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tv   In Depth with Sebastian Junger  CSPAN  July 9, 2016 9:00am-12:01pm EDT

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september. >> steve fast. >> c-span created by america's cable-television company brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. starting on book tv author and documentary filmmaker sebastian younger. mr. youngers whose books include the perfect storm, were his most recent tribe answered viewer questions and talked about his books during our in-depth program. .. 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, challenged in my life. i grew up in an affluent
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environment and decided to set off in my country, to hitchhike across it. i was all set, all prepared, very responsible, and i went to gillette, wyoming, i was trying to get a ride in the freezing cold. i hitchhiked. guys were throwing beer bottles at me and pickup trucks, i hittites -- hitchhiked from twin city, i had never seen the west before, i was awestruck by it. i saw someone walking towards me from town who looked like bad news. i am a young kid, definitely kind of jumpy. this guy is walking toward me,
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filthy dirty, his hair was matted, and was clearly struggling. he was a big dude. he came up to me and i was instantly on my guard. where are you going? he said i am going to california. how much food you got? i would give to anyone who is hungry but i didn't know what was going on. he wanted me -- didn't know was happening. i got a little cheese and he shook his head and said you couldn't get to california on a little cheese. in his world what you got in your bag is what you got. he was carrying a lunchbox and he said i live in a broken down
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car. he was homeless, he said i walk out 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 been eating my lunch. he opened up his lunch box, he had a bologna sandwich and an apple and a bag of potato chips. he said i want you to love -- have my lunch because you will need all the food you can get. you can imagine how bad i felt. it was my first profound lesson not in generosity but in taking responsibility for another person you don't know. he looked at me and he saw a brother, someone on foot, homeless in this huge land. he didn't know i was just a college kid having an adventure. he walked out to check on a brother and make sure i was all right. >> host: did you make it to
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california? >> i did. i went through idaho and seattle, wound up in la, and i was going to hitchhike home and back then people express would fly you across the country for $150. i had $153 but got a midnight flight home. >> host: how do you end up in sarajevo? >> i graduated college, studied anthropology and did my fieldwork on a navajo reservation. i trained with their best runners in the summer of 1983 i think it was. at any rate, i got out of college, wanted to be a writer, wanted to be a journalist so immediately got a job waiting tables and published things once in a while for local newspapers and it just didn't go very well and i got a job as a climber for
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tree companies so i worked 50, 60, 70, 80 feet in the air with a chainsaw and rope cutting trees down and i got hurt doing that. i was recovering from that and i thought maybe i should write about dangerous jobs. i was 30 years old, i got to do something and got to figure this out. one of the dangerous jobs i wanted to write about was commercial fishing. i was living in gloucester, massachusetts at a huge storm hit the town that thank a local boat, the andrea gail. that set me on a trajectory toward my first book, "the perfect storm: a true story of men against the sea". i wanted to write about war reporting. in case i couldn't sell my storm book i thought i will go to sarajevo where there is a civil war going on and i will learn to be a war reporter and later write about war reporting or be a war reporter. i tried to buy as many lottery tickets to my future as possible so i welled up in sarajevo
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during the war as a freelance war reporter in summer of 1993-1994. >> that you have money? did you have backup systems? >> i went over there with the same backpack i hiked across the country with and the same sleeping bag and the same everything. i had a couple thousand dollars and fell in with some freelance reporters and we were living, squeezing to one room in the radio intelligence, and sharing all our expenses. they had been over there a lot longer than i had and i emulated them and started doing radio reports, 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 at war and i fell in love with it. i had to come him to write my
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book, "the perfect storm: a true story of men against the sea". i had an agent somehow who believed in me. he backed me over there and said i sold your book, you got to come home to write it now. i was in some ways disappointed because i was falling in love with war reporting but i was also a first-time author and this was my first book so i went home and spent a couple years writing "the perfect storm: a true story of men against the sea". as and as i delivered the manuscript in 1996, back then when you turned manuscript you didn't get the check. you put it in a box, got in the subway and went up down to fifth avenue where my publisher was, you gave it -- you handed it to your editor. the next day i was on a plane into afghanistan. in summer of 1996 to watch patella benefit of that would eventually overrun most of afghanistan.
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this was 5 years before 9/11. i went right back to "the perfect storm: a true story of men against the sea" literally the next day. >> was it different? >> were reporting? addicting? technically addiction is a chemical issue and i don't think it is addicting on that level but you develop -- your identity develops on the drama and importance of the job. when you say addiction, it is misleading, it is an identity problem. >> from your most recent book, "tribe: on homecoming and belonging" used to humans don't mind hardship, they thrive on it. what they mind is not feeling
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necessary. modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. time for that an end. >> i studied anthropology in college and i believe in evolution. we are primate species. we are social, a social species. we clearly evolved in groups of 40, 50, 60 individuals. our psychology reflects that, the wiring in our brain, behavior during crises looks like that. the size of a platoon in modern military force reflects that. so what we have, we in modern society are walking around in bodies that haven't evolved physically in 25,000 years, walking around in this amazing society we created and we could list the blessings and benefits of modern society almost
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endlessly but there is a cost and the cost is we are no longer living in small communal groups and in groups like that there is no individual survival outside of group survival. the group and the individual completely share interests and concerns, so you get your sense of security in the world by being necessary to the group. if you are not necessary to any group they don't need you and you don't belong to them and they won't sacrifice for you and you are alone in the jungle and you are going to die. that is wired into our brains. when you feel necessary, when you volunteer to do something for group and you realize a group of people are counting on you it feels good because it means you have physical and emotional security around you.
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modern society has allowed individuals to live individualistic lives, your neighborhood doesn't need you to help them gather food. you don't need your neighborhood to help defend you from the other neighborhoods. there is great freedom in individualism. the downside is you don't feel necessary to any group bigger than you. your immediate family probably. we are wired to think that is bad news, we are now in an insecure place in a dangerous place. when soldiers come back from combat they come back from a platoon where each person is necessary. up soon that basically reproduces our evolutionary past in the group dynamics and relationship between individuals and groups, they come back to this marvel he -- marvelously individualistic society where you play music as loud as you want in your bedroom and do
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whatever you want, except you lose the sense of safety that makes you part of a group and one thing soldiers struggle with, even soldiers who are not in combat, even -- come back from that close community environment in an individualistic society and encounter significant psychological struggles. peace corps volunteers, something like 25% of peace corps volunteers when they come back to this country suffer depression like soldiers do. seems to be a transition. >> host: what surprised me, what i learned from your book "tribe: on homecoming and belonging," the suicide rate of communal organizations or communal living arrangements, the suicide rate is nil. are very small. a lot of white people when the
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indians were being pushed west went to the indian side. >> the proportion of people on the frontier who absconded to the indians or were abducted and didn't want to be returned, what was significant was it never went the other way around. benjamin franklin and other thinkers and writers were wondering why is it we have a 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? tribal peoples were never running off, people go native, they don't go civilized. it was a matter of real fundamental concern to colonial
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authority. they called indians savages. i thought about that. i had known that fact most of my life and always wondered and when i was in afghanistan i was with a platoon in combat. there was a lot of combat, closeness, human connection. we were on this ridge top, there was no internet, no communication with the outside world, no women except combat, and get back to italy where they are based and have themselves in time and looked like -- after a few months of that when i got to where they were based, real depression had set in and they wanted to go back to afghanistan, did not want to
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return to the united states. if they had a choice they would go back into combat. it made me think of what i had read, the phenomena and on the american frontier. why does no one want to go back to civilization? and obviously wonderful thing, we have cars, air-conditioning, television, anesthesia, where is the problem? that basically is what my book is about. what is it about modern society? >> host: did you have that reaction? change i had a lot of psychological problems. i wasn't even a soldier, only a journalist. i spent a fair amount of time out there. your sense of physical safety comes directly out of the experience of -- the deal is if you are in a group you are counting on for your own safety,
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it means you have to be prepared to risk your own life for them, it is reciprocal. so the experience you end of having is one -- an odd one because you feel safer in that situation because you identify a willingness to risk your life, that gives you your sense of safety, willingness to risk for others, a kind of all truism that you don't need to feel at home in civilization. along with that all truism comes in critically powerful bond and even as one of the guys in the platoon said to me, there are guys in the platoon who hate each other but we would all die for each other. when you are experiencing that kind of unity, it is a very profound thing.
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i experienced enough of it that when i came home, i was married at the time, in my 40s and felt incredibly dislocated, incredibly depressed, my marriage didn't last. i felt completely disconnected from my wife and everyone i loved. it was a strange thing. what i kept thinking about was those guys and it was extremely confusing. >> host: from your previous book "war," men can completely remake themselves in war. can be anything back home, ugly, shy, rich, unpopular, and it won't matter because it is no consequence in a firefight and no consequence. >> guest: one of the unconsciously appealing things about the military and combat or any extreme environment. happens on teams that climb
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everest, firefighters and firemen in the city, all these situations where people depend for their lives on other people and on everyone doing their job. it doesn't matter what kind of problems you have as long as you do your job and that means 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 were in prison or not, none of it matters as you have access to a completely fresh start in the eyes of your peers and people you love and who wouldn't risk their life for that? the reason high school is miserable for so many people is you are judged for things you
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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. you just bring with you your willingness to die for someone or not. >> host: this is from "tribe: on homecoming and belonging," the sheer unpredictable any of life left me hoping irresponsibly for a hurricane or tornado or something that would require us to band together to survive. >> we evolved to live in small groups where people depend on one another for survival. i felt the tug of that very strongly. we lived in this safe suburb, i was acutely aware i never
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demonstrated my personal value to my community. my community didn't need me. i was a strong healthy 18-year-old man going completely unused, that is new in human history. young people, 18-year-old men and women are absolutely vital and in modern society, a young man can feel unnecessary to the people around him. extraordinary. >> when you got your draft card and turned 18, why didn't you sign up? >> i was born in 1962, grew up in vietnam, liberal part of the country, every adult i knew was
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outraged by vietnam and they ended the draft so i got a card in the mail in 1980. >> host: selective service. >> guest: selective service card. girls don't get them. many don't even know about it. if you are male and tourney team you get a card from your government saying we want to know where you live so we can draft you in case we need you. i was like what is this? i thought the draft was over and war is immoral. i showed it to my father who had grown up in europe, his father was jewish, grew up in france when the germans rolled into france, they left and wound up in the united states and i said i am not signing up. this is ridiculous. he said you are signing the card. there are thousands of graves of young americans, in france, they died saving the world from fascism. and he said i never forgot these words, you don't owe your
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country nothing, you or your country something and you might owe your country your life. if a war comesalong and you think it is immoral, it is unnecessary, then it is your moral duty to protest. if it is a necessary warlike world war ii then it is your moral duty to fight it. when he put it that way all of a sudden there was my chance to be part of something bigger, to demonstrate to my community that i was willing to be of service. all of a sudden it turned it around and i felt i was part of something bigger and that feeling of being part of something bigger is intoxicating for great evolutionary reasons. we are where we are for good reasons. i signed that card. >> host: sebastian junger, you live in new york city, have you found that community to be part
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of something bigger? >> guest: no. tribal structures, communal structures have disappeared from modern american life, modern society. the reason things like sports, intramural hockey, the work group in your office or the construction crew. they mimic the kind of tribal connections that characterize our living groups for hundreds of thousands of years. on the lower east side in manhattan, a neighborhood that is -- as a result, quite familial. i know the street crossing guard, the meter maid, the garage down the street, everyone knows each other and it feels
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human and connected in ways that i really like. during hurricane sandy there was the building i am in, organized the community defense, they posted guards at the front door with a machete, changed every 72 hours because there were a lot of things in the water. children got out of there and the departments were wide open and people, one lady, a woman organized hardship that the front door, took turns standing there, when i was a kid in belmont outside boston i would have loved to be part of the situation, you mean my building needs the?
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that would have been an intoxicating feeling. >> host: the valley? >> a 6 mile long valley where the platoon i was with was stationed for more than a year. i was there off and on. there was a lot of combat for a period when i was there. and kinetic activity with the military calls combat was happening in and around the area. and aim movie that brought a lot of attention to the area. and 73rd airborne. a lot of great journalists wound up there as well.
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and some frustrating fight against the whole -- >> host: how long have you been? >> guest: they were deployed for 14 months, by one month roughly so we bounced back and forth a lot so the two of us covered a fair amount. >> host: how much technology, military technology? >> depends what you mean by technology. if you mean electronics, they had eavesdropping drones over us, some kind of motion detection system outside the basin but not a lot. out of the struggle we really were 20 guys on a hilltop and the fighting was old-style, like infantry on the ground, heavy
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packs and guns. i wouldn't say the technology tipped the balance. >> host: americans left the valley. >> they fought hard for it and pulled out so inevitably -- the people, the controversy failed to understand the point of being there in the first place. it was never meant as a permanent base. eventually the country was planning and did pull out of afghanistan, first thing they did was pull out of little finger valleys that were using up a lot of air resources to resupply the outpost and also the point, the valley was being used as a staging area for insurgent attacks which was an important area so when they put
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us troops in the corn golf, they blocked that capability from the taliban and when they finished the development they pulled out of their as well but the controversy was a political one, not a strategic one. it was emblematic of something, that is where the controversy took place, what they stood for. >> host: when you look at your body of work, your vanity fair article, is there a common thread or a common theme? i guess i have often written about small groups of people, mostly men who are reliant on one another to survive. in belmont, it is a cold case,
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murder case from nearly 60s, completely different. people in smaller groups working at the margins of society in dangerous places. as an anthropologist that is fascinating and you can see human behavior, you can see our evolutionary capacity in stark ways in those kinds of situations. i am endlessly fascinated by that. >> host: good afternoon and welcome to booktv's "in depth" program. our guest this month is sebastian junger. the three our program, we talk with one author about his or her body of work, and this month it is sebastian junger, who has written books, as he mentioned, "the perfect storm: a true story of men against the sea," "a death in belmont," "fire," "war," his most recent book is
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called "tribe: on homecoming and belonging". if you would like to participate in the conversation we will put the numbers on your screen, 202-748-8200. on the east and central time zones, 202-728-8201 in the mountain and pacific time zones or send a text message, text only, not for phone calls, 202, 838, 6251. if you do send a text message, send your first name and your city so we can identify you that way. there are several other ways of getting a hold of us as well. make a comment on our facebook page, facebook.com/booktv or join us on twitter at booktv is our twitter handle. finally you can send an email to booktv@c-span.org. lots of ways to connect with us this afternoon.
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sebastian junger, i want to read a quote from an interview you did, this is about how you write and what you look for. readers just aren't that interested in people's biographies. they don't care what town they grew up in. i try to avoid details that seem perfunctory, not necessary and ultimately not that interesting. you don't think your background affects who you are? >> guest: i do. and if someone's background was affecting their behavior in front of me and the situation i am reporting on italk about it. but in a lot of newspaper reporting, there is a perfunctory so and so from illinois. if you are writing long form
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nonfiction or writing nonfiction books whether someone is from chicago or boston, we don't need to say it. what is important, i had no idea where those guys are from, what interested me was who they were. one guy, bobby wilson, had a strong southern accent. he was what a lot of people would have thought of as a classic redneck, a super smart guy, one of the smartest guys out there but his southern identity was very strong and i talk about that. >> host: who is brendan o'byrne? >> guest: in the second platoon,
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the main character of my book "war". he and i are extremely good friends, we talk almost every day. he was the first one to talk about getting out of the army and as a result was the first one to suffer significant psychological consequences. he stayed in and it was interesting, war is traumatizing particularly for a unit like that, 10% of the unit is engaged in combat, they were in that 10%, the guys who stayed in and kept deploying would have the severest psychological consequences. as one by one they got out of the army, they psychologically crashed and that got me thinking maybe it is coming home, not combat itself. brendan o'byrne was the first to
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get out and he crashed and we were really good friends and i tried to help him and he is good now. he is 3 years sober and had a terrific problem from when he was young. i write about this in the book, it his dad shot him twice during an argument when he was a kid. brendan went to juvenile detention because of it and told the police his dad had shot himself so he went to juvenile detention and went into the army and one freezing cold night in january at this godforsaken place he said without any irony, he was telling a story of being shot by his dad, but it is all good, everything happens for a reason because without that, i wouldn't be out here right now. he didn't mean it ironically. being in the army and being part of this group, he felt was something that had become essential to his well-being and
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he was quite grateful it turned out that way. >> host: what was he doing? >> guest: he was in college. straight as in his first academic year. he is doing great, doing very well. in the 19 where did the name "restrepo" come from? >> someone who was killed almost two month into deployment in the town of ali a body. i was there when we got into a pretty serious firefight and a few weeks after i was there, they named the outpost after him. he was born in the country of colombia, immigrated to america as a child, and died fighting for this country at the bottom of the hill in afghanistan. >> host: you made a documentary. >> guest: we made a documentary called "restrepo," named for the
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outpost but by extension it was what it feels like, it was all men, it wasn't a political film. if the soldiers had argued the merits of the war in their bunkers behind their sandbags, they had been having that conversation the way the rest of the country had been, it would have been in the film but they just weren't. they were fighting, surviving, that is what the film was about age i am politically liberal but interestingly the fact the film was not political was occasionally criticized by people on the left, that i somehow abdicated my duty as a journalist which is really
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ironic because the press is not supposed to pass judgment, just report. fox news does it, the left gets pretty upset. it was funny to watch them turn around and do the same thing about their own outlet on the issue. >> host: you made a couple documentaries. >> guest: i made four documentaries. i do enjoy it. it is a labor of love and you can't make a living at it. it complements writing books very well. books engage a certain part of your brain and documentaries engage a different part of your brain. if you are reading a book about war and a firefight breaks out and you read the sound of machine gun fire, whatever that looks like, there is an explosion you don't jump in your
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armchair because there is an explosion on the pages of the book. your brain doesn't think you are over there, your brain thinks you are in an armchair reading about war. if you're in a movie theater, a dark theater watching a film about war and an explosion goes off, the humvee i was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb got blown up. everyone in the theater jumped because their brain doesn't know -- the wonderful thing about documentary and books, you can do these two things that affect different parts of the brain and they complement each other. they can give you a really complete experience of war or i suppose marriage or whatever your focus is. >> host: how does the country of libya figure into your story? >> host: >> guest: "restrepo" did very
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well. the one the grand jury had at sundance. we shot the video for "restrepo". we won the grand jury prize and went on to get the nomination and we were in hollywood together, we did not win an oscar, we had an amazing experience. beyond friends, beyond colleagues, we were almost killed out there doing this project and we were going to resume our careers as journalists. the arab spring, here we are on the red carpet. the arab spring is exploding in the middle east and we couldn't wait to get out in the field and keep reporting on this extraordinary time. we had an assignment with vanity fair to cover the civil war in
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libya. at the last moment i couldn't go. tim went on his own and on april 20, 2011, 5 years ago, on the front lines, he and the group he was with were hit by 81 mm mortar, on the other side of the front line, tim bled out in the back of a rebel pickup truck racing for the house. i got the phone call in new york probably within an hour of his death and my life changed at that moment. it was the first time i had lost a brother, first time i had lost appear, someone i was really close to. within an hour i decided i was not going to report on wars
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anymore. i was married at the time and my wife said you can't keep doing it. even if you survive, every time the phone rings i will jump. you can't do that but i realize there is a certain point where risking your life goes from being sort of like potentially noble and courageous to being selfish. what you are gambling with is in your own life. it is the emotional well-being in the lives of everyone around you. in my late 40s i didn't want to be that guy. >> host: officers don't play a big part of the book. or as big a part. >> guest: not for any particular reason. they have a job to do which is a difficult job but part of it depends on retaining a certain emotional remove, certain
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professional distance from both the press and your own men. those -- the thing that is so hard on officers is they are making decisions that potentially will get people killed or almost guaranteed to get people killed. that is a real psychological burden. they deal with it the best they can but they are not as easy to write about, not as open as brendan who doesn't have those kind of awful decisions. >> host: at what point when you were in afghanistan did you determine brendan was going to be the focus? in "war"? >> guest: i wasn't thinking about how to write the book, just writing as fast as i could.
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he was the guy i got closest to, i realized the extraordinary story, making an interesting through line for the book, i didn't realize it. >> host: "tribe: on homecoming and belonging," your most recent book, is dedicated to my brother. >> john was my best estimate. she was, and the four of us were brothers. john and emery's uncle by
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marriage, ellis and joanna. ellis was half apache, half lakota sioux born in 1925 on a wagon out west, very well read and everything from the greeks on up. he was the one early on who said to me he was a real mentor and uncle figure to me, important to my life. he was the one who said it is funny, white people are always running off and gave me that one sentence gave me this perspective on modern society. all of a sudden i was able to see from the upside, that is crucial if you are a journalist or anthropologist, crucial to see things from the upside and went back to ellis in some ways. >> host: from an interview you
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did august 19, 2013, i try to edit my work so i will go running on a hot day and read the 2000 words i just wrote or if i am upset or really sleepy or drunk, i will read this stuff. if you are sleepy and find yourself skipping a paragraph and just want to get to the interesting part. >> guest: i don't drink anymore but if you put yourself in a different state of mind it is an interesting screening mechanism for what is relevant. when you find yourself skipping over a section of what you wrote because you are tired and sweaty or upset or whatever it may be, people are going to read your book in all kinds of states of mind, you better write it in a
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way that can survive a fight with your husband, your wife, a couple drinks, whatever, better be such compelling, solid writing that it can survive those different states of mind. that is how you do it to yourself. >> host: why don't you drink? >> guest: i don't want to anymore. i realized that a year ago. i stopped because i had a health problem, arrhythmia in my heart. i was told alcohol can affect it. i didn't have a drink for a month, had no effect on the heart, but i liked the way i felt. i realized there was only one version of me walking around that day lose there was something about that, it was intoxicating, simple and clear and i liked it. >> host: was alcohol a big part of your life? >> guest: no, not at all.
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even moderate drinking affects you, changes you, which is why people do it and why i did it. then i got to a point where i just want one version of me. it is simpler, easier and quite exciting to keep track of one person's problems. >> host: what is the half king? >> guest: a bar i am half owner of in chelsea. me and a couple friends built it in 2000. my partners are involved in journalism, filmmaking and we wanted a place that both welcomed the neighborhood and was a home for people in our profession. we have all kinds of stuff there. >> host: is it a community? >> guest: the bar? metaphorically, yes. in a literal sense, the
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community is people who share food gathering efforts and the ancient human since the community is the people you depend on. the sort of modern metaphorical sense i think you could say that it is. we employ 50 people. they all know each other about a platoon. they all know each other very well. i guess you could say it is a transitory community. >> host: now that you have been on bookstore for "tribe: on homecoming and belonging" and you have written that, what is interesting to you? you have done war reporng. >> guest: i hate to put it this way. i am not sure. what i wrote about in "tribe: on
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homecoming and belonging," it is a lifetime of thinking about who we are, why we are the way we are, why our society is the way it is and people respond to combat the way they do, thinking about what my uncle ellis said about people running off to join the indians rather than the other way around. i cleaned up the refrigerator in this book. all the stuff i cleaned out, tried to make sense of the world we all live in. i don't know what to put in the refrigerator now. i look forward to a couple months, i have been a reporter for 30 years and it was an attempt to integrate all the things i experienced and learned in one coherent period about
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what makes us feel good and what makes us feel bad. >> host: one thing you write, the suicide rate among veterans is misleading. >> guest: the statistics are misleading, a very narrow study. psychologists figured out it wasn't representative, wasn't really accurate. the suicide rate is very confusing to psychologists. they had a hard time determining if the experience of combat affected the likelihood of success which one study found if you deploy you are less likely to commit suicide. there is a great psychologists who has done a lot of studies, he actually looked at student
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veterans and found their suicidal ideation for example was identical to the general -- the relationship between combat and suicide, there is a slight connection but there is exposure to atrocities, exposure to really violent killings, a very particular thing, not combat per se. when you get into the statistics of this is very complex given shrinks are unable to come to agreement about what the relationship is between serving and the risk of suicide. >> host: because of what you write about have you ever had world war ii or korean war vets come up to you and say so that is it, that is what i felt?
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studies have come a long way. >> one of the things i have written about is the bizarre thing that it almost feels rude to say it, soldiers often miss the war. they are not psychopaths. they are civilians who put on a uniform and have an experience. what is going on? what i was able to determine was they missed the close communal bond that is necessitated by hardship, by danger, by adversity. you can take civilians in modern society and collapse modern society and watch the max the same way, the people in london killed 30,000 and yet many
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people afterwords, many civilians said they miss those days of strangers sleeping shoulder to shoulder on subway platforms, everyone pitching in to survive, that shared group the focus that effectively re-creates our evolutionary past, was incredibly powerful and they were nostalgic about it. i talk about it like this. i once gave a talk, if you look at the comments, significant number of why soldiers miss war. a significant proportion of the comments are vietnam vets talking how much they miss vietnam. in cambridge, massachusetts, a very old guy came up to me and said thank you for everything you said. i now understand why i have the
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feeling i do about the war in korea. this was 50 years earlier. he started crying and he left. this man had been bottling something up for half a century. something about what i said collect for him. he missed his brothers. i talked to the gentleman a couple weeks ago in gloucester, massachusetts in iwo jima, world war ii and out of his company 7 survived. 7 out of 300. i don't miss the war but i sure miss my brothers. i think about them every day is the trauma of war includes a real nostalgia and longing for something that existed in a
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hellish place for people to source out and is complicated for families to understand. >> host: they shared that group with us? >> shared the more than right now. i don't think a modern society is too individualized, too compartmentalized economically, socially, politically, to have a group experience. you fly -- a modern city like new york will have a shared experience. interestingly the suicide rate went down in new york after 9/11. the rate of violent crime is down, antisocial behavior that happens in modern cities went
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down. and industrial society, and subcontract out the things we have done to survive. and it is super dangerous, and, and the things that keep us all alive but not connected, and the people we depend on. soldiers are one group, one professional group, and, we are not with the whole, and a downside. >> sierra leone, was the
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connection to sierra leone. and it was 99. and it was completely terrifying. more than anything going on. i came home from that and the civil war in liberia also came home from covering those wars, pretty effective.
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and ask consequences. >> a response to be vigilant, we want to avoid situations if you are not in control. they want to sleep lightly and easily. there are flashbacks and nightmares, and by turns angry and depressed. >> we are primates, mammals, to survive hardship and danger, if your life is in danger, it would be a danger tomorrow, and the day after that, and don't want to keep acting the same as you always have, but change your behavior, be alert, jump at sudden noises in a dangerous environment and have reactions for adaptations for survival. all mammals do this. what is not adapted is long-term
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ptsd. the trauma reaction, it is exactly what happened to me, anytime i came back from a bad war i would be psychologically affected and it would go away. if you get stuck in long-term traumatic reaction, that is not adaptive, it is dangerous. that seems to happen to around one in 5 people. >> host: let's take some calls, sebastian junger is our guest on booktv's "in depth" program and tim is calling from alameda, california. good afternoon. go ahead with your question or comment. >> i wanted to ask about the experience of women. you talked about men. any thoughts on how women did
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the same thing? you have a need in a small group belonging is any different from that? >> during the blitz in london, we are at the societal reaction to the crisis that was going on in british society, i was in sarajevo during the civil war. and and a woman was almost killed during a showing incident, and she told me it is almost embarrass, and we all miss the war. these are not macho guys, they paid a huge crate price for the
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awful tragedy, and even they miss the war, and everyone was together, we all need each other, it forced a communal existence on people that people really liked. in the us military the unit i was with, it was all males, i have not been around, they react slightly differently, the chips are down, we are wired to survive, they are just like that. >> host: dave in tennessee says will technology destroy what it means to be human? >> guest: i am asked to look into the future.
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i don't know, what it means to be human, what it means to be human is to be connected to other humans, the core of the human experience. our survival is predicated on group interaction. and the sacrifice of the individual for the group. i don't think technology will change that. technology doing peacetime leads to individualization that makes people anxious and depressed. as well goes up in a society the suicide rate goes up, but at our core, and we are human, and no
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challenging. >> dayton. >> caller: i was going to say i have read all your books, i was reading an interview the new york times book review, the book that you gave a great deal of attention to and recommended the president read is one that i recently ordered and i wondered why you are so impressed with this, sapiens, the history of humankind. >> guest: sapiens is a brilliant book. it starts to million years ago when the first hominid societies were forming and takes is up to the internet. talks about humans as a
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mammalian >> -- species and an exceptional primate species. and understand modern society. understand capitalism and industrialization. and people like to think about things and that made me think for months and the best books do that and i was so excited by it, i hope a lot of people read it. >> guest: you recommend the next president read thomas paine. >> guest: he is a devilish writer. he wrote a book called the age of reason where he looked at and called his passion to terms, logical fallacies of established religion where the use of
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rationality, the use of logic, and where salvation will come from has species. we get ourselves in trouble, we are taken by the passions. thomas payne clearly believed that and was one of the architects of the american revolution and the whole idea of the inalienable right of individual rights that kings don't have a divine right over us, no one is born inherently superior to any other person. and, a 3-month-old baby, and the
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divine right of kings, and it was an incredibly questionable idea that would european society is based on for centuries and thomas payne took all of that on, he constructed the ideology of american independence and individual rights, he took a lot of those -- i am no thomas payne expert. i'm just going over the guy. the framers took as one example of individual rights, very profound egalitarianism. aspiring to, and american indians. no one is born into the kind of
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inheritance, they were intoxicated, >> stephen, jim in washington. did you like the hollywood film of your book the perfect storm. you prefer doing documentaries. it was a big dramatic representation, and wolfgang peterson did a great job turning it into a hollywood movie. documentaries are different thing. i had nothing to do with the making of the perfect storm which i was very involved in the making of four documentaries. it is kind of apples and oranges but that was it. >> host: pat from illinois asks, the tribal benefits of inclusion are so powerful, why has the art
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of history apparently curved in the opposite direction? >> guest: benefit doesn't come from meaning. the engine of capitalism in modernization is extremely powerful. another evolutionarily programmed response is individualization and individual benefits, and the balance of the interests and concerns of the individual and the concerns of the group and you sort of need both and what happened in modern society is technology and capitalism and accumulation of capital started with agriculture 10,000 years ago. it is an interesting chapter about agriculture, and wheat domesticated us rather than the other way around. those processes are very recent
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in human evolution, we are to million years old and that started a few thousand years ago. those processes resulted in the feedback loop of capital and technological development and more capitalization. and ancient -- ancient wiring, we landed men on the moon. we are working on a cure for cancer, we have a polio vaccine. the consequences are not that happy. >> host: may is colligan from columbus, nebraska. you are on booktv with sebastian junger. >> you have been around a lot. how can foreigners respect us
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more? >> guest: a hard to answer question. i have worked all over the world. we are enormously respected in a lot of the world. we have done a lot of damage. my father grew up during world war ii, america was seen to have saved the world from fascism by a lot of people. i was in bosnia, we saw american led nato intervention stop those genocides and wars, a lot of grateful people, all over the world people emulate our culture, society, they want to immigrate here, and very respected around the world.
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it doesn't mean we don't make terrible mistakes and for as much as we are respected and desired in some ways we are deeply resented. it is a complicated balancing act a superpower has to navigate, how you keep from being resented for the things you are admired for. i don't think it is that way. >> host: what is your connection to the state of idaho? >> guest: i hitchhiked through idaho and went back there in the early 90s and wrote about horse fires and those who followed them in the summer of 1992.
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>> host: how did that compare to "war"? >> guest: i had never -- i remember turning to my buddy john, what they are dedicated to. we are in a bell helicopter and bridge line. i yelled at him and, if forest fires are just exciting imagine what war is like. it is off the scale. >> host: next call is from steve. >> guest: i appreciate that. we deal with fires out here, that is part of living in the west. i wanted to ask, our wars are more episodic, they have a
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beginning, the objectives when we look back, very clear, you referenced world war ii, even though i would argue there is submission creep, today's wars are very decentralized, very open-ended. was it more difficult for the veteran to reconnect society because in a sense they don't have a keen ending, they don't feel -- i can look at the berlin wall and make some connection to an event, but is it better for the veteran today? >> guest: i am not a psychologist but i will do my best to figure this out. i think it is probably harder. world war ii was way more traumatic than the current wars but had a finite ending.
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america is engaged in struggles that don't end. the war on crime, the war on drugs. these are for the cost a lot of money, cost a lot of blood, people die, it has been going on for decades. i don't know it is medical research, psychological research, the consequences of fighting in an ongoing effort that will never end and we are better off fighting or not fighting, that compared to things that are finite. don't know if anyone studied that but it is certainly an interesting idea. >> host: robert in washington, go ahead with your comments. >> caller: thank you very much for all your work, i am a survivor in the third regiment,
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1969, i had been 100% physically and mentally disabled, i am one of two survivors of two groups getting into the dmc fighting nba regulars during 1969, and we still haven't got the records and unknown event, thank you for doing what you do for the veterans. all my friends were killed, every one except for one. we still are in the twilight zone here but we are doing okay, semper fi, thank you very much. >> guest: thank you for calling. i really cannot imagine what that must feel like to lose all your friends, all your brothers but one and decades later to have it not be by your in 3. one of the things i was looking
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at in my book "tribe: on homecoming and belonging," tribal societies, where they better off coming back from the battlefield to their community than soldiers in modern mechanized industrialized 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 cognizant not only of the importance of the fight but what went on out there. the sort of divide between the warriors and society is nonexistent. the analogous situation is inconceivable in a tribal society. modern society, i can't imagine how that has augmented your suffering. i hope you find some peace. >> host: veterans find that
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although they are willing to live 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 had many indicators of low social resilience, resources are not shared equally, children live in poverty, jobs are hard to get, minimum wage is 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 i just offered lifelong disability payments. they accept, why shouldn't they? a society that doesn't distinguish between degrees of trauma, can't expect the warriors to. >> today's that are in the coming back to a fractured society. they risk their lives to fight for us. and they find we are fighting
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with ourselves. i mean that on every level. there is a political fight going on, political fight the contentious. they don't have to be ugly. this one is ugly, the disparaging of the president, mocking of the government, contempt for segments of the population. i can't imagine how dispiriting that is, to soldiers who fought for this and the issue of ptsd is complicated, and also something, solve self diagnose. you have ptsd, have to consent, and psychologists believe an error rate of 50% in the
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diagnosis. and you get disability and the thing about disability payments they allow you to get by, but they also marginalize people. people return to society by among other things working. when you have disability payments you don't have to work and don't rejoin society and it winds up get a wising veterans, there are psychological consequences to that, and it is one of the problems that is going on in this generation of vets. i found it an amazing painting painted as this is important -- painted in the fall of 1865. a few months after the civil war ended, the hardest piece after the civil war ended to the
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showing the young man in a wheat field cutting wheat and the title is a veteran in wheat fields. you realize this is a civil war veteran, a young man who months earlier was carrying a rifle in combat in the civil war and he came home to wherever he lived and was immediately put to work. his family was like well done out there, in the battlefields of pennsylvania or what have you but we still need you. we got to get the wheat in. there is something enormously psychologically healthy about asking someone returning to society, asking them to continue serving, continue engaging, we need you, don't go away. we can't get by without you. here is the shovel. get to work with us. >> host: next call is from jeff
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in maryland. >> caller: how are you? >> guest: pretty good, how are you? >> caller: i am an english teacher and i taught your book "the perfect storm: a true story of men against the sea". as i was listening to your interview i heard things that were so inspiring, incredible most people are not watching or listening. and the suffering that was going on in those countries and our own soldiers and it helps me bring to mind james baldwin's creative process when he talks about trying to help people who are alone and states perhaps the primary distinction of the artist, cultivating the states must avoid the state of being alone, when all men, the chips are down, alone is banality that is frequently stated but rarely
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on the evidence believed. in hearing you i heard, i was wondering really quick as an inspiring writer, i have been struggling between writing out of my own experience, trying to put it in perspective so it can help a global perspective, to be 1-sided i am seeing where your work is so. >> host: before we get an answer, tell us quickly what it was like to teach "the perfect storm: a true story of men against the sea," why you chose that book and what was the reaction from your students? >> caller: i chose to teach it because it was an actual event that occurred, it was the author's interpretation of what happened. they responded well. most students today like to see the real deal, they want to know
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what really happened, and how life can change on a moment, my biggest challenge as a teacher in high school, trying to convince kids there is a world outside of where you are and it moves really fast and things can change. they responded well. i enjoyed the book. i haven't watched the movie but the book is very good and they responded well. >> host: thank you. >> guest: thank you for your question. the writing process is a mystery even to people who have done it their whole lives like myself. fiction particularly. i am just a journalist, just a nonfiction writer, i gather information about the world and sit down with it. when people have writers block, all that means is i come to a
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section where i don't have enough research or enough information and that is why i have trouble writing. if you have enough information, the words can't come out of you 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 experience it is going to affect other people emotionally. that is going to change the world and if you are writing about something that is not eliciting much reaction in you, other people will probably have the same response. your own relationship to your work is like a pretty good -- you are objective about it you have to be really honest and open and objective but if you are, it is a pretty good indicator what other people will want to read. >> host: are you familiar with that quote from james baldwin? wikipedia i wasn't exactly. >> host: an email from robert. you see the expansion of privatization in the military to
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contractors as a sign of private power consuming public power. what do you think about the use of contractors? >> guest: i am not an expert in this. my guess is the military is using private contractors because it is cheaper, the actual contractors are paid more than the soldier would be. there are lifelong benefits, the g.i. bill, all those things, financial burden of the country carries for the rest of the life of a soldier. they don't have the obligation with contractors. so in the long run i think what the military is doing is saving money by hiring out some of these jobs. that is a national conversation. i am out of my depth on that one.
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>> host: from san francisco, do you think the suburban autonomy contributes to the so-called throwaway culture pope francis describes? >> guest: i'm guessing here. i think they are all part of the same phenomena and. there is a feeling that individualized society, my father protested, you don't know your country nothing, a feeling that you don't owe it. maybe it doesn't matter. maybe nothing matters except your own personal concerns. if you live in a tribal society it is clear your life is not entirely your own. you partly all your life to your community because your survival would be impossible without that community. in an affluent society it is possible to actually think you
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don't owe your survival to anybody. it leaves us feeling alienated and alone and depressed and anxious. is that connected to the throw away culture? what you are walking around in and someone else's problem? >> guest: joe, salem, massachusetts. murder in belmont was incredible, why did relatives of betty goldmark not acknowledge the possibility that albert disalvo -- >> murder is incredibly agonizing, personal painful thing. i don't expect the family of any murder victim to be open-minded and objective about other
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possibilities. the more i looked into it the more doubts seemed legitimate. i wasn't capable of proving anything one way or the other and i was careful in my book not to come to conclusions. only dna would prove one way or the other, jesse goldberg in massachusetts. they refrain from making a judgment. >> host: for people who don't know, the boston strangler. >> guest: how disalvo who later confessed to being the boston strangler, was a carpenter, worked for my parents, 6-month-old in belmont, an older woman, classic boston strangling. a mile away in belmar. how disalvo was alone, and, and
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it occurred to me, in the candy man, cleaning that day, he was innocent. he had been convicted, told the circumstantial cases so the premise, is that possibility valid. i couldn't prove it one way or another but i completely understand the heated emotion, absolute certainty the goldberg family had. >> host: howard, please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: here is what i want to say. listening to all the people talking to you, i can't tell you enough that you are a very strong person.
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i may be 6 years old. i have been doing psychotherapy in my own practice for 55 years and i have understood the neurological issues. i was a veteran of the korean war. here is what i found in 55 years, the diagnosis of ptsd is 100% correct. what they found, at the same time there was a diagnosis of ptsd there is another brain issue that is similar, to decide whether the person has a kidney infection or virginal infection. i want to say something about why my researches. i can see 1,350,000 hours. .. some of them have what is called the pmi environmental medical
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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 >> caller: around the lack of connectioning early in childhood. there was a man who went down -- >> host: hey, howard, before -- i apologize. before we get too deep into this topic, let's hear from sebastian junger, see if he has any response. >> guest: thank you. and, again, you know, i'm not a
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psychologist, i'm a journalist, and i assembled as much studies and data as i could, and one of the things you said really resonated. statistically, one of the predicters of long-term ptsd and almost 100% of people have short-term ptsd from a traumatic incident. it's a completely natural, adaptive thing. long-term ptsd is not. but one of predicters of who will get long-term ptsd from a traumatic incident is trauma in childhood, particularly lack of human connection in childhood, abuse, sexual abuse, violentnt abuse in childhood. so what you were saying at the end there absolutely sort of resonates with me in terms of predicting trauma. >> host: this is a text message from alan in fort pierce, florida.ida. mr. junger, are you familiar with the work of robert putnam, "bowling alone" and other books? much of what you are talking about reminds me of what putnam
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says about the decline of the suspense of community. >> guest: you know, i haven't read that book. i've heard about it from a number of people, and i'm looking forward to reading it. >> host: larry, kansas city, mo. hi, larry. >> caller: hi, great program. let me start out with i'm a decorated combat vietnam veteran. two purple hearts, a bronze star. one of the comments was a woman he interviewed said she missed the war.dn i didn't understand that. if you have to have a war to feel closeness or any kind of nourishment or whatever, it just puzzles me. you know, looking at the world today with all these wars going on as vicious as they are, as depressing particularly in syria, it's just unbelievable to hear that somebody misses a war. it makes no sense to me. it's crazy.se it's insane.
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could you explain that to me? >> guest: yeah. and, listen, i agree with you. that what my book's about, trying to understand that. i mean, this woman was not insane. people in london who missed the blitz were not insane. what they were talking about, of course, wasn't -- they didn't miss the carnage. and in sarajevo, a modern army encircled a modern city and used the people for target practice for three years, and they killed and wounded one-fifth of the population of the city. what my friend was talking about was that it was exactly that horror show that forced people to stop leading individualized lives and to band together.i they literally slept shoulder to shoulder in the basement, theyt. planted gardens together in the median strips of their highways, they did everything together. they lived for one another. and she said the war ended, and thank god, and now we lead our
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individual lives, and we're not as generous. we're not as selfless. we don't participate in the community, in the group. and she pointed to some graffiti that she'd seen. she told me some graffiti that she'd seen in bosnia that things were or better when they were bad. and she filmily, at the end, she said -- finally, at the end she said for people to miss something as awful as war means the society we have is very, very messed up, and i think she's got a real point there. h >> host: from "tribe," an irish psychologist. quote: when people are actively engaged in a cause, their lives have more purpose with the resulting improvement in mental health.urg he wrote -- this was in 1979 -- it would beer or responsible to suggest -- it would be irresponsible to improve violence as a -- if they have
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more involvement with their community.ly >> guest: yeah. lyons, his study was amazing. he studied mental health in northern ireland during 1969,, 1970 during a time of great turmoil and trouble and riots and violence in northern ireland. and he found that the districts that had the most violence 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 that saw depression go up at least in the men, saw depressioning -- depression up was county derry, i believe it was, that saw no violation at all. and you just read quote. but what he's basically saying is, of course, no one's to going to recommend war as a way of treating mental health issues in a population, but it does say something interesting about sort
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of the wiring that we have as humans, that a crisis generates the feeling, the sense in people that they're necessary, that their community needs them. it's a call to action. they, they're living for a greater purpose. they're serving a common good. and that actually buffers people against some of their psychological demons. as one official said in london during the blitz, he said we have chronic neurotics at peacetime now driving ambulances. really interesting way of looking at it. >> host: this is bobby texting in. good day to both of you. i'm a naval veteran of desert storm, i still have very vividid dreams of my service. names, faces, situations are so clear to me, yet i have problems recalling what i did yesterday. my memories will never let me forget the significance of belonging that i felt during my service.
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huge fan of you. >> guest: yeah. i mean, he was in the navy. sounds like he might not have even been directly in combat. but the experience of being in a group in an urgent situation is really intoxicating to people. and, again, only 10% of the u.s. military actually fires their guns at an enemy that they can see.. and, you know, only 10% is getting shot at. but a much higher percentage have real difficulty transitioning home. and, again, it's maybe not a trauma problem. it might be the difficulty of going from a close group to an individualized society where everyone's in their own air-conditioned room and wondering really if they're happy, if they're safe, if thiss is what they want to be doing. >> host: and this is laura in oklahoma city texting in. as a nurse who worked in the critical care setting for many years, i believe i experienced the moderate depression and loss
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of sense of self and purpose when i left my job for an easier, less acute setting. even though i still am in nursing, what i do now seems lame. what's the difference in the tribe situation and what i've gone through with the job change? >> guest: i think this woman -- i can't remember her name -- >> host: laura. >> guest: laura. she's expressing something that is pretty typical. i mean, i've heard this since i wrote my book and have been end engaging with the public, i've heard this over and over again, people saying that when they were doing jobs that required sort of collective action, it was very -- those jobs were very, very hard to the leave. and even patients. i mean, i talked to a youngg woman who had cancer, and she said during those terrible days when she was fighting her cancer, her family, herr community, her friends,r basically her tribe, gathered around her and supported her and loved her p. be she said, you know, i survived. i beat the odds, i survived, and
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she got a really sad look on her face, and she said now i miss being sick. imagine, you know, if you're missing war, if you're missing cancer, or there's something missing from everyday life. and i've heard that in many different forms from many different kinds of people, all kinds of different jobs. it's very hard to give up that sort of group endeavor and goo back to our individual lives. as great as independence is, it's also very hard to give that up. >> host: you're watching booktv on c-span2.d this is our monthly "in depth" program where we talk with one author about his or her body of work. in this month it's author and filmmaker and journalist sebastian junger. he is the author of five books, "death in belmont," "the perfect storm," "fire," "war," and his most recent book is called "tribe." we've got about an hour and 15 minutes left in our program, and
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the phone numbers, 202 is the area code, 748-8200 if you live in the east and central time zones, 748-8201 for those of you in the mountain and pacific time zones, and if you want to text in a message, please include your first name and your city so we know where you're coming from, 202-838-6251 is the number for you to text in, that's for texting only. and finally, you can reach us via facebook and twitter and e-mail as well, facebook.com/booktv, @booktv is our twitter handle, and booktv@c-span.org is our e-mail address. we've talked a little bit about some of your documentaries. we want to show our viewers thee trailer for "restrepo." ♪ ♪" >> i've been on about four or five different sleeping pills, and it doesn't help.
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that's how bad the nightmares are. sleeping, i see the picture in my head. >> >> everybody's like, oh, you're going to war, oh, and they feelb or sorry for you. >> we're not ready for this. >> i'm thinking, what are we doing? >> first friend i lost was restrepo. >> when restrepo died, we shot off flares. >> in the middle of the night, we put up a fire base. we realized we could not knock off -- [inaudible] we had the upper hand. ♪ ♪ >> hey, babe, i miss you. >> it takes a little bit out of you every time you see one of your boys get hurt. it's really like a big family. >> i want you guys to mourn,famy then i want you guys to get over it and do your jobs. >> two months and counting down. >> i just don't like the way it is.
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i don't like how it feels right now. >> i feel a bunch of bad guys, in the same instance -- [inaudible] >> i need to know better so that i'm not killing these people. ♪ ♪ >> nobody's going to help you. you're in no man's land. >> you can't see what's coming at you. >> you going to go back to the civilian world? >> i have no idea. >> i still, obviously, haven't figured out how to deal with it inside. the only hope i have right nowh is that eventually i'll be able to process it differently. i'm never going to forget it. i don't want to not have that as a memory, because that was one of the moments that makes me appreciate everything that i have. ♪ ♪
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>> host: sebastian junker, youou e-mailed booktv and told us that you are currently reading "letters of seneca." what is that? >> guest: season ca was a writer and philosopher in ancient greece, and he was one of the stoics. i was just sort of intriguedso by -- i've just started it. i was intrigued by his philosophy and stoicism in general welcome back. i'm hardly an expert, but basically my understanding is stoics had a belief in removing your personal needs from your decision, your decision making and an absolute belief in rationality and that they felt that the path to god was through the use of human reason.
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and that someone who was using their emotions, it was compared to a person who was running downhill and couldn't control their limbs. and their rationality was a more purposeful you don't want to be sprinting downhill out of control with your emotions, you want to be, like, careful and deliberate and using youran rational mind to come to rational conclusions. and, you know, my father was a physicist, and i was raised by my mother as an artist. my father passed away a few years ago, but i was raised -- you know, i'm an atheist. i didn't go to church when i was a kid. i was raised in a very rational household. my father as a physicist explained to me the power of rational thought, and, you know, i just grew up sort of thinking that way. >> host: so you had a physicist and an artist. n't there a littlein -- isn't there a little yin and yang there?h >> guest: there is. it's just that my father seemed
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to win all the arguments, so it was pretty clear to me which way i was going to go. [laughter] >> host: why are you an atheist? >> guest: i mean, i suppose you could say as a his or call matter, because i was brought up in an un-religious family. but the reason i think i'm an atheist is because i don't -- i haven't encountered a sort of tangible reason to believe in god. i just -- i mean, i would love, i would love it if there was a god. i just haven't encountered, i haven't encountered a reason to believe in god. >> host: what do you think of the phrase there are no atheists in foxholes? >> guest: i mean, i know empirically that's to not true. that's not true. and it also makes me wonder, i mean, as an atheist, it makes me wonder what a religious person would imagine god would be having to do with any situation where his creations are trying to kill each other en masse.e. i would think if there were a
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god, that's exactly the kind of situation where he would say, you know what? you guys can figure it out for yourselves. i'm done with you. >> host: in fact, the actual e-mail that you wrote to us, i'm going to read it. i am currently reading the letters of seneca as part of a sudden infatuation with the greek stoics.ti where did this infatuation come from? >> guest: you know, i think what i read about them -- and, again, it hasn't been much. at beginning of my quest, but it reminded me of myself when i was a kid. i was a long distance runner, i was very enamored of the american indians. i felt that the, i felt a real imperative to reduce my dependence on physical comfort, on physical need. i wanted to be able to fall asleep when i was cold, to continue on when i was hungry, i wanted to be able to run all day and all night. i wanted to, i wanted to be able to do anything. and i worked very hard, and i got close.
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>> host: in your book "tribe," you talk about children's bedtimes. chi why? >> guest: well, we're -- >> host: children's sleep habits is better. >> guest: yeah. we're a social species, and throughout most of human history and still today throughout mosto of world people sleep in groups. extended families, it's called co-sleeping. and in that kind of situation, children, young children, infants sleep among the adults. and that's the way they get their sense of safety from, their protection. an infant, a primate infant is very, very vulnerable and in a lot of danger if it's alone in the wild, right? it's a predator's lunch immediately, right? so children, young children do not like to be alone. they're terrified. and northern european society, and i include america in that, is really the only society ever in human history to force young
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children to sleep by themselves in a darkroom. and all of our primate wiring is alarmed by that. and that's one of reasons children have a hard time falling asleep. >> host: sebastian junger is our guest, and james is in eagle grove, iowa.ti please go ahead, james. >> caller: yes, can you hear me? >> host: we're listening, go ahead. scwhrk sure. i recently traveled to the balkans on a goodwill mission to help bring about a better understanding between americans and people in the balkan region related to the war over there. and one of the things that our hosts had talked to us about was they did not miss the war. we went and traveled to sites that had been bombed out such as the defense building in belgrade, yugoslavia. it was left there as a memorial
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to the people that died. but they did not feel any nice feelings related to the war. in fact, there were some animosity towards the u.s. being involved in the nato bombings. but we were there to help bring about better relations, and we, we did do that. they embraced us, we embraced them. we studied the history and culture of what had gone on in the balkans, the periodic incursions from the roman empira into the balkans or the ottomans into the balkans, and it was an area that had been really divided and had lots of wars.of so i don't think everybody over there feels that way. feel but yet the people are coming about, and they're building a new way of life for themselves despite the wars. and they still have problems
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with the fact that places like bosnia no longer belong to yugoslavia because they said they could trace back that they had been there long before other people had come into that region. so it's till a divided area -- it's still a divided area, and we as people in the united states need to embrace those people and help them through this situation. >> host: thank you, james. >> guest: yeah. i mean, look, they have a very complicated history. the serbian state perpetrated a genocide against the bosnian muslims for year, and around 150,000 people were killed. belgrade experienced a very short, targeted bombing campaign by nato forces when they refused to withdraw their armed forces from kosovo who themselves were committing atrocities. and, but belgrade -- fortunatelt for the people in belgrade -- were not forced into a siege mentality where civilians had to band together to survive.
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that happened this share saraje. one-fifth of the population wast killed or wounded. i'm absolutely sure the people in belgrade do not miss getting bombed by nato forces, but it's a very, very different situation from what my friend was talking about in bosnia. >> host: when you picture the sarajevo that you experienced, what do you see? >> guest: well, it was a moderni city that had been hammered with mortar and tank rounds and artillery for years. or a year by the time i got there. there's shrapnel scars on all the buildings. there was no glass left. blown-up cars, burnt -- i mean, it looked like a futuristic, sort of post-apocalypse city. at night it was completely dark, and it's a very strange thing to walk through a modern city at night and not have any light and be able to see the stars and
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just hear dogs barking, the occasional sort of popping of gunfire. a very, very strange feeling. and, you know, at one point i was, during the day -- i mean, you'd see men in suits dragging firewood down the street, you know? you'd see odd to things like that. you'd see people growing vegetables in the median strips of the highways. you'd see women carrying jugs of water because there was no water. there was nothing, right? and at one point i saw, i was in the courtyard of a modern high-rise. i mean, what passes for a high-rise there. and there was a man in a suit who worked in the high-rise even though, you know, the war had sort of affected a lot of things. people were still trying to work. and he was in a suit, and he wao crouched on the ground building a twig fire. and once he got the fire in the courtyard of this modern building, a man in a suit, right? and he was building a fire in the courtyard, and it was coffee break.
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and he got the fire going, and he put a coffee pot on top of the fire and boiled some coffee for himself. and i thought, my god, ifo there's an image of the apocalypse, a post-apocalyptic world, it's a man in a suit building a fire to cook coffee in the courtyard of a modern building. it was a profound moment. >> host: have you been back? >> guest: i was back last summer where i met the woman who talked about the nostalgia of the war. she was almost killed. she caught a hunk of metal inn her leg from a serb tank round. her father carried her through the shelling at night to the hospital. the doctor managed to save hergh leg, but he had to operate on her without anesthesia. and, i mean, everyone suffered. everyone suffered. and even, even she, i mean, 17-year-old girl from those terrible days, even she was like, you know, we all miss it. that's the weird thing, we all miss it because we were better
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people back then. we lived for others, we didn't just live for ourselves. >> host: what did the city look like?? h >> guest: they rebullet. you can still -- they rebuilt. you can still see what are called sarajevo roses. when a mortar hits pavement, itr leaves a very particular signature on the ground. indeed, it looks a little bit like a rose, but it's not. and everywhere you see that sor of splatter pattern of shrapnel hitting, coming off the pavement from the detonation, you know, someone probably died there, you know? every time you see one, you're like that's someone's gravestone. >> host: i just want to go back to what steve had to say about resolution of war. i mean, you look at our history, and, yes, we had a definitive resolution at world war ii, but otherwise, i mean, have wewe really had definitive resolutions, and do they make a difference? >> guest: i mean, the revolution, the war of 1812 -- >> host: civil war, right.
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>> guest: you know, etc., on up, we pulled out of vietnam. was it revolved? i don't know. resolved? i don't know. likewise, we pulled out of iraq, we pulled out of afghanistan. i mean, i didn't cover iraq because i didn't feel like i't could be objective, because i was completely opposed to it. i wasn't opposed to afghanistan. i live in new york, and the sort of strategic and moral/political rationale for going and getting the guys that did that to us sort of made sort of basic sense. i mean, i understood it. i understood the rationale. the war was horribly handled, and huge mistakes were made by the bush administration. and when we marched off to an unnecessary war in iraq, we pretty much sealed the fate of afghanistan.n- you know, we couldn't fight two wars like that simultaneously and win them both, i don't think. but i did cover afghanistan, and, you know, we killed bin laden, we decimated al-qaeda, and we -- i mean, i was in
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afghanistan in the '90s. i saw what was going on in afghanistan post the soviet withdrawal, the terrible civil war that was happening there. talk about the post-apocalypse war, it was afghanistan. so we brought an enormous amount of good to afghanistan while we were there. infant mortality went down, childhood education rates went up, cities got rebuilt. i mean, it was an extraordinary transformation of that society. civilian casualtieses, of course, plummeted once we got there. the sieve civil war really caused a lot of civilian casualties, and they went down once nato got there. since then, they've gone back up. and we couldn't, we could not have killed ask captured the al-qaeda leadership the way we did from northern virginia. we really had to be in afghanistan to do that. if that's worth it or not for this nation, that's not for me to decide. but in my opinion as a journalist, we couldn't have done any of those things from here. that was rationale for being in
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afghanistan. iraq was a different matter. >> host: do you remember your reaction september 9, 2001, when massoud was killed? >> guest: yes. i was in northern afghanistan in 2000 with the leader of the northern alliance, the last force remaining that was t fighting the taliban that had started taking over in '94, '95 in afghanistan. he was very courageous, brilliant military strategist. i think quite a principled leader. and he was killed two days before 9/11 as part of the 9/111 attacks. and i had spent two months with him, and, 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. then 9/11 happened and then, you know, then i really understood, like, my god, things are bad. bad things are happening.i i was on assignment, actually, when that happened. i was in the country of moldova
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in eastern europe, poorest country in europe, and i got back as soon as i could. it took about a week. i got a back to my poor city in new york, you know, the smell of smoke and people still walking around, you know, basically in shock. n 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
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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
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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.
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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.
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>> 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.
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>> 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
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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
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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
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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
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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,
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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
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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
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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,
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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
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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.
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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,
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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
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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
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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[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
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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
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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
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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 .. that i read in a book by an anthropologist named christopher, and he was
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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 cree indians in canada. this woman, anthropologist was a friend out in the wilderness on a hunting and trapping expedition and ran against people they didn't know, two other creek, they didn't know them and they were out of food and this anthropologist said her companion gave them almost everything he had. she asked about it afterwards and said you don't know these guys, why would you give the most of your food and he said it is not just the food.
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you are dead inside. and in gillette, wyoming, it was little he had control over. he could control -- he was dead inside and saw a young man out of the highway, and, of very moving thing for me and i focused that story and we all die inside. >> host: sylvia text message, how do we find a project for restoring or maintaining human solidarity and community belongings? >> humans evolved in an environment of great danger and
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stress and hardship than those included organized violence between human groups and that violence and hardship engendered enormous solidarity. i don't know. i think mandatory national service would go a long way. i am not talking about the draft. the draft is a wartime measure that puts guns in people's hands and send them to war. you can be against that or not.
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i understand the argument either way. national service is a different thing. as my father said, you don't owe your country nothing. you ask people, what do you owe your country, there is no ready answer. and there's an answer to the fundamental question what do you owe your self? national service gives young people special service with military options, a tragedy that there is no way to serve your country. national service with a military officer would allow the young people to invest in their country. in their own life. 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. that is a good feeling, good for the nation, good for us as individuals and could go a long
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way towards taking this country great, economic social and political divisions, making this country feel like a united endeavor, we have a common goal. >> host: ever consider joining the military? >> guest: not really. i grew up in vietnam, the military that i grew up in was morally, politically and unfairly i should ask, i had a limited perspective on it but that was the environment i grew up in. there were no existential threats to this country when i was a young man. in the 1980s and grenada, gulf war one lasted 100 hours, had 9/11 happened on my watch, was
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22, and there were no good words when i was young, thank god. i am very lucky that way. hard to imagine my life otherwise. >> host: david, go ahead with your question or comment for author sebastian junger. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. i am from oklahoma and we know a thing or two about terrorist attacks from 1995. i will confirm when that attack occurred, oklahoma in my lifetime has never been closer, very republican state welcomed president bill clinton and he did a major thing from the state of oklahoma. and governor frank keating.
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many people banded together to get through that attack which is forgotten, everything that happens, 168 deaths. my question to your guests can such things happen in a positive sense, such as a group, and building home for the poor. and, someone would not -- and an athletic team --
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>>. our cities, and and killed millions. and i the hundreds of thousands. and and, human survive, we take into communal service. and positive efforts. there is some kind of group unity by organizing two parts of the things, and the hurricane, the war, and it is the way we are wired, not the end of the
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world, and 9/11 happened, new york is thoroughly democratic. you open your arms, and a wonderful human reaction, it transcends the boundaries, and one survivor wrote 96% of the population, and the survivors, there is this post-apocalyptic utopia, no social classes or risks, everyone banded together, holy inegalitarian and this one survivor wrote the earthquake that produced what the law
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promises but cannot deliver which is the equality of all men, and what i experienced in new york. >> host: san francisco, you posit that modern alienation is caused by the fact people don't live in groups. do you see an ideal number, 150, 4 tribes to maintain a shared unity? >> guest: this is a very well-informed questioner. i write about gun barge number in my book war. he is well informed. the group sizes people throughout history and prehistory are likely to live in, to function in. are not randomly distributed. and sociologists -- you can see
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these sorts of spikes. one spike, very very common human group, 10 to 12 individuals, very common -- an extended family. another common human group is 30, 40, 50 people in a platoon so you go squad platoon and company is around 200 people or something like that. dunbar discovered the common human moving and we seem to be wired to respond well emotionally, psychologically, to groups of that size. the guys i was within afghanistan, their battalion, which was 600 people, they didn't have much personal identification. they were in a battalion but didn't connect, their squad, the core of the family, incredibly
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strong. >> host: larry in centralia, washington. >> caller: thanks for taking my call. i was too young to serve in world war ii but followed it daily. if we look at express situations, there was an accidental war, every family you knew had a connection or a gold star in the window and now you have 1% of the people, most don't even know a bedroom. i was a navy corpsman at the end of correia, and blocked psychiatric wards and my last year in the marine corps, aftermath of combat. if there is no meaning to what
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you are doing, victor frankel who survived auschwitz said without meaning you do not live. i would 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 of them in the battlefield. they have to come from somewhere. who profits? is it behind all of this because you haven't had a war worth fighting since world war ii, thank you very much. >> there is a lot of complex ideas, my understanding is the are indeed that happens during
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peace time is more lucrative to manufacturers going places like that than the actual manufacturing of munitions. i don't know if that is true. that is what i heard. an interesting idea that bullets and bombs don't cost much compared to research and development and an interesting perspective. 1% serve, less than 1%. it is a poignant number that underscores the fact that most of the country is not connected to the wars we are fighting. a war tax, paying for war as we fight the might engage people politically. they are put on a huge credit card. the administration might want to do that. it might be a bad idea.
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if you change that, 5% of the population fighting means a massive massive army, probably one we can't afford. and can't pay salaries well when people are fighting during a year or two or three or four years later but there are g.i. benefits, health benefits that continue in the light of the service men or service women and the country cannot afford to have a standing army that enormous. it is 1% but isn't a financial alternative to that. we have to find other ways of making the public engage with the experience of the 1%. we can't afford to do it otherwise. >> one thing you write, each travel costs $80,000.
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the idea that it is not made in a year, a guy who doesn't make that in a lifetime, somehow so outrageous it makes the sea -- the war seem worthless. >> i was having a cynical morning when i wrote that. there wasn't being an antiwar activist, just pointing out the irony, heavy technology, heavy military that can focus a huge amount of firepower very accurately in a very specific area but inevitably has a hard time engaging and affecting a broad society and insurgency takes place in a society and you're never going to win a job on missiles however useful they may be in an actual firefight. i was in afghanistan in 1996.
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i was shot at by talent and gunners on the outskirts of kabul in 1996 just before they swept in, jalalabad as well. i remember one of the people i was with, a young guy who was my translator, said the taliban and -- we hate the taliban, but we will let them in because we are so tired of the corruption of this government and this society. they promised to clean up corruption. the taliban rolled in without much of a fight because they promised to clean up the corruption in society by -- my dear friend sarah shea has written amazing amazing book about the role of corruption in insurgencies and civil wars. what she found, what she found
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is in somalia, boca from, isis, taliban and, the common theme is these religious insurgencies fight against corruption and that is why they appeal as horrific and blood he is these are. the irony when the us went into afghanistan was we didn't go with enough soldiers and we paid off more wars so we wouldn't have to fight them. paying money so we wouldn't have to fight them. the eyes of the afghan people, we looks like another corrupt empire and that is what i mean, if you are making that kind of mistake you won't and do it. >> host: booktv covered the book, if you go to booktv.org you can watch that presentation
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online, type it in the search function or do it online at your convenience. >> guest: i met her when i was 4, we went camping together when we were kids, absolute family, amazing. >> host: roberto, houston, please go ahead. >> caller: i am a retired history teacher with a problem with this discussion and similar discussions which center around isn't war horrible. throughout human history, you find man is a warmaking creature. it is 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, go
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to world war i, the war to end all wars, war was outlawed internationally. we still have war. it is like in our dna. that is what we are. can we get past this isn't war horrible and go on beyond that and one more thing. concerning new york city, i have 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 to the rest of the united states also. silver lining, one last thing concerning resources and has to do with the united states today, we are 5% of the world population, we consume 25% of the resources. are we ready to lower our
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standards to share with our resources around the world, thank you. >> host: a lot on the table. >> guest: there was nothing in this conversation, i don't know when you tend in but there was nothing in this conversation that was counter to your original assertion. war is horrible, that is self-evident. my book is about the strangely positive emotional consequences of being in a wartime situation or a natural disaster or any crisis for society. as far as humanizing people in new york city if i can defend my city for a moment, you are 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 affect but
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it was very noticeable. people treated each other better after that terrible tragedy. it is a very common human reaction to hardship. >> host: in the book "war," you write that war is so obviously evil and wrong, 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 which were you surprised at that finding? >> guest: i was surprised at the depth of it. i expected, these are young men i was with, they were all boys who played war when they were young, had clearly grown up wanting to be soldiers, to experience combat, they were pretty much -- i anticipated
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that the component of combat which is a generalized and thrilling, that they would respond to that and maybe miss it. what i was not prepared for was the profound effect of the human connection on those guys and on me and i started to realize what they really missed was each other being necessary to each other being part of that group. the videogame component of combat, i got it but it was quite a shallow part of the reaction and it had to do frankly with love. this intense connection to each other the i was to some degree part of an experienced the loss of. >> host: in "tribe: on homecoming and belonging," easy for people in modern societies to romanticize that life, easy
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for people like george as well, the impulse should be guarded against. virtually all the indian tribes waged war against their neighbors, practiced deeply sickening forms of torture. prisoners were not, hocked on the spot were disemboweled, lower intestines, blistered to death over a slow fire or 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? >> i go on in the same paragraph to check out the spanish inquisition did the same thing, the governments from europe even during the enlightenment practicing horrific forms of torture, to be evenhanded here.
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any behavior as widespread as war, all truism for example, generosity for example, widespread human behavior, has to be assumed to be adaptive to have a survival value. aggression, war, competing for resources, it wouldn't exist without some adaptive survival value, i think it reveals the harsh conditions our species evolved in. a quiet pacifist society will be pushed out of areas of food supply. the proverbial bully that takes your lunch money, that is our human evolution. you can see that behavior in other primates. my friend richard rankin at harvard, really well known anthropologist who may have been on the show here, he has
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documented show chimpanzees where the males go off on these raids and literally creep quietly through the jungle and attack rival males from a rival troupe and turn them to pieces and beat them to death one by one and once they got rid of all the males they take over the food resources of that area, and doubled the size of the troop and absolutely adaptive behavior and chimpanzees have done that for thousands of years. >> host: david from manchester, connecticut. i was moved by the film you made "restrepo," very upset when tim was killed and it was the ultimate occupational hazard for him. can you console us about good people dying young? >> guest: i probably can't
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console you. it is one of the unanswerable things about life the good people die young. tim was a good person and his death was a huge hole in me. we all go through some version of that. i wish i had something to say that would make him feel better because it would make me feel better too. >> host: steve in madison, we have one minute. >> caller: i admire your intellect. a question i have spoke to jimmy carter and others, i wonder what your comment would be, if we had not send one boy, bullet or bomb to vietnam, what do you think of that part of the world, the geopolitical fallout would have
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been? >> i was born in 1962, i am not an expert on vietnam. i don't know. my good friend carl, a wonderful writer wrote a book called matterhorn, what it feels like to go to war. very proud marine. talk to you all day long about the mistakes made in vietnam. if i understand right, he also said it was a dangerous time. had we not had some presence in asia, the soviet union would have done some real harm in the world. personally i have no idea but that is my memory, he is a pretty smart guy. i would have you read other people who know more than i do. >> host: sebastian junger's writing process of the journalist, every topic possible and read through all the notes. undermine what is missing,
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everything -- you say you do your best writing when something you do, have not collected enough information, not that he cannot find the words, and you try to fill gaps. sebastian junger has been our guest for the last three hours on "in depth". "a death in belmont" was his first book, "the perfect storm: a true story of men against the sea" the second, then came "fire," "war," and his most recent is "tribe: on homecoming and belonging". >> c-span created by america's cable television companies and brought you as a public service by your cable or satellite
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provider. you are watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and others every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> this weekend on booktv, on afterwards, heather mcdonald talks about policeing in america and roundtable discussion on hillary clinton's book it takes a village and the former secret service agent discusses his tenure in the clinton white house. coming up this weekend, sexism, books on the war on poverty and religious freedom and congresswoman marsha blackburn talks about her reading habits. that is just a few on booktv this weekend. for complete television schedule go to booktv.org. booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors, television for serious readers.
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