Re: Terms


The thing we mean when we talk about how Europeans live more civilized lives, don't get hysterical after a terror attack, generally seem more sane. Some way to group together what a nation expects, accepts, tries to change, control, destroy, create.

In that second sentence, I would include some notion of experience. It makes sense to me that a big part of the difference betweeen the American/Anglo reactions, besides scale of the attack, is simply a) their past experiance with such things and b) their acknowledgement of vulnerability, two things I think America largely lacked on 9/11.

Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 12:09 AM
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This isn't always irrational, but sure can be. I'll call this the "catastrophe multiplier."

The psychological term term I've heard for this is catastrophizing. 'I'd go to the store to get milk, but it might get ROBBED!' There's another term for this I believe I saw once on RISKS-DIGEST, but all I am turning up is

which gives me:

"An interesting article on this topic (perception of risk) appeared in Scientific American a few years back. To summarize, small non-zero risks have much more emotional weight than they "deserve" (statistically, that is). Large variations in the middle of the scale have less effect than they deserve. Memory fails me on how risk at the other end of the scale (near certainty) is perceived."

So maybe I read the same article.

The thing we mean when we talk about how Europeans live more civilized lives, don't get hysterical after a terror attack, generally seem more sane.

Personal preferences.

Some way to group together what a nation expects, accepts, tries to change, control, destroy, create.

That's something else. Tolerance. Not tolerance in the group hug sense, but tolerance in the engineering sense. I.E. tolerance thresholds. Or perhaps, threat tolerance thresholds. (There's some psychology phrasing lurking about as well: 'High tolerance for unacceptable behaviour' which tends to refer to people who have learned to tolerate obnoxious drunks and the like.)

If the US gets bombed fairly regularly in the future, after awhile, people will develop a higher tolerance for that. Just like people in the hood tend to have a higher tolerance for the sounds of gunfire. Bad roads are usual in Iran, so people tolerate bad roads. I sorta line up with you in the notion that people who tolerate bad roads will get more bad roads, but I think this is less a cultural function than a function of that the fact that people prefer the familiar. Changing stuff around is hard. Unless you practice at changing things, which tends to suffer from diminishing returns.


['It's Saturday night, innit?']

Posted by: ash | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 12:15 AM
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I wonder if they're just less motivated to keep making things "better" and so are able to do the things that people generally enjoy, like eating, drinking, and talking with friends

Doesn't much of the explanation for the difference between the European "living to live" and the Yankee "live to work" get laid at the feet of the "protestant ethic," ? Or are you thinking of something different?

Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 12:17 AM
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Americans take the THIS attitude toward crime, violence, poverty, and people without medical insurance. The same Americans who are very optimistic about technology will be adamantly pessimistic about the possibility of social improvements of the welfare-state type. Many Americans are also fatalistic about accidents and will argue that seatbelts and motorcycle helmets are really useless.

An extreme case is space colonizers, who tend to scoff at conservation and population limitation measures, but think that a Mars colony is feasible.

As far as the THIS attitude toward social problems, its a combination of anti-government ideology and social-Darwinist schadenfreude. With regard to safety measures, it's anti-government feeling, love of excitement and risk, and resentment of restrictions on personal impulse.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 6:59 AM
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I don't think that the concept of THIS describes what is happening. It's not a matter of "accepting" things; it's a matter of sane risk assesment as guided by experience. In the US, it's easy to be neurotic about terrorism because (given our size) the exposure of most people to it is minimal. No exposure means no real sense of how limited its occurance or effects may be.

In the UK, they've had more experience with bombs and the like, and probably realize that (a) risks must be addressed and diminished, (b) but they can't be removed, and (c) life will go on in any case. One hopes that they also realize that an increase in security means a decrease in freedom, and that such is not always a good thing.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 10:12 AM
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FWIW: Today, on Fox News, Bill Kristol argued that the London bombings happened because England had too much freedom as compared to the US. Just makes me feel awful.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 1:18 PM
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O, the first thing is related to what my old logic text called the "fallacy of misleading vividness"-- where your thinking is influenced as much by one vivid anecdote as by reams (sorry) of statistical evidence, since the anecdote is more psychologically salient.

This might be explained partly by how people represent information-- cf the "Linda is a bank teller" experiment and other heuristics results. More if you're interested.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 1:41 PM
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Hmmmm. In sensor technology if you need a sensor that can discriminate between very fine changes and yet must cover a great range of values and you would like to limit the number of bits used to represent the values you can use delta encoding.

That means that you establish and record a baseline and then note the deviations from the baseline. In a way it is similar to how the eye works. The pupil sets the baseline and can accomodate a wide range of ambient light and then the neurons provide the fine differentials.

Perhaps this concept applies to what you are talking about. People determine some sort norm and then guage events by how they deviate from the norm. The norm can change, but not very quickly. It makes for the most efficient design.

Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 2:12 PM
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I once had a chat with an expert about food poisoning, and showed him my family's generations-old recipe for egg nog (which is really just the thing for any festive season). He said the recipe was an invitation to ER, because our coddled colons, intestines, stomachs and the like just aren't used to the minute amounts of salmonella and e-coli that we used to take in our stride.

Then I mentioned that my mother-in-law in Ireland keeps the Christmas turkey on top of the kitchen cabinets, bereft of any refrigeration, for days on end, and he laughed, saying that Europeans generally have small refrigerators, so they poison themselves a lot and get used to it.

Probably ditto for things like terrorist attacks. London had 20 years of IRA bombings -- one of which nearly topped the prime minister -- to prepare itself for what the tabloids are halfheartedly calling 7/7. Germany had the Baader-Meinhof gang, Italy suffered through the Red Brigades, which actually kidnapped and killed a PM, as I recall, and Spain had and still has ETA.

As for ogged's original post, i think he was on to something with option three.

Posted by: peter snees | Link to this comment | 07-10-05 5:41 PM
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I still shouldn't be commenting, and I'm gone again after this, but the 'catastrophe multiplier' appears to work as well for large positive outcomes (making it, I suppose, the 'eucatastrophe multiplier'). The most obvious example is lottery tickets, but the current theory of why the Iraq war was a good idea is another one.

I keep on seeing arguments that the Iraq war was justified because it was the only way to change the status quo in the Middle East -- Sebastian Holsclaw just made a version of that argument on Obsidian Wings, saying that "no meaningful Middle East change could take place with Saddam sitting there in the middle of it." This argument has some superficial plausibility, but what it seems to come down to is 'the potential benefits from the action I want to take are so vast, I don't have to either justify the costs, or provide an argument that the action is actually likely to bring about the benefits I describe.' When I say it like that, it sounds consciously dishonest, but I don't think it necessarily is -- more that people do systematically overvalue both large rewards and large punishments, and they miscalculate the expected value of those outcomes as a result.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 8:55 AM
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I would have guessed "anastrophe".

Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 8:56 AM
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Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:00 AM
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Not my coinage -- it's a standard term for a happy ending.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:01 AM
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A good bad turn?

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:03 AM
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Whoops! κατ&alpha = down, not bad. "overturning, sudden turn, conclusion".

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:06 AM
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Yucatanstophe! Peninsularity ensues.

Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:07 AM
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it's a standard term for a happy ending


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:08 AM
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Someone have a more authoritative link?

Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:11 AM
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Like Shakespeare, I have little Latin and less Greek, but kata- doesn't mean bad, does it? I thought it meant something more like reversal, making 'catastrophe' originally more like an overturning than a disaster. So a good overturning is reasonable, isn't it?

Where's Alameida when we need her?

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:11 AM
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LB, see 15. It does indeed mean an overturning.

"Eucatastrophe" isn't in the OED, FWIW. Coined by Tolkein, eh.

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:14 AM
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But "cata-" itself is from the Greek for "down."

Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:17 AM
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Curses -- the underlying geekiness of all the random stuff rattling around in my head is revealed again. I thought 'eucatastrophe' was standard English, rather than a 20C coinage.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-11-05 9:18 AM
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You have many things very wrong my friend. Interestingly, it highlights the very American ignorance based dogma that so fascinates and abhors all Europeans.

Americans are the most frightened people in the world. They, like us, have a true multicultural society. Unlike us, still (both consciously and unconsciously) still believe in the superiority of the white caucasian. Our society is, to the greater degree, fully integrated. We understand each other.

Europeans are very interested in the fate of the entire world. We understand and follow politics in the Middle East, Africa, America. We see their governments and we see and understand the ideology and suffering of the ordinary people.

We also know our enemies and understand their dogma, even if we do not agree with it. We understand the limitations of our enemy, and we understand that a hysterical reaction is admission of defeat and fuel for terrorism. We make ourselves strong and stubborn try not to be defeated, but we will not exact revenge upon other innocents in pointless retribution born of fear.

Fear is born of, or at least greatly magnified by ignorance.

Europe is mostly a secular continent. The majority are atheist and refuse to hate and kill someone because they have different beliefs to ourselves. We abhor American christian fundamentalists with their power and their money and their fascist censorship of the reality of science and the absolute right to hold your own beliefs, whatever they may be.

Because of this we are, in a far truer sense of the word than will ever be seen in the USA, "Free".

We know that we cannot slaughter thousands of innocents in some kind of racist retribution. If we were to be so stupid, we know that we would inflame more Islamic terrorism. Our main WEAPON is strength and bravery and belief in ourselves. This under the circumstances may seem ineffective, but if you understand our beliefs in freedom and humanity, you will have to understand that this is the only weapon we have.

To most of us, fundamentalist christians and fundamentalist muslims and Jews are terrifyingly similar. All just manifestations of the same thing. All killing innocents. If Bush did not have money for weapons technology, he would be planting bombs.

Your comments placing America at the top of some "making things better" list also reveals your deep ignorance and flawed ideology.

Democracy, philosophy, science, modern technology and industry are all utterly European inventions.

World peace, an end to climate change and an end to world povery and suffering are all at the forefront of European politics and thought at the moment, at least amongst all of our citizens. For that we are deeply proud, and ideologically amongst the most highly evolved people on the planet.

The American moon landings were an act of cold war, trying to impose your percieved superiority upon the equally ideological USSR.

The rockets that you flew were designed by ex-nazi and British scientists.

The airliners that you fly now are still heavily based on European technology. Still almost identical to the dehaviland Comet, the first airliner. Controlled by computer technology invented by the Germans. Powered by jet engines invented by the RAF.

These crashed a lot and people died. They were improved and developed, and these improvements were passed on to yourselves.

I have not posted this as some kind of European jingoist, just to show you how you percieve yourselves as some kind of master race. The propaganda and dogma that you feed yourselves is based on an ignorance of the world, and even worse, as my last paragraph highlights, an ignorance of yourselves.

European citizens care about ALL of the world. We watch it. We are watching you.

Please, this is not meaned to hurt or upset any Americans, Americans as individuals are noble and deeply kind people. I have spent time there and was blown away by their friendliness and hospitality.

They just have to learn think outside of their box a bit, and stop electing religious fascist chimps.

YOU have no special knowlege of what is important.

Many many many Americans that do are coming to stay here recently . They are almost always the educated ones. (I don't mean enlightened in some ideological sense, I just mean educated pure and simple, degrees, Masters, PhDs. They can "see the wood for the trees").

By the way, not all Europeans like Americans so much as I do. Here is a very succinct description of how MOST Europeans think of Americans since Bush was elected.

If this has seemed to be nothing but an anti-American rant, rather than a lucid answer to your post, try to understand that I am pointing out how incredibly irrelevent and wide of the mark your original post is.

White Englishman from Brighton, England, Europe. Proud that my girlfriend who works in an office next to Aldgate tube did not even stop work on the 7th. She is there now. She is not scared. She is one of the most worldly, kind and educated people I know.

I know you are going to be a bit mad with me, but stay with it. Research what I have said and have a think. Email me if you want, slag me off if you want, I don't care, this is how it is.

Posted by: Mark | Link to this comment | 07-12-05 8:37 AM
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Not to feed the troll, but you do realize that Ogged is from Iranian, right?

Posted by: andrew | Link to this comment | 07-13-05 2:41 AM
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Aargh! Delete "from".

Posted by: andrew | Link to this comment | 07-13-05 2:42 AM
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