Book Review: Tribe — Penny Wonders If The Wealthy Are Missing Out

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Dear Rich,

I couldn’t believe how in line this book (Tribe by Sebastian Junger) was to the topics we’ve been covering in this blog! Happiness, money, connection… it’s all in there.

Here’s a quote from the book:

A study found that conventional success in the legal profession had zero correlation with levels of happiness and well-being. The findings are in keeping with something called self-determination theory, which holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered “intrinsic” to human happiness and far outweigh “extrinsic” values such as beauty, money, and status.

Bluntly put, modern society seems to emphasize extrinsic values over intrinsic ones, and as a result, mental health issues refuse to decline with growing wealth.

The self-determination theory… those three things are basically what you described in your Philosophy on Happiness. Is this where you got it from, or did you figure that out all by yourself?

Junger talked about how certain soldiers experienced PTSD after coming home from war, not so much from the war itself, but by the lack of community they found once they returned. They were used to being in a platoon, being surrounded by a built in community at all times, and when they came back, they didn’t have that anymore. That’s devastating.

I think about how I’ve gone through certain situations in my life (and no, I’m not comparing them to war) where I had a built in community, and then I didn’t anymore. Like, graduating from high school. All my friends went in different directions and I struggled with how I fit into the world anymore. Or, more recently, as my mama friends have had their kids go off to school, our once constant playgroups have kind of dissipated (even though I still have young ones). I feel a loss for the tribe we had there.

Loss of community is hard. I can relate. (Although, not in the way of going to war. I repeat, I am not comparing to this to being in a war. I know they are not the same things.)

Another quote from the book:

The question for Western society isn’t so much why tribal life might be so appealing – it seems obvious on the face of it – buy why Western society is so unappealing.

What are your thoughts on that, Rich?

I found it interesting how some of the early settlers would choose to live with Native Americans rather than go back to their Western way of life.

And how, it stated, that people were their happiest during times of war. This excerpt can kind of explain why that was:

The mechanism seems simple: poor people are forced to share their time and resources more than wealthy people are, and as a result they live in closer communities. Inter-reliant poverty comes with its own stresses – and certainly isn’t the American ideal – but it’s much closer to our evolutionary heritage than affluence. A wealthy person who has never had to rely on help and resources from his community is leading a privileged life that falls way outside more than a million years of human experience. Financial independence can lead to isolation, and isolation can put people at a greatly increased risk of depression and suicide. This might be a fair trade for a generally wealthier society – but a trade it is.

But how do you think about a statement like that, in terms of being a wealthy person, Rich? Do you feel like you’re missing out on something, leading the privileged life that you are, and not having to rely on anybody?

Looking forward to hearing your response,


One Reply to “Book Review: Tribe — Penny Wonders If The Wealthy Are Missing Out”

  1. Penny, I liked this book and I’m looking forward to writing my review. Just a quick note because I gotta say, when studying happiness, researches should not ask lawyers! … “conventional success in the legal profession had zero correlation with levels of happiness” … No kidding! I know a bunch of lawyers and 90% of them hate their jobs. At any rate, more soon …

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