Discover more from bad cattitude
pressure is a second selector and ability to deal with it is orthogonal to intelligence
there’s a funny thing about “smart” and “rational.”
sure, both are good things, but it’s also worth remembering that both can be deeply misleading predictors of how one will perform in a crisis.
each may well be a useful form of assessment and integral to problem solving, but under duress, the question changes dramatically.
“how rational can you remain while being stood on your head and spun around while direct fear impulses are applied to your amygdala?”
this is the test so many "smart" people failed.
“scared witless” is a phrase for a reason.
fear and panic, yours and others, change everything. fear alone is enough to shut down rational faculties. group level panic and the social pressures of herd following behaviors blow this into the stratosphere.
suddenly, no matter how smart you were 5 minutes ago, you’re now a blithering idiot.
suddenly, no matter how independent you thought you were, the lightning flashes, the sky tears open in thunder, and before you know it you’re just another panicked sheep in the herd stampeded by the storm.
all these things you prized about yourself are gone. it’s like one of those nightmare dreams where you remember you have an exam in a class you never read the books for.
your functional final comes and oopsie
as the dionysian derangement of times covidian comes to a close, there is A LOT of this around.
the cubscouts who did not sleep a wink last night for fear of death by disembodied hand are drying out their trousers and looking to get on with the hike.
as well they should.
but learning the correct lessons is important and most of what went wrong here was fear begetting foolishness and twisting crowd dynamics and compliance.
those who would grow and learn from mistakes must accept the idea that "i panicked and did the wrong thing and supported the wrong people."
you weren’t stupid. you were scared and it robbed you of your faculties.
nobody likes saying: i was dunning kreuger for "independent thought."
“i believed i would be brave and free thinking and rational. but i wasn’t.”
and i suspect it’s why so many “smart people” are struggling to adapt to the world post panicpalooza.
this is bitter pill to take.
"i was too afraid to buck peer pressure" feels like weakness.
rational people can admit they were wrong. but admitting you chickened out and surged with the sheep when you self identify as a "free thinker" is more fundamental.
it poses a more intrinsic threat to self image and self-regard.
it’s a form of narcissistic blow to the idea that you are self-governing. it makes you wonder if you can trust yourself.
and it makes you feel like a coward, the admission of which is very hard. being wrong is just a failure of an idea.
being scared stupid feels like a personal failing.
it's why so few want to face it especially if they acted badly, treated others poorly, engaged in or advocated their mistreatment, or hectored and harangued others out of misbegotten terror tyranny.
people will go to great lengths to not remember it that way. it’s just too damaging. whole memories get revised and whole paradigms of thought get overturned.
i suspect most people are going to be OK, but the amount of copium going around in the “intellectual” class is jarring.
"i was wrong because i was smart and brave and the people who wound up right were lucky and craven" is the most self-defeating form of rationalization.
it's not only the coward claiming they were the lion but calling the actual lions simps.
mostly, i suspect they are not mad about being wrong and endlessly touchy because some others were right.
mostly, i suspect they are mad at themselves because deep down in the scratchy dark dissonance of their subconscious, they know that they wound up on the team they did not want to and they do not like this about themselves.
and that one hurts.
“i trusted brilliant experts and lost and you got lucky because you think all government is bad” seems to be on the lips of half of the alleged internet intellignica just now.
like most big lies, it has an element of truth. some people did get lucky. some people did choose not to lock down because of their inherent contrarianism and some people refused the vaccine because of their abiding belief that only amethyst crystals can stop respiratory viruses. but this was hardly the majority. it’s just attribution fallacy as is:
"everyone is stupid but me and when they get it right, it's dumb luck. however, when i am wrong, it was because no one could have known!"
this is the apogee of vainglory and narcissistic egotism.
and it means that those consumed by it cannot be trusted because neither their reasoning nor self-image is sound.
next crisis, they will fail and flail just the same way.
they have learned less than nothing.
these outcomes seem especially galling for the self styled “smart” people. they look at those they deem their inferiors and say “how did you outperform me time and time again lo these three long years?” and the answer is simple:
because this was not a test of pure intellectual horsepower. few of the ones that matter are.
a panicked 99th percentiler can be easily out thought by a middle of the pack player who has retained rationality and independence, especially in times when the pack is being urged to self-harm.
just who freezes in foxholes is hard to predict before the first bullet parts your hair.
just who will obey blindly and who stop to consider the situation in times of crisis is much the same.
i have all the sympathy in the world for those who are changing their minds and saying "i was wrong" and "i panicked" and "i failed the milgram and asch and stanford experiments."
that shows capacity to grow and it’s a demanding road.
and this was a seriously hard test with a low pass rate.
the terrible truths of these experiments in human compliance and propensity to be beastly stand testament to the nature of the problem.
milgram showed us how people will harm people if pressured by authority
asch showed us that people will ignore their own senses and perceptions when pressured by peer group
stanford showed us how easily humans can be egged into abuse of power
most subjects fail ALL these tests.
passing all 3 at once is no mean feat.
everyone likes to claim they’d be the one to stand free, but history shows the lake wobegon lie of such self-regard: most people do not pass tests with 10% pass rates. it’s just a fact. one can own it or one can try to fool oneself and others.
it’s important to forgive and to allow those who want to change to change. it should be welcomed.
those who recognize their panic and conformity can at least seek to build up a resistance from future failing.
but those who call their cowardice "unluck" have learned inapposite lessons.
they know they got it wrong, but are determined not to delve too deeply into “why?”
it becomes an extended exercise in self-justification/self-delusion.
they have not "joined team rationality." they have just found new means to rationalize not doing so and are just once more caving to dominant social pressure.
they are not following the data, they are following the crowd.
everyone changed jerseys and so they are doing so as well.
keep your eye on them.
they'll change back the minute the next thing frightens them.