Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Life Like This, In a Tribe

Excerpt from Johann Hari's Lost Connections

Lost Connections
What John's experiment found was later regarded as a key turning point in the field. The people who had been triggered to feel lonely became radically more depressed, and the people who had been triggered to feel connected became radically less depressed. Loneliness leads to depression. A great deal more research led to a key conclusion, one that has been gathering in scientific support: loneliness is causing a significant amount of the depression and anxiety in our society.

Why? There might be a good reason. Human beings first evolved on the savannahs of Africa, where we lived in small hunter-gatherer tribes of a few hundred people or less. You and I exist for one reason – because those humans figured out how to cooperate. They shared their food. They looked after the sick. They were able to take down very large beasts, but only because they were working together. They only made sense as a group. Every preagricultural society we know about has this same basic structure. Against harsh odds, they barely survive, but the fact that they survive at all they owe to the dense web of social contacts and the vast number of reciprocal commitments they maintain. In this state of nature, connection and social cooperation did not have to be imposed. Nature is connection.

Now imagine if – on those savannahs – you became separated from the group and were alone for a protracted period of time. It meant you were in terrible danger. You were vulnerable to predators, if you got sick nobody would be there to nurse you, and the rest of the tribe was more vulnerable without you too. You would be right to feel terrible. It was an urgent signal from your body and brain to get back to the group, any damn way you could.

So every human instinct is honed not for life on your own, but for life like this, in a tribe. Humans need tribes as much as bees need a hive.

See also this from last year: “Deeply, Dangerously Alone – Excerpts from Sebastian Junger's Tribe.

Addition:
There are all sorts of ways human beings can come together to do something as a group – from a sports team, to a choir, to a volunteer group, to just meeting regularly for dinner. Harvard professor Robert Putnam has been gathering figures for decades about how much we do all these things – and he found they have been in freefall. The collective structure has collapsed.

"In the ten short years between 1985 and 1994, active involvement in community organizations fell by 45 percent." In just a decade, across the Western world, we stopped banding together at a massive rate, and found ourselves shut away in our homes instead.

What this means is that people's sense that they live in a community, or even have friends they can count on, has been plummeting.

And it's not that we turned inward to our families. We've stopped doing stuff with them, too. We do things together less than any humans who came before us. We disbanded our tribes.

  depression     excerpts     tribe     evolutionary psychology     meaning  
about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
DON'T SHOOT ME IN THE ASS, AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
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