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11-06-2006, 05:45 AM
The following (which appeared in the London Times this morning) is, I feel, a fascinating insight into human behaviour and potentially some peoples' attitude to aikido.
For my part, I think that the matial arts camp (including myself) sees the World in a way that's fairly close to that portrayed in the study. We study a martial art primarily in order to defend ourselves and protect our family. The Californian/'World peace' camp on the other hand seem to think that they can change the World and bring people closer together by practice (in some cases, it would appear this doesn't even involve physical practice).
But can you ever really change human nature?
$10 says that we're never going to learn how to share and share alike
SCIENCE NOTEBOOK BY TERENCE KEALEY
IN 1648, at the Treaty of Westphalia, the Protestants and Catholics of Germany, appalled by the horrors of their Thirty Years War, agreed to respect each others’ states and to desist from pre-emptive attacks. Westphalia was a good treaty, but as the invasion of Iraq has showed, people do not always find it easy to respect its tenets.
Why do we find it so difficult to coexist with people of different cultures? In a recent paper published in Nature, Ernst Fehr and his colleagues from Zurich attempted to answer this question scientifically.
Professor Fehr travelled to Papua New Guinea to examine how fairly members of one tribe will treat members of another tribe (a tribe for which they have neutral feelings, neither hating nor loving it).
The study took the form of a “sharing and punishment game”. A person was given $10 and asked to share it with another person. A third person acted as umpire and if he felt that the sharing was not fair he could punish the sharer by fining him. These different people were selected randomly from either tribe.
Professor Fehr found that sharing was often reasonably fair, with people often handing over $5. Nonetheless, there was a lot of unfairness too, and many people handed over only $3. When that happened the umpires always punished. Umpires could see when tribespeople, from whichever tribe, were being treated unfairly.
But when only $4 was handed over, the umpires punished capriciously. Consider the actions of umpires from tribe A. When someone from tribe B was unfair to a fellow B tribesman, the tribe A umpires were unconcerned (who cares what those Bs do to each other?). And if someone from tribe A was harsh to someone from tribe B, then a tribe A umpire remained unconcerned (those Bs deserve no better).
But if someone from tribe B was unfair to someone from tribe A, a tribe A umpire punished hard (lay off my people, you bully). And if someone from tribe A was unfair to a fellow A, then an A umpire punished again (we As must treat each other right). In short, umpires were biased in favour of their own tribesfolk.
Remarkably, though, when the sharing was fair and when $5 was handed over, the umpires remained capricious. When an A person gave $5 to another A person, or an A person gave $5 to a B person, or when two B people treated each other fairly, an A umpire was unconcerned. But when a B person gave $5 to an A person, an A umpire often punished. Remarkably, tribespeople felt badly treated when members of another tribe were strictly fair with them. We human beings, in short, demand preferential treatment, not fairness, from others.
Consequently, we find it hard to keep the peace because, once people have identified with a tribe, they have to be handled over generously by other tribes if they are to feel they are being treated decently. Only big-hearted people can rise to the challenge of being over generous. As Jesus said: “Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
In short, the price we pay for group loyalty is an exaggerated sense of entitlement — a sense that can lead to irrational resentments that can lead to unnecessary war. But in 1648, at the Treaty of Westphalia, the peacemakers showed us the way to peace — sovereignty. Under the treaty, nation states are recognised as sovereign entities, whose borders are inviolable. Consequently, pre-emptive war is proscribed: however much we hate the heretics of the other side, we promise not to invade them and vice versa, which ensures peace. In the language of the social sciences, Westphalia is a “non zero sum game”.
There are prices to be paid for Westphalia — of which tolerance for the domestic cruelties of tyrants is one — but as the Nature paper has shown, our expectations of others are so irrational that we cannot trust ourselves to remedy their faults without causing even greater mayhem.
True conservatives (who look back to 1648) as opposed to neocons or liberal imperialists (who are idealists) have long suspected that.
I would be careful to draw a conclusion like that from this one study (despite its reputation, Nature tends to lead contributors to make bold statements about studies which really should be seen in context).
The interaction between different tribes is probably related to their inter-depedence. Luckily in the world we are increasing our inter-dependence via economics (free-trade), which I believe has an enormous peace-keeping role.
I would agree that belonging to groups often makes people believe they have more rights (just look at any religious or cultural 'grouping' - I'm always perturbed that the whim of church leaders has more effect on politics than in UK than top researchers in philosophy or social science).
I personally think Nationalism is ridiculous and short-sighted. We are all primarily human and only secondarily do we have obligations to our religion or country. Thus, neither should religion or our nationality be used as an excuse to persecute another human, nor should we allow people to hide personal crimes behind a religious or political justification. For example, much of the terrorism in Northern Ireland is now about control of drugs or finances (or juevenile violence), and religion or cultural differences are used as an excuse to justify such crimes. However, economic benefits of the peace process are now making it less economically beneficial on a personal level to be involved with terrorism.
I'd agree with Kant, in that we have a social contract with our government. We give them support (e.g. in war) whilst they provide us with things (police service and structured society). There is no need to feel obligations to one country or one government or another. You vote for who is best for you (including your moral sense) - many politicians in N. Ireland love encouraging sectarian division because it avoids them having to tackle real social problems or making real policies. Whenever someone has a Nationalistic agenda you have to ask yourself i. what are they trying to hide and ii. what are they trying to get you to do.
11-06-2006, 08:51 AM
I don't see Mr. Kealey actually conveying how Dr. Fehr scientifially answered the question why we have trouble treating fairly with people different from ourselves. I see that he illustrated through his study that we are often not fair in such dealings.
Consequently, we find it hard to keep the peace because, once people have identified with a tribe, they have to be handled over generously by other tribes if they are to feel they are being treated decently. Only big-hearted people can rise to the challenge of being over generous. As Jesus said: "Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
This passage bugs me, and I'd like a link to Fehr's original paper if Kealey's website has one available. I would approach the above by putting the onus on a person to accept being met half way, and not on a person having to be 'over generous'.
The why, as far as I've been able to see it is that we all want to correct. I worship chickens, and therefore do not feed upon them. Much of my childhood is invested in this idea, and therefore a lot of my self image, my ego, my best friend in the world, me, is based on the truth that chicken's are divine.
It's ok to eat Cow's, though.
Now there's this whacky land to the north, across that huge span of water, where they despise chickens, and of all things revere cows. How wrong can you be, and to think that their lives and dreams are wasted. And the off chance that I and my entire life's self image might be completely and utterly forfeit, and that chickens are bad? Well, that hurts my brain, anyhow, I'm right!
Man, next time I see one of those chicken-haters, I'm gonna short change him a dollar, when I know I owe him 5.
It's entirely from over-investment of your self-image, ego, whatever you want to call it, into some idea as the sole correct idea, and phrased as you would phrase it. I'm not suggesting an absence of truth in the universe, but rather an over abundance of perspective.
From tribesman, up to your favorite stereotypes of both republicans and democrats, to some degree I have a strong hunch (get it?) this is the hinge that our doors swing upon.
11-06-2006, 10:18 AM
Hum, pop-psychological games are fun! No really they are... /sarcasm.
BTW, "non zero sum game" are more closely linked to game theory which has little to do with sociology. It is all mathematics with applications to other fields. It assumes that all players are rational and intelligent. This is not always the case in the world.
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