Δευτέρα 21 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

A Christmas Carol and the spooky psychological effect of money

   It was 1843 when Charles Dickens published his novella ‘A Christmas Carol’. 

Ebenezer Scrooge, the story’s protagonist, is the absolute equivalent of stinginess. Just try checking out a thesaurus and you’ll find the word ‘Scroogelike’ among the synonyms. His love for money was such that he preferred to spend his time counting it, rather than share some of it with his fellow citizens in hardship during Christmastime.

   But what does money do to us? How does it affect our behavior? Simply counting money makes us more persistent, more resilient and less helpful. Just watch the following very interesting video: 

   And then there’s this (very) intriguing talk of Paul Piff in TED, where he lays out how bad we can get when it comes to money, just watch: 

   If you know how Dickens concludes his story, you’ll know that there’s hope. The 3 Christmas ghosts had a cathartic role in Mr. Scrooge’s life. He finally saw the truth, and namely that accumulating wealth for the sake of accumulation per se was a pure dead-end.   
   In a world of increasing financial inequity it would be wise to read and reread Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and watch Paul Piffer’s talk more than once. Reminding everyone (ourselves included) on a constant basis that there’s only something to win on a social and an individual level if we take heed of the aforementioned is for this reason crucial.
   Aiming collectively at closing the wealth gap will only bring prosperity to our society (especially so for the wealthy folks).
   There’s a short story that I’ll be publishing soon, and it's called “The Monopoly Dread”. For the time being you can always read my other works:

 “The Halo Trap” (short story #1), 

“The Summer Experiment” (short story #2), 

 and "The Analysts" (a novel of 105.000 words)

all available through Amazon.  


Τετάρτη 2 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

The Paris Attacks, the Hunger Games and Mankind’s Weird Group Dynamics

  It was the evening of the 13th of November of 2015. Paris, the city of lights. 

130 citizens are murdered after three consecutive suicide bombings just outside the Stade de France, while suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafes, restaurants and the Bataclan theatre conclude the atrocity of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant spreading the terror in the West.

   Fast forward into the future, and on the other side of the pond, the United States of America, Canada and Mexico do not exist anymore. Instead, there’s Panem, a totalitarian regime. 

It’s the hegemony of the city of Capitol -situated somewhere in the Rocky Mountains- that extends over twelve districts, the leftovers of a series of devastating wars. A notable gap in living standards between the Capitol and its districts is what juts out. And as if this were not enough, the Capitol hosts each year a life-or-death reality show, called the Hunger Games, where two youths from every district are chosen randomly to compete with each other until only one comes out alive.

   But what one cannot ignore is the extreme poverty the book’s protagonist Katniss Evergreen so engagingly describes. People in her district are constantly tittering on the verge of starvation. Especially characteristic is an incident that she portrays and which took place somewhere during her childhood where she was sloshing around during a rainy and cold night, in the lookout for food for her and her family and almost passed out, if it were not for Peeta Mellark. The latter noticed her and left two loaves of bread to burn on purpose and threw them to her. He took a beating for this by his mother, the owner of the bakery.
   If you look closer, you’ll see that there is common ground between the Islamic Caliphate in Syria and Panem of the Hunger Games. And this is inequality and Groupthink combined, an explosive mixture indeed.
   Inequality has a series of effects on society. Countries with wider socioeconomic inequalities are doing worse in several social problems:

   Moreover, social inequality is the cause for a significant raise in stress hormones:

   The individual will thus be desperate to eradicate this kind of a stressor. We human beings don’t value life so much if it’s ridden with continuous angst and feelings of inferiority. 
   It won’t take too long until people connect with their equals. You can also call them peers or those who are on the same boat with them. 

Then, a strange thing happens. Group dynamics interfere, and here’s the list of what happens within the group:      
1. Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
8. Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.  

   It is not too uncommon that violence breaks out. Each group, whether that is an Islamic terrorist group, or the people of Capitol in the Hunger Games, are no more in a position to understand the other, the enemy.
   Undoubtedly, it is in the nature of humans to form groups. This is true whether it’s about the real world or our fiction. It is critical however, how we manage those groups and the oftentimes inevitable conflicts that will arise. The solution is astute interventionism. Do not permit inequality to widen within the boundaries of a country and invest in education that will have the Aristotelian logic at its core.

Violence, stereotyping, and racism can be solved. There’s a story you can read about it: The Experiment, a short story by Chris Dellian (coming soon).