• I wanted the chance to prove my worth to my community and my peers, but I lived in a time and a place where nothing dangerous ever really happened. Surely this was new in the Human Experience, I thought. How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage?
  • Tribe… Might be the people you feel compelled to share the last of your food with.
  • For many people – war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations.
  • Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.

The Men and The Dogs

  • Indians almost never ran away to join white society. Emigration always seemed to go from the civilized to the tribal, and left Western thinkers flummoxed about how to explain such an apparent rejection of their society.
  • For all the temptations of native life, one of the most compelling might have been its fundamental egalitarianism.
  • He had never heard of even a single instance of treason against the tribe… But cowardice was punishable by death
  • A person living in a modern city or a suburb can, for the first time in history, go an entire day – or an entire life – mostly encountering complete strangers. They can be surrounded by others and yet feel deeply, dangerously alone.
  • People in countries with large income disparities – like the United States – run a much higher lifelong risk of developing severe mood disorders.
  • 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.

War Makes You An Animal

  • Communities that have been devastated by natural or man-made disasters almost never lapse into chaos and disorder; if anything, they become more just, more egalitarian, and more deliberately fair to individuals.
  • During the London Blitz… the total amount of beer consumed in the city did not change much, and neither did the rate of church attendance. People did resort to Superstition and Magic, however, carrying talismans or sprigs of Heather and refusing, for some reason, to wear green.
  • In both England and Germany, civilian resilience had risen in response to the air raids.
  • What would you risk dying for -and for whom- is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves.

In Bitter Safety I Awake

  • At one point, it was proposed that a lighthouse of the coast of France be destroyed by British warships to impede shipping and navigation. “Sir,” an English admiral reminded the King, “we are at war with the French, not with the entire human race.”
  • The Iroquois system reflected the radically divergent properties that a society must have during peacetime and during war.
  • Whatever the technological advances of modern society – and they’re nearly miraculous – the individualized lifestyles that those technologies spawned seem to be deeply brutalizing to the human spirit.
  • These token acts (saying “Thank you for your service,” boarding planes first or giving minor discounts) only deepen the chasm between the military and civilian populations by highlighting the fact that some people serve their country but the vast majority don’t.

Calling Home From Mars

  • If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different – you underscore your shared humanity.