. i think that's detroit. i am just finishing your audio book of tribes. after seeing another interview with you, i am hoping you have or will send a copy of your book to hillary clinton and bernie sanders who i believe have tried their best given the constraints of a political campaign to keep the discussions of our differences civil. you really have rationally nailed the way we should disagree but without denigrating
those we disagree with. next call for sebastian junger comes from just outside of washington d.c. go ahead, doc. >> guest: first of all, mr. junger, thanks so much for your incredible work. my wife and i are parents to three young men, one who was a marine with tours in helmand province. thanks for the insights and the work you've done, it's been helpful to us, our son and many other combat veterans as well. two quick questions. one, in the documentary one of the combat infantrymen who if i remember correctly was raised by hippie parents in california reflects on the things he had to do to others in combat. people say you just did your job, and he says when i meet my god, is he going to say you did your job? i don't think so. our son said almost precisely
the same thing to us. so my first question is do you find a lot of veterans saying something similar to that? and second, we view your work in the tradition of historical reflections on war, seneca you pensioned, the warriors -- you mentioned, the warriors, what it's like to go to war. at the risk of making you laugh too hard, do you view your work in a historical context, or do you feel, hey, i've just found my calling? and i must say you're doing it in an incredibly passionate and wonderful way. >> guest: thank you, sir. i really appreciate that. i would never put myself this that company -- in that company. i mean, those are amazing writers, and if i'm seen that way by anyone, i'm really honored. i'm really trying to do my best to understand something that's confusing to the nation and confusing to me and confusing to the young men and women who are participating in it. and i hope that i'm making some
sense. i'm glad your sons are back safely. two tours in helmand must have been quite something more your son. and, yeah, i'm glad he's okay. and thank you, thank you for seeing some help in my work, that it's incomed you in some help -- informed you in some helpful way. i'm really glad to hear. >> host: alan in topeka, kansas: did you meet any vets that were wired for opposite of tribe, like mountain men of old? i am a combat vet, and iraq felt like a prison experience. great work on your part. >> guest: well, you know, humans are -- we're weird, right? and there's all kinds. and there are absolutely people, individuals who do not want to be part of a group. i mean, you know, i have a very, very good, dear friend who grew up in a family of 14 siblings, and he just can't get far enough away from groups, you know?
so, you know, it's, of course, everything happens. but what i was trying to understand is the very common human reaction to modern society which is elevated rates of suicide and depression and all that and, you know, why is that? we obviously have such bounty, you know? such safety, such stability, all the things humans supposedly want. why is it people remember the bad times with this notal. >> ya? why -- nostalgia? why is it they remember the blizzard, the hurricane in why is that in it's because we're enlisted by our community to help. it makes us feel good, and modern society has reduced the occasions where we have to pitch in, and there's a real loss this. >> host: do you ever get that feeling, do you ever get that isolated feeling being here in new york city? >> guest: i mean, new york is its own freak show, right? i mean, you're sort of surrounded by millions of people in this incredible human experiment in, you know,
congestion. [laughter] congestion and population density, and yet you're anonymous person walking around. i think you can feel terribly, terribly alone in this city. i also have had the real experience of, like, real communal sentiment in, like, the neighborhood i live in. so it's sort of both. >> host: next call for sebastian junger comes from sharon in virginia beach, virginia. hi, sharon, go ahead. >> caller: hi. my question is if you had run into vets who, vietnam or otherwise, who had sort of a self-destruct mode, i guess you'd say. i'm a widow of a vietnam vet. he was a ranger. participated many what they call -- in what they called long range reconnaissance. he told me some stories you just don't hear every day, you don't even see in the movies, they're so horrible. he told me two stories that made
me cry, one involved a buddy, another a little girl. he always said he did what he had to do, but i'm just wondering, i think he was suffering from ptsd for years. i think he had, like, a self-destruct mode. perhaps that was the way he handled it because he got sicker and sicker until he passed away in 2013. so i'm just wondering if you had run across that in combat veterans that you've talked to or any of the research that you have done for your books, which i definitely will read. that's my question. thank you, sir. >> guest: ma'am, thank you for calling in. i'm really sorry for the loss of your husband. what you call a self-destruct mode, i mean, people that have been traumatized by all kinds of trauma, it doesn't have to be combat, it could be sexual abuse as a child, violence, being exposed to violence as a child.
i mean, people often turn -- people who have been traumatized often in turn traumatize themselves. i think that's -- i mean, again, i'm not a psychologist, but my understanding is that's a pretty common human reaction. and, you know, i haven't studied this, but i think i can see that kind of behavior in some of the vets that i know, particularly with substance abuse actually. and violence. i i mean, you know, a lot of the guys that i was with out in the corn gal, i mean, what did they do when they got back? they drank a lot and got in a lot of fights. that's a form of self-punishment. they were working something out. >> host: polly, napomo, california. >> caller: oh, it's holly. hi, sebastian. i've been following your stuff over years and enjoyed a lot of it, and since you wrote "the perfect storm," i was wondering if you would ever investigate,
which we still need to designate el faro which sank in october of 2013 and your comments on that. >> host: thank you, holly. >> guest: yeah. i think el faro was a container ship that sank during a hurricane 2013, i think she broke in half and sank. i'm not sure. she sank very suddenly. no, i probably won't write about that. i tend not to go back to the same topic. >> host: joanne tweets in, doesn't isis fit the definition of tribe? >> guest: well, let's be careful here. in the sense that i mean it in the sort of anthropological sense, a tribe is a group of people that are dependent on each other for their sustenance
or their safety, for the sort of web of symbolic meanings that identify them as a group apart from others. and so it's an easy word to throw around. i think there are, i think there probably is a tribal appeal for people that join isis. they want to be part of something bigger. they want to transcend themselves. they see a kind of unity in what isis is trying to do. for sure. i mean, humans haven't changed much. and if isis is appealing in sort of unexpected, weird ways to middle class european kids and they're running off to, like, join isis, if that's true, we have to wonder what they're offering and what they're, what middle class european society is not providing. but isis is also a political group. it's part of a monotheistic
religion. it's a lot of other things as well, and we have to understand it in all those terms. >> host: because you write about what you write about, do people misconceive or misinterpret your opinion about war, about the purpose of war? >> guest: well, i think sometimes people misconceive what journalism is. i mean, as a journalist, i don't have public opinions. i don't say i think we should do this, or i think soldiers are -- like, i'm studying something and transferring what i feel like i've understood about another world, about sierra leone during the civil war or about american soldiers in combat or what have you, ptsd. i'm studying it in a neutral way without an agenda and transferring what i think i'm -- digesting it and transferring that to my readers. and so if there's something in my book, it's not me saying it,
it's me repeating the opinions or the conclusions of other people that i've tried to assemble in a coherent fashion. and so if i'm pointing out, and this has happened a few times and it's always interesting to watch it happen, if i'm pointing out that people respond in positive ways to hardship and distress and danger of the sort that you find in war or on a swordfishing boat, for that matter, it's not me somehow saying war is good. it's me pointing out that humans are complex, and we react in surprising ways to difficult circumstances. and it has to be that way, or -- i mean, we're the product of evolution. if we didn't react well to bad situations, we wouldn't exist. we wouldn't have survived. so as an anthropologist, it's not surprising to me that the worse the situation, the better we react. but it is not, i mean, if you understand what journalism is, it is not, it is not me offering
an opinion about war. >> host: sebastian junger, in your book, "war," almost a throwaway line you talked about the camel spiders, the scorpions and the malaria medication that you had to take and what that was like to deal with those three things. >> guest: yeah. i mean, the one thing i am most terrified of is i have had a phobia of spiders my entire life, since i was a little kid. i blame it on being forced to sleep alone in a dark bedroom. [laughter] i'm kidding. anyway, yeah, i have a terrible phobia of spiders. so one of the, very, very honestly one of the real psychological challenges for me in going to the chorin gal wasn't the gunfire. i'd been in combat for years. it was thinking about dealing with tran cue las. these camel spiders. that was a psychological thing for me. scorpions i don't really care.
the malaria medication, i mean, it made everyone -- gave everyone a kind of psychosis. i mean, you had terrible, terrible nightmares. it actually -- ironically, the malaria medication you took every monday, ironically, the side effects are quite similar to symptoms of ptsd and trauma. and i think the military's phasing out the medication. i hope they are because, boy, it made people crazy. >> host: dave is in spokane valley, washington. dave, you're on booktv with sebastian junger. requesting hi. thanks, peter. great show. i mean, i love c-span. i just want to thank c-span for all you guys do. it helps further my education and helps me use my thinking brain which leads me to sebastian and what you do. all your work, your intellectual rigor, love listening to you
talk and how honest you are about what you don't know and what you do know. but i really would like to see a guy like you help our leaders be better leaders and get us to a place where we can care for each other in a better way and do our society more good than divisiveness and, you know, get to the issues, the nut of the matter. and so hopefully, maybe you can -- your goals are going to be more about politics later and you can become a politician. i don't know, but i really respect what you do and love listening to you talk. >> host: all right, dave, thank you very much. let's hear from sebastian junger. >> guest: thank you, i'm very honored by what you said. i mean, i'm a journalist, and, you know, if i can affect our political leaders, if i can affect anybody, it's going to be through my books. and i hope they do.
i mean, that's why, you know, i write to make my living, but i also write to affect the society i live in in positive ways. and, you know, if it does that, if hillary reads my book, if donald reads my book, i hope they both do. i hope they see some good in it. the central message at the end of my book, i mean, i start with the american indians. i move on to the blitz in london. i eventually talk about ptsd, and i wind up talking about the current state of affairs in sort of the political discourse of the moment in this country and the divided nature of our really wonderful society, it's really quite divided. i think across the board politically americans want us to be a unified country. i think we're literally scaring ourselves by the divisiveness of the political rhetoric recently. if my book somehow urges people towards seeing us all as part of a common goal even though we
have arguments, nothing could thrill me more. and i hope something like that happens. >> host: why do you close "tribe" with the phrase, "i'm dead inside"? >> guest: well, i start "tribe" with this story about hitchhiking across the country and this incredible act that this homeless man in gillette, wyoming, did for me of giving me his lunch and sort of taking responsibility for me. and at the end of the book, i talk about a story that i read in a book by an anthropologist named christopher, and he was referring to yet another anthropologist who had done field work with the cree indians in canada. and this woman, this anthropologist was out with an november minute, can't remember his name, and they were out in the bush, the wilderness on a hunting and trapping expedition. and they ran across two people that they didn't know, two other cree. they didn't know them, and these two men were out of food.
and this anthropologist said her companion gave them almost everything that they had, that he had. and she asked him about it afterwards. and she said, you know, you don't know these guys, it means you're going to have to cut your hunting trip short. why would you give them most of your food? and he said to not give them food, dead inside, it means you're dead inside. and i suddenly realized like that homeless guy in gillette, i mean, he was living down in a broken down car in gillette, wyoming, walking out three miles to a coal mine every day to see if they could use him for a shift. there was very little in his life that he had control over, but he could control whether he was dead inside or nt. and in my mind, the one thing he refused to be was dead inside. and he saw a young man out on the highway, and he gave him his lunch because he was alive inside. it was one of the things he had control over, and he wasn't going to give that up.
it was a very, very moving thing for me, and that's why in my book was that story about being dead inside. god forbid we all die inside. >> host: sylvia, indianapolis, indiana. text message. how do we find peaceful projects for restoring or maintaining human solidarity and community belonging? >> guest: well, that's a great question. i mean, humans evolved in an environment of great danger and stress and hardship, and those hardships included war, included organized violence between human groups. and that violence, those hardships engendered enormous social solidarity, right? i mean, clearly, we're the descendants of ancestors that figured out how to band together to survive, and we're wired for that because those are the ancestors that survived. they were able to do that. so how do we have -- she's asking how do we have it both ways? how do we retain the benefits of a peaceful, modern society but
not lose the social connectedness that violence and hardship and suffering engendered in our past that wired us for? i don't know. i think national service. i think mandatory national service would go a long way, frankly. i'm not talking about the draft. the draft is a wartime measure that puts guns in people's hands and sends them off to war. you can be against that or not. i understand the argument either way. national service is a different thing. as my father said, we were talking earlier, you don't owe your country nothing. and if you ask a room full of people, and i've done this, what do you owe your country, everyone gives you a blank look because there's no ready answer. our nation does not provide a ready answer to that fundamental question, what do you owe your people? and national service would actually give young people -- national service with a military option, i think it's sort of a tragedy that there's no way to serve your country without carrying a gun.
national service with a military option would allow force/allow young people to invest in their cup. i mean, invest -- in their country. invest from their own lives. we -- psychologists know that when you sacrifice for something, it rises in value. when you put a year or two of your life into your nation, you value your nation more. and that's a good feeling. it's good for the nation, it's good for us as individuals. and i think it actually could go a long way towards making this country -- despite the great economic and social, political divisions -- making this country feel like a united endeavor, like we have a common goal, a common ethos. >> host: did you ever consider joining the military? >> guest: not really. you know, i grew up during vietnam. the military -- at least in the society that i was, grew up in, was really discredited. sort of morally, politically discredited. and unfairly, i should add, you know? i had a very limited perspective
on it. but that was the environment i grew up in. and there were really no existential threats to this country enwas a young man. this was the 1980s, 1990s. we had a couple of brief military engagements, panama, granada, the gulf war one lasted 100 hours. i think had 9/11 happened sort of on my watch, you know, when i was 22, i absolutely would have -- certainly given it very, very serious thought. i think i probably would have joined. i mean, it's a thought experiment. you know, obviously, i don't know for sure, but there were no good, you know, there were no good wars to fight when i was young. thank god. i'm very lucky that way. and so it's hard for me to imagine my life otherwise. >> host: david's in tulsa. david, go ahead with your question or comment for author sebastian junger. >> caller: hi. thank you for taking my call. i'm from oklahoma, and we know a
thing or two about terrorist attacks from 1995. and i will confirm that when that attack occurred, oklahoma in my lifetime has never been closer. very, very republican state, welcomed president bill clinton in. he did amazing things for the state of oklahoma. as did our governor, frank keating. but many, many people just banded together to get through that attack which is kind of forgotten now with everything that happens. 168 deaths. my question to your guest is could such things happen in a positive sense such as a group getting together to fight poverty in a city such as habitat for humanity and building a home for the poor, or
i've even seen some of it with athletic teams and the loyalty years later that somebody who would not show up for a 20-year school anniversary would show up for an anniversary of their athletic team. and i'll take the answer off the air. >> host: kind of talked about this earlier. >> guest: yeah. thank you for that. finish you know, our cities, i live in new york, you live in oklahoma city, our cities are united in this sort of tragic, tragic way that we both had catastrophic attacks upon us and that killed civilians, innocent people by the scores, by the hundreds, by thousands. and it does create this incredible unity. and, you know, can you get that in, as you said, in a positive way? i don't think, i don't think quite in the same way. i mean, humans are wired to survive really bad stuff, and when really good stuff happens,
we don't kick into that kind of communal survival are mode. survival mode. that doesn't mean that we don't get good things out of positive efforts, and i think there is -- i think you can produce a kind of, some kind of group unity by organizing to do positive things. it's just not quite as profound as during, you know, the tornado, the hurricane, the war, whatever it may be, the attack. that's just how we're wired. i don't think it's the, i don't think it's the end of world, but it is sort of important to acknowledge it. you know, i should say that 9/11 happened during a republican administration, and new york is thoroughly democratic. and we welcomed president bush, a man i did not vote for, but we welcomed him with open arms. i think that's a really common -- and, frankly wonderful -- human reaction during crises. it really transcends those boundaries. i did some research into an earthquake in italy in 1915, and
one survivor wrote about how 96% of population was killed in a minute. and the survivors huddled around, and for a few days it was this weird sort of post-apocket lippic utopia. there were no social classes, no rich, no poor, everyone banded together, totally egalitarian, and this one survivor wrote that the earthquake had produced what the law promises but cannot, in fact, deliver which is the equality of all men. i think there's a little bit of that in what you probably experienced and what we experienced here in new york. >> host: roger from san francisco texts in to you, mr. junger: you posit that modern alienation is caused by the fact that people don't live in platoon-sized groups. do you see an ideal number, dunbar's number of 150, for a tribe to maintain a shared group
ethos? >> guest: well, i -- [laughter] this is a very well-informed questioner. i write about dunbar's number in my book "war," and it's an interesting phenomenon. he obviously is well informed. the group sizes that people throughout history and prehistory are likely to live in and still, are likely to function in are not randomly distributed. and there's, if you plot them as dunbar, a sociologist, did, you can see these sort of spikes. and the one speak where a very, very common human group is 10-12 individuals, basically an extended family. another very common human group is 30, 40, 50 people, basically a platoon. so you go squad, platoon and finally company is around 150-200 people, something like that. so dunbar discovered these sort of common human groupings, and
we seem to be wired to respond well emotionally, psychologically to groups of that size. the guys that i was with in afghanistan, their battalion which was, i don't know, 600 people, they didn't have much personal identification with the battalion. they were in a battalion, but they didn't connect you. company, platoon, absolutely. their squad was, like, the core of their family with incredibly strong bonds within squads. >> host: larry is in seven trail ya, washington, and you're on booktv, larry. >> caller: yes. thanks for taking my call. mr. junger, i was too young to serve in world war ii but followed it daily, and i think if we look at the -- [inaudible] situation with those folks when there was existential war, every family you knew had a connection
to the service or a gold star in the window. and today you've got, what, 1% of the people, and most of them don't even know a veteran. i was a corpsman, navy corpsman at the end of korea and dealt with plastic surgery in the burn units and also in the locked psychiatric wards and then ended up my last year and a half in the marine corps and saw the tennessee combat, saw the aftermath of combat. if there's no meaning to what you're doing, victor frankel who survived auschwitz said without meeting, you do not live. without meaning, you do not live. so i'd like to get your idea on that and also address the manufacturers of war materials. we never see them coming down the production line, but we see thousands and thousands of them in the battlefield. and they have to come from somewhere, so who profits from
war? is that who's behind all of this? because we hadn't had a war worth fighting since world war ii, but we sure bought a lot of material. thank you very much. >> host: that's larry in centralia, washington. >> guest: thank you. there's a lot of complex ideas there. i'm not an expert about the financing of wars. my understanding is that the r&d that happens during peacetime is actually a lot more lucrative to arms manufacturers, boeing, places like that than the actual manufacturing of munitions. so i don't know if that's true. that's what i heard. it's sort of an interesting idea. bullets and bombs actually don't cost that much, and there's not much of a profit margin on them compared to the research and development that happens during times of peace. it's an interesting perspective. and, yeah, 1% serve, it's less than 1%, actually. that's true. it's a poignant number.
i think it underscores that most of the country is not connected to the wars that we're fighting. you know, a war tax to pay for our wars as we fight them might be a good -- might connect people, might engage them politically. the iraq and afghan wars were basically put on a huge credit card. i understand politically why an administration might want to do that. but, obviously, as you're pointing out, it might be a bad idea. the problem with the 1% number is that if you change that, say we want to have 5% of the population fighting, that means a massive, massive army. and probably one we can't afford. i mean, keep in the mind you're not just paying salaries while people are fighting during the year or two or three or four, five years, whatever, but there are g. i. benefits, health benefits that continue on for the life of the serviceman or
servicewoman. and the country just simply cannot afford to have a standing army that's that enormous. so, yeah, it's 1%, but there really isn't a financial alternative to that. we have to find other ways of making the public engage with the experience of the 1%. i don't think we can afford to do it otherwise. >> host: you write about weapons systems in your book, "war," and here's one thing you write: each javelin round costs $80,000. and the idea that it's fired by a guy who doesn't make that in a year at a guy who doesn't make that in a lifetime is somehow so outrageous, it almost makes the war seem winnable. >> guest: yeah. that's a particularly cynical sentence. i think i was having a cynical morning when i wrote that. yeah, you know, that wasn't me, you know, that wasn't me being, you know,en an antiwar activist, i was just pointing out this sort of irony. a very technology-heavy military that can focus a huge amount of
firepower very, very accurately at a very specific area, but inevitably has a hard time engaging and affecting a broad society. and, of course, an insurgency, insurgency takes place within the society. and you're never going to win it with javelin missiles, however useful they may be in an actual fire fight. one of the -- i was in afghanistan in 1996. i was shot at by taliban gunners on the outshirt skirts of kabul in the summer of 1996 right before they swept in and took a kabul. jalalabad as well. and i remember one of the people that i was with, a young guy who was my sort of translator, fixer, young african guy, who was pashtun. he said i'm pashtun, and the taliban are mostly pashtun, and we hate the taliban.
we're going to let them in because we are so tired of the corruption in the government of this society, and they promised to clean up corruption. the taliban rolled in, without much of a fight, because they were promising to clean up the corruption in this society. my dear friend, sarah shays, has written an amazing, an amazing book about the role of corruption in insurgencies and civil wars in which she found, what he found is that in the she babb in somalia and boca that rom in nigeria, isis, the taliban, the common theme in all of these religious insurgencies is the fight against corruption. and that's why they appeal to societies, as horrific and bloody as these movements are. and the irony, the irony when the u.s. went into afghanistan was that we didn't go with enough soldiers, and we paid our way. we paid off warlords so we didn't have to fight them.
we wound up even paying taliban commanders, paying them money so we wouldn't have to fight them. in the eyes of the afghan people, we just looked like another corrupt empire. and so that's what i mean, like, you're not going to -- if you're making that kind of massive mistake, you're not going to undo it with a javelin missile. >> host: and booktv has covered sarah chayes' book. if you go to booktv.org, you can. watch -- you can watch that presentation online. just type in her or name in the search function, and you can watch it online at your convenience. >> guest: i should say that zaire and i grew up together. i met her when i was 4. we're virtually brother or and sister. we used to go camping together when we were kids. we're like, we're absolutely family. she's an amazing, amazing woman. >> host: roberto, houston. please go ahead. >> caller: yes. peter and sebastian, i'm a retired history teacher, and i'm having a problem with this discussion and any other similar
discussion which centers around, gee, isn't war horrible. throughout human history you find man is a war-making creature. now, it's over, technically, over limited resources. but whether you go to ireland before it was invaded by england when it was by itself, there were tribes in ireland, they fought each other. go to world war i. the war to end all wars. war was outlawed even. internationally. we still have war. so it's, it's like don't want to say it's in our dna, but that's what we are. so can we get past this isn't war horrible and go on beyond that? one more thing. concerning nice, since, sebastian -- new york city, since, sebastian, you're from new york city. i've been to new york city. and i really believe that 9/11
was horrible. but it did make new yorkers more humane to each other and, by the way, to the rest of the united states also. so silver lining, i don't know if that's the expression. one last thing concerning fighting over resources, and that has to do with the united states today. we are 5% of the world population, we consume 25% of the resources. are we really, are we ready to lower our standards to share with the world the resources within the world? thank you. >> host: all right, roberto, a lot on the table there. >> guest: yeah. i mean, actually, i mean, there was nothing in this conversation that -- i don't know when you tuned in, but there was nothing in this conversation that was counter to your original assertion. i mean, war is horrible. that that's self-evident. my book is about the strangely
positive emotional consequences of being in a wartime situation or in a natural disaster or any other kind of crisis for society. you know, as far as humanizing people in new york city, if i can defend my city for a moment, you're actually completely wrong. the suicide rate went down in new york city after 9/11. the violent crime rate went down in new york city. it wasn't a permanent effect, but it was very, very noticeable statistically. people treated each other better in the city for a while after that terrible tragedy. it's a very common human reaction to hardship. >> host: in the book "war," mr. junger, you write that war is so obviously evil and wrong that the idea that there could be anything good to it almost feels like a profanity. and yet throughout history men find themselves desperately missing what should have been the worst experience of their
lives. were you surprised at that finding? >> guest: i was surprised at the depth of it. i mean, i expected that -- i mean, these are young men that i was with. they clearly, they'd all were, you know, boys who played war when they were young. they'd clearly grown up wanting to be soldiers, wanting to experience combat. they were pretty macho guys. and i anticipated that they would be, that the component of combat which is sort of adrenalized and thrilling, that they would respond to that and maybe miss it. what i was not prepared for was the effect, the really profound effect of human connection on those guys and on me. and i started to realize afterwards what they really missed was each other and being necessary to each other and being part of that group. the sort of video game component of the combat, yeah, i got it.
but i felt like that was quite a shallow, surface part of the reaction and the much more profound reaction had to do with, frankly, with love actually. i mean, this really intense connection between each other that i was actually to some degree part of as well and experienced the loss of later. >> host: in "tribe," it's easy for people in modern society to row romanticize indian life, and it might well have been easy for men like george as well. that impulse should be guarded against as well. virtually all of the indian tribes waged war against their neighbors and practiced deeply sickening forms of torture. prisoners who weren't tom ma hawked on -- tom hawked on the spot could expect to be dis'em bowelled and tied to a tree or blistered to death over a slow fire or simply hacked to pieces and fed alive to the dogs. what is it about the human being that war has been part of our
lives since day one? >> guest: yeah. i mean, i should say that i go on in that same paragraph to point out that the spanish inquisition was doing exactly the same thing and, you know, the governments of europe in the middle ages and even during the enlightenment were practicing just as horrific forms of torture. so just to be even-handed here. anything that's, any behavior that's as widespread as war,al true women -- altruism, for example, generosity, anything that that's widespread has to be assumed to be adaptive to have a survival value. so aggression, war, competing for resources, it wouldn't exist if it didn't have some adaptive survival value for the people that practice it. i think it reveals the harsh conditions of, that our species evolved in. and if a quiet, pacifist society
is going to be pushed out of, pushed out of areas of food supply and will starve. and, i mean, the bully -- i mean, the proverbial bully that takes your lunch money, right? like that's, that is our human evolution, and you can even see that behavior in other primates, chimpanzees, for example. my friend richard at harvard, a really well known primetologist who also may have been on your show here, i'm not sure, he has documented troupes of chimpanzees where males will go off on these raids, and they'll literally attack males from a rival group and beat them and tear them to pieces one by one, and once they've gotten rid of all the males, they will take over the food resources of that area, take over the females, they'll kill the young, and they've now doubled the size of their troupe. and it's absolutely adaptive behavior, and chimpanzees today
are the descendants of chimpanzees that have done that for hundreds of thousands of years. likewise, humans. >> host: this is from david in manchester, connecticut. i was moved by the film you made, restreppo. very upset when tim weatherington was killed. can you console me? can you console us about good people dying young? >> guest: i think i probably can't console you. it's one of the, it's one of the unanswerable things about life, that good people die young, and tim was a good person, and his death was, left a huge, huge hole in me. you know, we all go through some version of that. you know, i wish i had something to say that would make him feel better, because it would make me feel better too, and, you know, unfortunately, i don't think it's there. >> host: steve in madison, maine, we have one minute.
>> caller: yeah. mr. junger, i admire your intellect. a question in the past i've asked and spoken with jimmy carter and alexander coburn and others, i wonder what your comment would be. if we had not sent one boy, bullet or bomb to vietnam, what do you think in that part of the world the geopolitical fallout would have been? >> guest: oh, boy. i was born in 1962, i didn't want become a journalist until about 1990. i'm not an expert on vietnam. i really don't know. i, my good friend carl marlantes, wonderful writer, what a book called what it's like to go to war. very proud marine. he'll talk to you all day long about the mistakes that were made in vietnam. and if i'm understanding him right, he also said, you know, it was a dangerous time, and had we not, had we not had some presence in asia, that the
soviet union actually would have done some real harm in the world. personally, i have no idea. but that's my memory of carl's position, and he's a pretty smart guy, and so i, you know, i would actually have you read other people that know more than i do. >> host: sebastian junger, his writing process as a journalist, gather all the information about a topic that is possible, then read through all the notes, underline what is interesting and then make lists of everything underlined and assemble a structure to the story. you say you do your best writing when something is due, and usually if you have writer's block, it means he has not collected enough information. not that he cannot find the words, and you don't try to fill in the gaps with more words. sebastian junger has been our guest for the last three hours on "in depth." "a murder in belmont" was his first book. "the perfect storm," his second.