Psychology, recent

What Doesn’t Kill Us Brings Us Together

The Danish existentialist Søren Kierkegaard once suggested that the appeal of the human experience resided not in comfort and complacency but in struggle and self-discovery. And indeed, human history is defined by a cycle of calamity and collective growth. Though crops may fail, settlements may flood, and diseases may spread, humans reconsolidate and rebuild.

Science and technology have softened the sting of manmade and natural disasters. But such advancements have reduced the impact of key social stressors. They have curtailed flashpoint events which bring us together. One consequence of this is outrage culture. 

In the absence of legitimate calamities, we create artificial ones. We argue that evolved psychological adaptations dictate this need for a shared sense of difficulty.

Outrage culture is simply the calamitization of the mundane. It is a process by which group solidarity can be lazily achieved by combatting non-existent crises. Whether it’s an actor fabricating a hate crime, journalists inflating the menace of a boy in a hat, or academics creating blacklists, our outrage satisfies a deep desire to unite in overcoming a common threat.

Calamity and Solidarity

Communities that have been ravaged by disasters rarely descend into chaos and despondency. Rather, they become increasingly egalitarian and interdependent.

Consider the British and Germans during the Second World War.

Under bombardment from the German Luftwaffe, the British government expected civilian morale to crumble. But as the Blitz progressed, rates of admission to psychiatric hospitals declined. A Home Intelligence report found that nervous shocks accounted for only five percent of all raid casualties. One London hospital reported an average of only two cases of “bomb neuroses” per week.

More striking, though, was the increase in social solidarity. Though English society was (and is) characterized by class distinctions, such conventions faded amidst the howl of the German Stuka. People who had never interacted before the war established warm relations, sharing resources while discussing their fears and aspirations. In homes, businesses, train stations, and streets—wherever people gathered—there existed an air of collegiality. British pubs, in particular, were awash with conversation and song, teeming with patrons desperate for a cathartic release. Everyone, it seemed, had a “bomb story” to tell.

But as bad as the Blitz was, it paled in comparison to what Allied bombers did to German cities. By March 1945, Berlin’s residential hubs had been reduced to rubble. In Dresden, incendiary bombs created walls of flame, siphoning so much oxygen that those unharmed by the explosions died of suffocation. Dresden lost more people in one night than London did over the entire war. But remarkably, Allied reports revealed that German morale remained the highest among the cities that were the most bombed.

Instances of unity and resilience among the war-weary are not uncommon. In 1897, sociologist Emile Durkheim observed notable decreases in suicide among European nations enmeshed in war and revolution. In both the Second Schleswig War (1864) and Austro-Prussian War (1866), rates of suicide declined by 16 percent and 14 percent, respectively. These findings are further corroborated by Irish psychologist H.A. Lyons who reported a 50 percent decrease in suicides in Belfast during the 1969 Northern Ireland riots.

Curiously, survivors of natural disasters behave in a similar manner.

In a study of the White County Tornado of 1952, the National Opinion Research Center found that 53 percent of residents reported positive changes in the character of individuals. In fact, Charles Fritz, in an examination of social responses to natural disasters in the U.S., found no instance of a sustained panic following a catastrophe.

What explains this link between calamity and solidarity?

According to Fritz, disasters create a “community of sufferers”; individuals unified by a single transcendent goal: survival. The struggle to both overcome the dangers of a disaster and re-stabilize social life provides a structure and purpose to human activity that is absent in daily life.

Moreover, disasters achieve what laws cannot: equality. Because calamities are uniquely egalitarian in their capacity to kill indiscriminately, they dampen the qualities that make us different. Wealth, race, political affiliation; these things matter little to bombs and hurricanes.

When people come together to combat an existential threat, they suspend their racial, religious, and ideological differences. Under these conditions, we can freely interact with one another, using tragedy as a common frame of reference.

Calamities are also strangely primordial. They recreate the communal conditions of our evolutionary past.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Evolutionary psychologists tell us that human behavior and cognition are products of an ageless evolutionary process. Our brains and behaviors were moulded by the environments and selection pressures experienced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Each of these evolved programs exist because they promoted a behavior that enhanced the survival and reproductive fitness of early humans.

For instance, humans appear to be evolutionarily prepared to fear snakes and spiders. Some of our ancestors saw these creatures and responded with fear and avoidance. Others did not. Those who survived passed this survival system (see snake, move away) down to us.

Our brains evolved to extract information from an environment and then use it to regulate our behavior. Over time, this information gives rise to specialized cognitive programs that guide our behavior.

This suggests that the association between calamity and solidarity is by no means random. We’re good at overcoming crises because we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. And cooperation is the key.

Cooperation isn’t some new-fangled life hack. It’s a powerful survival mechanism built upon thousands of years of evolutionary trial and error. It’s an adaptive behavior. 

Adaptive behaviors are strategies that improve the reproductive success of an individual and their kin. They are, moreover, responses to adaptive problems. These are conditions which reduce a species’ reproductive success. Calamities are one major adaptive problem which cooperation evolved to overcome. In fact, it is this interaction between disaster and cooperation which defines our evolutionary past.

Our early ancestors lived in small, kin-based bands of about 150 people. Tormented by ravenous predators and nasty diseases, humans survived by sharing food and trading favors.

Consider Hill and Kaplan’s risk-pooling hypothesis. The authors found that the Ache of eastern Paraguay avoided starvation by risk-pooling scarce foods. Whereas vegetables could be cultivated by individual families, rare nutrient-dense foods like meat and honey were shared at the group-level. This ensured that all within the tribe could eat when supplies ran low.

Researchers also suggest that our interaction with predators shaped our urge to cooperate. The archaeological record is saturated with deadly predators that both hunted our ancestors and competed with them for food. This combination of predation risk and resource competition promoted increased sociality among early humans. In particular, our ancestors adopted a resource-defence model where meat was transported to a “home base” with fixed resources like water and plants.

Cooperation sets us apart from our closest evolutionary relatives. Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens, notes that one-on-one, a chimpanzee would defeat a human. But 1,000 humans would defeat 1,000 chimpanzees. This is because the cooperative skills of humans far outpace those of chimpanzees. As Harari contends, “Put 100,000 chimps in Wall Street or Yankee Stadium, and you’ll get chaos. Put 100,000 humans there, and you’ll get trade networks and sports contests.”

In short, cooperation improved the reproductive success of those who engaged in it. Our human ancestors stayed alive and had babies by sticking together. We are thus wired for socialization.

In his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman notes that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula, regions of the brain responsible for pain, activate for social pain as well as physical pain. Feeling ostracized literally hurts in the same way that stubbing your toe or being burned does.

And it works for pleasure, too. Regions of the brain involved in reward-processing, the ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex, respond in similar ways to social pleasure as well as physical pleasure. Studies find that the same regions of our brains activate when we are told that others like us as when we eat sweets or win money. Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp has stated that our brain’s social attachment system co-opted our pain and pleasure systems. This drives us to maintain social bonds and avoid isolation.

Evolution made a bet that hijacking our brain’s pain and pleasure centers to respond to social approval or disapproval would increase our odds of survival. Clearly, it paid off. 

Consider oxytocin. Or as it is often called, “the love molecule.”

This neurotransmitter appears to have evolved to bond mothers and infants. Throughout pregnancy and after giving birth, oxytocin floods the mother’s brain, creating a powerful attachment to the child. In fact, researchers have proposed that the biological prototype for all sociality among mammals resides in mother-infant interactions.

The popular misconception about oxytocin is that it makes people nicer. And it does, but only to those in our in-group. Oxytocin can increase aggression and hostility to those we perceive as a threat. As Lieberman puts it, “In nonprimates, oxytocin leads individuals to see all outsiders as possible threats, thus enhancing aggression toward them.” And administering oxytocin to humans “facilitates caregiving toward both liked groups and strangers, but it promotes hostility toward members of disliked groups.”

Then there’s the social brain hypothesis. This is the idea that our large brains are the result of our ancestors’ need to navigate a complex web of social relations. Psychologist William von Hippel suggests, “our intelligence didn’t evolve to solve abstract problems and complex ways of dealing with the environment. Our intelligence evolved to deal with each other more effectively and to leverage the skills and abilities we have when we work together.”

We are deeply social. We need and crave it. And often, group solidarity is achieved when external threats arise.

Ancient Ideas in Modern Skulls

We live a world that is very different from the one frequented by our ancestors. Yet, our cognitive programs are shaped for that social environment. Technological advances have freed us from the burdens of our evolutionary past.

Consider the ever-shrinking frequency of wars. In Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker notes that “there have no more than three wars in any year since 1945, none in most years since 1989, and none since the American-led invasion of Iraq.” In 2016, the Western Hemisphere’s last active political armed conflict came to an end as the Columbian government and Marxist FARC made peace. Wars are now concentrated almost exclusively in a zone stretching from Nigeria to Pakistan, an area containing less than a sixth of the world’s population.    

Furthermore, modern wars result in fewer deaths than in any historical period. In fact, detailed analyses by Oxford economist Max Roser has revealed decreases in state-based battle deaths, international wars, and conflicts between “Great Powers.” Rates of interpersonal violence have fallen as well. The historical criminologist Manuel Eisner has documented long term decreases in homicides all throughout Europe. At no point in history have humans lived more peacefully.

What about natural disasters? While the frequency of catastrophic events has not declined, the death toll from these events has. Between 1900 and 2018, the global death rate from natural disasters fell from 76.8 per 100,000 to 0.14 per 100,000. Or take lightning fatalities. In the first decade of the 20th century, the average annual death rate due to lightning was 4.5 per million in the US. In the first 15 years of the 21st century, it dropped to 0.12 per million.

These developments are a fortunate by-product of technological advancements. As Pinker explains, “When an earthquake strikes, fewer people are crushed by collapsing masonry or burned in conflagrations. When the rains stop, they can use water impounded in reservoirs. When the temperature soars or plummets, they stay in climate-controlled interiors”. The advent of early warning systems, predictive models, and disaster management strategies have curtailed catastrophes.

Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. Modernity has reduced the lethality of manmade and natural disasters. But our desire for group solidarity remains. Humans are driven to overcome crises. It is an evolutionary instinct.

The ideas of our ancient ancestors still rattle in our skulls. As Hector Garcia writes in Sex, Power, and Partisanship, “Though the risk of being massacred by neighbouring tribes has diminished since our days as hunter-gatherers, our minds remain calibrated for ancestral environments that roiled with intertribal bloodshed.”

We evolved to experience hardships together. The prehistoric stressors that united early humans no longer exist. Now we create artificial ones. This is one basis for the outrage which grips us today. 

From Molehills to Mountains

Outrage culture is the calamitization of the mundane. Any event, no matter how ordinary or unimaginative, is an opportunity for moral preening and collective action.

But the unnerving thing about our outrage is how well it reflects our desire for overcoming challenges. Søren Kierkegaard, who we began this piece with, noted that there would come a time when the best thing that you could do for people is to make things difficult. And when the ease of life becomes so great that it becomes altogether too great, we’ll seek out challenges that offer purpose and fulfillment. 

All calamities carry the potential for unity. And indeed, outrage culture is driven by an unconscious desire for group solidarity. 

Given that these mundane events are without any recognizable consequences (death, displacement, etc.), there are no meaningful rights to wrong. In other words, they don’t matter. Not to you, not to us, and not to those who claim that they do. But what does matter is solidarity. Outrage isn’t something you do, but something you’re a part of.

We want to feel unified. But we don’t know that this is our ultimate, underlying motive. We’re mostly aware of our proximate motives. But why calamitize mundane events?

Outrage culture appears to be nurtured by concept creep. This is the idea that as the world becomes safer, our definition of what constitutes harm expands. Take violence. Violence was once defined as a physical act but some have expanded it to include language

Concept creep seems to come naturally to us. In a recent study, experimenters showed people a series of blue and purple dots. They then asked them to judge whether each dot was blue or not. In early trials, half the dots were blue while other half were purple. Gradually, experimenters manipulated the dots so that more dots that appeared were purple. However, the participants began to expand their definition of “blue” and counted many of the purple dots as blue. They looked for blue dots and managed to “find” them.

But it’s not just dots. In a different version of the experiment, participants looked at faces with expressions ranging from neutral to threatening. As threatening faces appeared less often, participants began describing neutral faces as threatening.

When we look for signals, we’ll often broaden our definition of the signal to make more observations fit.

Along the same lines, our increasing prosperity has led us to expand our definition of what constitutes a threat. As we grow accustomed to the marvels of modern life, we scrutinize every minor indecency. As William von Hippel suggests in The Social Leap, our adjustment to foods that don’t kill us and devices that protect us allow minor concerns to stand out in sharper relief.

Under these conditions, the mundane becomes the catastrophic. You can find some entertaining examples here, here, and here.    

There are at least two reasons for why we calamitize the mundane. First, we weren’t built for comfort; we evolved for stress and conflict. Second, we have a coalitional instinct to be good group members. Plainly, we want conflict and we want allies to help us resolve it.

Outrage culture allows us to satisfy these urges. By broadening the definition of calamities, we create new problems for which we need allies to solve. Moreover, what we categorize as problems, and the solutions we propose, serve as indicators of our tribal affiliation.

Our outrage endears to those in our in-group. It is a flag to rally around and an enemy to defeat; a common cause built around a non-existent crisis. Only by banding together can we combat the threat of risqué Christmas music and white girls in cheongsams. Outrage is a destructive drug that satiates our primal desire for group solidarity. 

Life is Suffering

Authentic crises create authentic solidarity. Contrived crises produce counterfeit solidarity. By manufacturing artificial crises, we forge a temporary sense of unity with our ingroup members. By coming together around outrage, we tear apart the social fabric.

To be clear, we aren’t calling for wars or earthquakes. To suffer for the sake of suffering is pointless. Neither are we condemning the wonders of modern life. The more technological progress the better.   

What we are suggesting is that humans cannot be separated from their suffering. It gives meaning to life. As Francis Fukuyama once wrote, “if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in world without struggle.”

Only by enduring and overcoming hardship can we begin to appreciate the beauty of life. Rather than allowing momentary outrage to hijack our attention, we can be more thoughtful about which threats to focus on and how to stop them. We long for conflict. But we can be more vigilant about how we satisfy this desire.

 


Vincent Harinam is a law enforcement consultant, research associate at the Independence Institute, and PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. You can follow him
@vincentharinam

Rob Henderson is a Gates Cambridge Scholar and PhD student at the University of Cambridge. You can follow him @robkhenderson

Feature photo by Everett Historical / Shutterstock.

67 Comments

  1. Ben Sukromny says

    How does PTSD among soldiers fit in to this argument? Why is it seemingly so common when, according to this essay, these soldiers should be more psychologically resilient than before?

    • Blue Lobster says

      My understanding of the apparently increased rates of PTSD among combat veterans is, in part, due to changes/improvements in the training that soldiers receive before ever entering the theater of battle.

      I don’t recall the source and am rather disinclined, at the moment, to ferret it out because I’ve just finished a rich and scrumptious seafood chowder prepared by my lovely wife and the intensity of the resultant satiation has rendered me fairly lethargic.

      However, as I recall, combat participation on the battlefield during the American Civil War was something like 50%. Which is to say, only half of the soldiers ostensibly fighting were doing anything other than cowering in fear or otherwise trying to avoid anything resembling combat while pretending to go through the motions of firing and reloading their weapons to avoid unwanted attention from commanding officers.

      Of course, commanding officers generally were not and are not stupid and militaries have a strongly vested interest in studying the effectiveness of their troops which has led to increasingly rigorous programs to prepare soldiers in training for the reality of ground warfare. I believe the figure I read regarding modern combat participation (i.e. Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, etc.) is something north of 90%.

      I am not aware of any such figures for combat participation from WWI, WWII or Korea but would imagine they fall somewhere in between those aforementioned. Essentially, we now have the ability to transform a typical human civilian, whose instinctual reaction to the physical danger posed by an attacker is to retreat if at all possible, into a veritable killing machine.

      This extraordinary subversion of natural human behavior very likely comes at a cost, sometimes severely so, for the modern soldier. Human behavior is certainly plastic to a substantial degree as evidenced by the effectiveness of modern combat training but human nature is quite fixed and training a human to behave in ways that are utterly antithetical to his or her evolutionary instincts is likely to have unpredictable and deleterious consequences.

      • Grant says

        The army did do quite a few post war questioning of soldiers after WW II and from what I recall, participation was high. There were stories I think attributed to S. L.A. Marshall, that implied that many men did not fire their weapons in combat, but that has been dispelled, and those soldiers were not as well trained as today.
        Maybe 10% of men in the armed forces experienced intense prolonged violence. Combat fatigue was very common, but also was intense cooperation, loyalty and bonding.

        • Charlie says

          People used to be tougher. The ANZAC troops of WW1 were very tough as hey were brought up in a pioneer environment. There is a massive difference between say someone who has been brought in pioneer environment, has boxed and played rugby and accepts hardship as a way of life to a city bred milksop. Look at The Ghurkhas, brought in very tough conditions.

          Someone who experienced 5.5 years of combat in WW2 said one hast spend enough time to become hardened. Those who survive mentally and physically become indifferent. G Wellum in his book ” First Light ” says said. he became indifferent to death.

          Odette Hallows GC is interviewed below and explains how she coped with torture : she had her toenails ripped out and her back burnt , starts at 3mim47.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7oN6xSnG4Y

          At 5min she describes how when her back was being burnt she has to get away from the torture staring at trees in the distance and escaping into the sky . Hallows says ” it is easy, one has two choices , to talk or not to talk “.

          There are many people who have survived horrors in the 20th century: why haven’t doctors and psychologists asked those who coped how they did it?.

          During WW2 it was discovered that when ships were sunk , it was the older sailors who were surviving, not the younger ones. This did not make sense until people realised that the older sailors had gone to sea when conditions were tougher so they were mentally and physically stronger than the young ones. Consequently, Outward Bound courses were developed to toughen up young sailors so more would survive being shipwrecked.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outward_Bound

          Outward Bound’s founding mission was to improve the survival chances of young seamen after their ships were torpedoed in the mid-Atlantic.

          I suggest everyone should view the interview of Odette Hallows GC.

          If people are concerned about equality, surely the greatest is that some people have the strength of spirit to survive and those who lack it and die or are broken? People nowadays concentrate on materialistic inequality but is spiritual the most important ?

      • Latinitas says

        I think you’re probably thinking of the book “On Killing.”

    • Simon-Pierre Fortin says

      This book called Tribe by Sebastian Junger touches on that exact subject. From my understanding, PTSD seems to be a reaction to the lack of group solidarity when soldiers come back from war. Being subject to extreme stresses during war, soldiers create intense bonds and group solidarity that cannot be matched in current society. There is no need for duty and group commitment which sort of invalidates the sole purpose of a soldier during war. Upon their return, soldiers are more subject to develop symptoms of PTSD and/or depression.

      • @Simon-Pierre

        That’s part of it but not all of it.

        The other part of is, as Winston Churchill said, the exhilaration of being shot at and missed. It’s much like taking 10-20 mg of methamphetamine on an empty stomach but it’s instantaneous. Suddenly, your vision is clearer, your reactions are faster and your ability to focus on what is happening is very much enhanced.

        Group solidarity at the platoon level and below is important for the dangerous but usually uneventful day to day activities like walking point, advancing towards an objective, flitting in and out of landing zones, taking your turn at a listening post and the like. But when the shooting starts the boredom, depression and general discomfort evaporates and, as I said, it’s like an amphetamine high.

        When it’s over and you go home, you come home a stranger.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Indeed, solidarity among veterans is high. PTSD is no doubt an issue with the brain as taught in a safe world (their community/country), conflicted by the violence and hatred induced by military tribalism, compounded by the fact that many survive catastrophes that previously resulted in their deaths (and thus didn’t get suffer a mental disorder).

    • Jesse K says

      Another aspect to PTSD is frequency of combat. During the days of swords and shields most wars involved perhaps three or four battles, due to the need to centralize striking power to achieve a victory. Consider the Second Punic War. Over the course of 15 or so years the Roman’s and Carthaginians met in battle less than thirty times including large skirmishes, and each battle could be expected to last less than a day. Contrast this with the Battle of the Bulge, where a 101st soldier could expect to see combat every day for at least a month. This means that the modern soldier would experience the same amount of combat as an ancient soldier in a much shorter time span

    • Tyler Watkins says

      Perhaps because current military is volunteer meaning these are people who want to go to war but the reality was more horrifying than their fantasy so their ego crumbles. Volunteering for battle is a bit different than a natural disaster that strikes indiscriminately. But if you want to talk about drafted soldiers from Vietnam, the US Military was the “natural disaster ” affecting the Vietnamese not the other way around. Their PTSD was caused by guilt.

  2. Tom says

    Good article, but I’m not sure I see your point. The left is goofy and destructive and a whole bunch of other terrible things? Okay, I’ve got it now.

    • Farris says

      @Tom

      “The left is goofy and destructive…”

      While I don’t necessarily disagree, that would still mean that outrage over the Left’s goof destructive tactics is likewise an effort to create solidarity. Perhaps the better conclusion is the next evolutionary step needs to be to reserve outrage for true calamities and injustices, while simultaneously finding solidarity in trying to find solutions to real problems. A bit trite I will admit but personally I find an over abundance of outrage and offense a waste of energy and counter productive.

  3. Igor says

    This was exactly what I saw in rebelling Donetsk in summer 2014, when we were shelled by Ukranian reactive artillery, howitzers and mortars which were reaching the central quarters of the city. In the midst of this dreadful terror, people became much nicer to each other, caring, compassionate. For us it was a common calamity that was uniting. And when I fled from it to Kiev, on the Ukranian side I observed exactly the opposite, an outrage which was not supported by any real physical threat but was totally fabricated by media, so-called “Russian threat”. People in Kiev even though their life was not at all endangered were literally insane with their fear and fury not knowing what was really going on just fed on rumours and media fakes. In their outrage, like an intoxicated mob, they were screaming that those in Eastern Ukraine should have been scorched and were encouraging their army which was trying to do that.

    The difference between people’s reaction on real physical threat in Donetsk and on imaginary fake threat in Kiev was astonishing. And which side received unequivocal support from the so-called “world community” and Western democracies? Of course, the one outraged by media fabricated threat, not the side that was actually under fire.

    • dirk says

      That’s really a worthwhile experience from the eastern front, Igor, good to tell it here. Not many people come forward with such experiences. But I believe it immediately, sounds all too human.

    • Stephanie says

      Not sure if being annexed by the Russians constitutes a “fake” threat.

      • Tim Lewis says

        Maybe ‘fake’ in the sense of an immediate threat, but your point is a reasonable one. It didn’t work out all that great for Ukrainians 100 years ago.

      • @Stephanie Donetsk and Lugansk were not “annexed” by Russia. Get your facts right. And as Igor pointed out, the population in Donetsk and Lugansk feels threatened not by ‘the Russians’, but by the puppet Kiev government that was installed after the ’14 coup.

        Crimea rejoined Russia. You can call this annexation if you want, but there was a vote, and not a single fire was shot.

  4. S. Cheung says

    …Humans have evolved to value tribal tendencies, because such a social structure improves chances of survival.
    So naturally, neurocognitive pathways have similarly adapted to “reward” tribal behavior with extra hits of dopamine and serotonin.
    Tribes themselves really come together in the face of common threats, because it increases the chances of individual group members surviving that those threats….

    I’m good with the thesis so far.

    …But humans in general really seem to enjoy challenges, and are otherwise besot with boredom.
    Such that in the absence of worthy threats, and to curb boredom, they will concoct faux outrage….

    I’m not sure what evolutionary advantage there is to manufacture faux outrage and/or to suppress boredom. Does our evolved attraction to tribes fall under the auspices of “use it or lose it”? Does “fight/flight” need to be practiced? For why else would you need to concoct excuses for a tribe to come together when a worthy one doesn’t exist? It would seem to me that this would instead be maladaptive behavior…and hopefully that tendency will get selected out of our gene pool in due course, if it in fact exists.

    In contradistinction, I doubt “crying wolf” would be a selective force of any kind. But it would sure be nice if those who are prone to outrage could at least be a little more selective, so that we would actually pay attention to their grievances when they are worthy, rather than simply tuning them out at their next protest.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Necessity is the mother of invention. If our brains require tribalism to feel good about ourselves while holding others as lesser than us, we invent it.

    • Stephanie says

      Perhaps we’ve never experienced a time with so little actual conflict, so we’ve never had this problem before. This may be the first time these instincts are maladaptive.

    • Cornfed says

      “I’m not sure what evolutionary advantage there is to manufacture faux outrage and/or to suppress boredom.”
      There isn’t. The point is, we’re wired in a way that allows us to deal effectively with calamity. That’s due to our ancestors evolving in environments where calamity was a common thing. We now live in a world where calamities are relatively rare. yet we are still wired the same way, and respond to relatively trivial issues as if they were calamities because, well, that’s how we’re wired. No need to wonder if there’s an evolutionary advantage or disadvantage. We’re not evolving anymore. (Yes, I know, there’s some debate about that, but it’s not at all clear.)

  5. Jean Levant says

    “Science and technology have softened the sting of manmade and natural disasters. But such advancements have reduced the impact of key social stressors. They have curtailed flashpoint events which bring us together.”

    Very strong and true premise. That’s a key point of our era (in the West World), indeed. Fortunately, all the climate disasters we are copiously told is going to fix the lack of these events, right?

  6. Serenity says

    I think, this article has a wrong premise whereby “Science and technology have softened the sting of manmade and natural disasters… One consequence of this is outrage culture. In the absence of legitimate calamities, we create artificial ones.”

    Our culture of outrage was created and successfully propagated by the movement of progressive SJWs. Please see “What They Don’t Teach You at the University of Washington’s Ed School” for the details.

    These extremists fuel hostilities, deepen social fractures – creating outrage and dividing society based on identity groups.

    “…an actor fabricating a hate crime, journalists inflating the menace of a boy in a hat, or academics creating blacklists” – are examples of psychopathic behaviour of people who use this outrage to further personal ends.

    • hooodathunkit says

      You are mistaking the author’s premise, ‘less real disaster results in artificial calamities’ with the manifestations of his premise.

      Outrage culture —which you blame— cannot exist in a world of real, devastating disasters and disease. Progressivism, SJW, and the plethora of fake ‘horrors’ we hear about today can’t co-exist with real plagues, floods, devastating war, or earthquakes; but can only rise in the absence of these real disasters.

      There’s a biological parallel in the body when it is relatively disease-free that disorders (like lupus and allergies) where the immune system finds something, anything, to attack become more common. Eating dirt and getting snotty noses is good for kids.

      • Serenity says

        Sorry, hooodathunkit, I should’ve made myself clear.

        The authors: “In the absence of legitimate calamities, we create artificial ones… Outrage culture is simply the calamitization of the mundane.”

        I agree that some of us (not all of us!) ‘in the absence of legitimate calamities create artificial ones’. However, this phenomenon on its own right could not bring about the culture of victimhood, bullying and mobbing – outrage culture.

        Propagation of this culture started on university and college campuses in the 1960s. Certain degree of lawlessness and an imbalance of power in favour of liberalism in Western academia disinhibited malevolent behaviour in some and silenced the majority.

        It is worth mentioning that in long run lawlessness and an imbalance of power give rise to so-called honour cultures. Communities with high levels of crime, delinquency and unethical psychopathic behaviour are vulnerable and unstable in the face of adverse circumstances.

        [During] the Chicago heat wave of 1995… poor African-Americans, living in areas with low levels of trust and high level of crime, were too frightened to open their windows or doors, or leave their homes to go to local cooling centres established by the city authorities. Neighbours didn’t check on neighbours, and hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people died. In equally poor Hispanic neighbourhoods, characterized by high levels of trust and active community life, the risk of death was much lower.

        • hooodathunkit says

          You say “Propagation of this culture started on university and college campuses in the 1960s”. That’s not true, it started in the 1920s and 1930s, and it’s certainly true it was revealed as rising during the prosperity of the 1960s.

          But it’s also immaterial. It is the rising prosperity, health, and freedom from calamity that ALLOW these movements to propagate.

          People —the mass of them— psychologically expect disaster of some sort. Whether it’s plagues and disease; or in their absence autism caused by the lack of same. There’s the environmental nuclear winter (1970s) and when that failed to materialize —poof!— there’s global warming.

          Progressivism has been around forever, but people can’t be bothered with autism diagnoses when half their children die before 5 or 6. Nobody cares about global (weather) when your crop is flooded out, and that after last year’s drought when the house burned down.

    • David of Kirkland says

      There’s nothing new about outrage culture. The literal witch hunts show people fuming over a non-problem. The Know-Nothings. Wars over religious thought? Bush 2’s Iraq War. Putting Jesus and Socrates to death. Closing society to outside forces and influences. Tulips. Hysteria is rather common.

      • Serenity says

        Totally agree, David of Kirkland.

        Psychopathy is as old as mankind. Whipping up negative emotions to enjoy confrontations and fights is one of the common psychopathic behavioural trends. For example, our friend Chad Chen really enjoys trolling on this site.

  7. Jim Matlock says

    I recall an Ursula K. Le Guin short story in which the protagonist was able to have certain desires and wishes fulfilled. He wished for a common struggle or purpose that would unify all of humanity. He got an alien invasion of the planet as the answer to his wish. Let’s hope something a little less existentially threatening comes along.

    • Todd says

      The story you are thinking of is The Lathe of Heaven. An exceptional read and prescient in that one of the primary threats facing humanity at the beginning of the story is global warming.

      The premise of an alien invasion bringing humanity together is a quite popular Hollywood theme, Independence Day being a good example. President Reagan even used this as an example of a unifying event during a UN speech in 1987.

      For an event to become broadly unifying it must impact all fairly equally as this article notes. An alien invasion certainly ratifies this requirement. With much of the current social outrage over less catastrophic events it appears the contrivance of conflict is to not only to enhance group unity but also establish one’s status within that group. In this aspect it is a self-licking ice cream cone; to maintain and gain more status within the group centered around non-catastrophic conflict (real or perceived) the conflict must be perpetuated. All good witch hunts need a witch.

  8. Leap says

    I suspect that concocted outrage is as much a matter of immaturity, akin to temper tantrums in response to simplistic judgments, as anything else. The emotion it whips up can just as easily create schism within a group (intersectionality can be amusing to watch) as cohesion against an outsider – it being a psychological loose cannon.

    • Lightning Rose says

      I also think much of the “outrage” manufactured is confined to platforms like Twitter, possibly to be reported by lazy newspaper writers and made to be a much bigger thing than it is. Social media by definition draws a crowd easily addicted to the easy approbation of “imaginary friends,” where they can be a big “influencer” for mouthing off, but when the app is closed they’re often just an underemployed, socially isolated, and heavily medicated for mental illnesses in real life.

      Among people who are gainfully employed, paying mortgages, raising families, driving kids to activities, planning vacations and managing businesses, there’s damn little time for “outrage” about intersectional “atrocities” like white girls in Asian style dresses. Believe me–this stuff is so stupid it doesn’t even qualify as “clickbait.” The group perpetuating this is small and dysfunctional.

      • Antiochus of Olympia says

        Thank you, the first coherent comment I have read thus far.

  9. We are not as smart as we think we are says

    My theory for why we do not see wars in industrialised nations today – those nations are now so incredibly vulnerable to attack due to their centralised infrastructure and de-localised economies. So for one industrialised society to attack another would be suicide for both (after even limited retaliation – their militaries understand this). If you wanted to cause complete and utter chaos in Europe, the USA or even China now, just attack their liquid fuel distribution network hubs. Soon deliveries of food to, and distribution within, cities would be massively disrupted and most societies now, with their “just-in-time” delivery systems, would collapse into hunger and rioting within a couple of weeks. During the second world war there was certainly hunger, but most food economies then were still largely local. It is a different world today, with many millions of people living in cities and largely unappreciative of how dependent they are on a continuous flow of massive amounts of food into cities from distant agricultural areas. All of it powered by oil….

    • E. Olson says

      Reminds me of a “what if” video I recently saw that discussed what would happen in a Red-Blue Civil war in the US. Basically the analyst said that since the Blue strongholds are major cities in the coastal areas, they would quickly fall into chaos because the Red strongholds are 90% of the land area where all the food is grown and most of the oil/gas/coal is extracted. Furthermore, since most of the military would not doubt fall in to the Red side and enforce blockades of food or fuel to Blue cities, the Blue side would quickly collapse and surrender.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        Besides which anyone true blue would not be so Incorrect as to own a gun. But since all cities, even blue cities, have a large Victim class, and since the Victims are likely to have guns, it seems to me that the blue cities would quickly dissolve into internal bloodbath as the Victims dispatched the Oppressors. As I said, that latter being too pure to defend themselves anyway it should be over soon. So any civil war would essentially be a walk-over for the reddies.

      • “since most of the military would not doubt fall in to the Red side”

        I’m not so sure about that. Mercenaries are usually pretty reliable if they are being paid regularly and are facing only unorganized militia.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Our “first” civil war ended the opposite of that analysis. But it was an earlier time. Though the city-country divide was well established, along with industry-farming.

      • Antiochus of Olympia says

        That sounds like a conclusion you would fancy in the first place.

    • ga gamba says

      Just knock out the electrical power grid. Without electricity the modern world collapses. Water can’t be pumped, so you’ve eliminated potable water delivered to each household as well as the way to remove human waste from them. Fire fighting using the water distribution system degrades and ceases. Perishable food spoils and rots. Elevators cease, so anyone living above the fourth or fifth storey faces not only the daunting challenge of securing food, water (which weighs about 8 pounds per gallon), supplies, and medicines but also lugging it up all those stairs home. Urban transportation networks are at gridlock. After hospitals run out of petrol to run their generators – typically a two-week supply – they’re left to practice battlefield medicine. Of course, we’re assuming hospital staff keep returning to work instead of joining the masses looking for food and water and caring for immediate family members. Refining oil requires electricity. Same too at the ports where cranes unload the containers.

      Soon enough the dead pile up. How well can a barely functioning system handle mass death?

      Now, if it’s merely a city where this happens it can be dealt with, but for an entire region it’s far worse. What if it’s an entire country? Or a group of them, such as Western Europe?

      • Barney Doran says

        So it would appear our extreme vulnerability – at least in the more ‘advanced’ countries – is for now the greatest societal binder. We might bicker, complain, and posture, but we are smart enough to realize that we are defenseless against harmful technologies and so terribly needy of the beneficial ones. This is not all bad, at least for now. The problem is that absent catastrophic war the population will continue grow apace, food production will become ever more strained, and fresh water demand ever greater. So no matter how good we think we are behaving, this binding vulnerability is just setting us for an even greater whack. But then I guess, according this article, it is just that whack that we will need to bring us together – after we have clawed each other’s eyes out. Ever get the feeling you just can’t win this game?

        • E. Olson says

          BD – Given current trends, the more likely calamity facing the world is population decline. Fertility rates are dropping around the world, and most spectacularly among the wealthy, smart, and tolerant. A world with fewer (if dumber) people would not in itself be terrible tragedy, but given the Ponzi scheme nature of the Western social security/pension/safety net systems, which depend on a steady or growing population of young people productively working to pay their taxes/contributions that provide the funding for retirees and other beneficiaries, such systems will quickly collapse, and I’m not sure that sort of calamity will bring us together.

          • Barney Doran says

            EO – You make an accurate point about the declining fertility rates of the wealthy, smart, and tolerant; however, I am not sure if that applies to the rest of the population roster. If they continue to populate at current rates, I am afraid that growing disequilibrium will bring about either a considerable calamity and/or a very different world order.

      • Lightning Rose says

        I thought a lot about this after Hurricane Sandy. As the storm passed, the deer and wild turkeys came out of the woods and immediately resumed placid foraging for food; the horses broke their “hunkered-down” formation and dispersed to begin grazing; the songbirds took flight and carried on their birdy business with barely an interruption. The insects regrouped to form their swarming bug-columns in the sweaty air.

        All while the radio screamed about flooding up to 33rd street in NYC, subways knocked out, no power, houses on fire on Staten Island, looting and fighting, infrastructure impassable.

        And it dawned on me we might just have complicated our existence a little too much.

      • David of Kirkland says

        ga gamba – Hence the advantages of distributed energy production, especially solar (just easiest now, but wind and nuclear could be wider and smaller, though investment patterns suggest a preference for centralized to maximize their profits).

      • Weasels Ripped My Flesh says

        “What if it’s an entire country?”

        For example, Venezuela?

        Self-inflicted. No invading military force needed. Although those super sneaky, CIA-trained iguanas and parrots can’t be ruled out…

    • Craig Willms says

      @We are not as smart

      It makes me shudder to consider this. The thought of something like an EMP device detonated over the central U.S. (or even something like Yellowstone blowing it’s top) would destroy the U.S. physically/economically and as a result the world economy would collapse for a while. The petty and ridiculous outrage (twitter) culture wouldn’t even be a sad memory.

      Speaking of Twitter – I think Twitter and to some degree Facebook are a net negative. (I know profound, right) Anything positive is heavily outweighed by the cultural damage they’ve created. Since the genie probably won’t be going back in the bottle we can only try to ignore it.

  10. Fickle Pickle says

    First of all I suspect that if Kierkegaard were alive today he would not be a “libertarian”.
    As far as I know he was scathingly critical of the politics and culture of the emerging new “independent” man, and its inevitable dark future.

    That having been said I much prefer the social and political vision described by these writer/activists, all of which base their proposals on a quantum world-view.

    Amit Goswami in Quantum Activism, and Quantum Economics
    Ervin Laszlo in Beyond Fear and Rage, plus Chaos Point 2012 and Beyond
    Charles Eisenstein in Sacred Economics, and The More Beautiful World Our Heart’s Know Is Possible.
    Paul Hawken in Blessed Unrest

  11. Fickle Pickle says

    Is anyone familiar with the work of the HeartMath Institute?
    It was one of the major influences informing the work of Joseph Chilton Pearce especially in his book The Heart-Mind Matrix How the heart Can Teach the mind New Ways to Think.

    One of key statements in the book is that most of our violence saturated “culture”, especially TV and other “entertainments” reinforce the primitive Reptilian Brain, with devastaing all-the-way-down-the-line cultural consequences.

    Perhaps then it is NO coincidence that the Golden Haired Golem of “greatness” or the Reptile In Chief now haunts the White House. He certainly does not invoke or empower the Better Angels of our human nature.

    These statements affirm the heart’s feeling-intelligence, and the Quantum world-view too.

    Even though all beings are functionally autonomous at the level of the feeling-heart there is not the slightest difference between human beings, and the non-humans too.

    The negative exploitation and killing of human beings by human beings violates the heart of one at all.
    The negative exploitation and killing of non-human beings by human beings violates the heart of one and all.
    The negative exploitation, and progressive degradation, and potential destruction of the fundamental order of the natural environment on which all Earth-life depends violates the heart and directly threatens the life of one and all.

    One thing is for sure that under the “leadership” of the Reptile in Chief the destruction of the natural environment is going to be turbo-charged. It already is of course.

    • That “destruction of the natural environment” you’re talking about is the contrived crisis the article is talking about. Absent real existential crises, existential crises are being created. “But global warming is real, denier!!!!” you say. Yes, warming is happening, but it is neither as profound as is being claimed or as detrimental as is claimed.

      Over the past 20 years how many calamitous predictions have been made that NEVER come to pass? All. Of. Them.

      The idea that global warming is devistatingly catastrophic is the made up calamity from the article.

      Your vitriolic hatred of Trump and his supporters is the exact psychological response discussed here.

      But I will go farther than the article in my opinion of how dangerous you and your groups thinking is. If you keep up this “Republicans are untermensch” to facilitate destroying your constructed enemy, the blowback will become an existential crises for your group….

      • David of Kirkland says

        Not having happened is not the same as never will happen.
        Like if you wait until you see the tumor before you see the oncologist, waiting for the catastrophe of climate change will not make matters better. That people make up calamities cannot be denied; but neither can you deny that many deny that problems that face them until it’s too late.

      • Fickle Pickle says

        All of the people that I referred to are deeply concerned about the future of human life on this planet.
        None of them has even a smidgen of worldly power or any real influence in the corridors of power. Or put in another way any access to or influence on the Golden Haired Golem or any of his benighted advisers, especially on environmental matters.

        Meanwhile please tell me precisely which “group” I supposedly belong to?

        It seems as though those on the right-side of the culture wars divide, including the Golden Golem can denigrate, and de-humanzse anyone who quite rightly criticizes them and their dreadfully dark applied politics, and that is supposedly perfectly OK.
        But the moment anyone like me criticizes them we are dismissed as promoting them as “untermensch”

  12. E. Olson says

    Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) predicts we will only react to a crisis if the resulting calamities are certain to happen, soon to happen, and would be personally devastating. If the crisis is deemed uncertain to happen, or is likely to happen far in the future, or is likely to be harmful only in places far away (out-groups), PMT predicts nothing will be done. Only if the crisis is judged worthy of response are possible responses appraised for their efficacy and attractiveness. Minor crises might be tackled if painless and effective responses are readily available, but if nothing effective can be done to avert the crisis, or if the possible responses are too painful to contemplate, then PMT predicts that nothing will be done about the crisis.

    Now if you apply PMT to pretty much all of the current crises promoted by the Left, it becomes easy to see why it is difficult to generate social unity in response. For example, the global warming “crisis” is highly uncertain as many predictions of doom over the past 30 years have passed without calamity, and many of the worst effects are predicted to occur in 50 or 100 years to remote parts of the globe (the Poles, Maldives, etc). Thus PMT predicts most people will not be willing to do much to avert global warming, which is a huge contrast with the high costs associated with the “needed” responses such as giving up capitalism/democracy, jets, cars, heat and air-conditioning, meat, pets, etc. that make modern life comfortable and attractive.

    Similarly, the racism/sexism “crisis” also seems very uncertain and lacking in harm given that the US recently elected a black man to two terms as US president in a country that is 87% non-black, blacks millionaires make up 80% of the NBA and NFL and are cheered and paid by mostly white fans, women make up 60% of undergraduate students and slight majorities of professional and graduate school students, and a woman narrowly lost the most recent election as US president, and several are already lined up for 2020. Thus PMT again would predict that few people would be willing to do much to avert the racism/sexism “crisis”, particularly when many of the proposed solutions such as reparations are deemed hugely unfair when slavery ended in 1865, and/or ineffective as evidenced by the ineffectiveness of 50+ years of “war on poverty”, and/or because the civil rights/feminism movements have already solved most of the problems of unequal opportunity.

    One element that I have not seen in the PMT literature, however, is the degree to which the heavy-handed promotion of “crises” by small segments of society, which “require” unfair, ineffective, or highly costly solutions, might lead to social disharmony and anger among the majority who do not see a “crisis”, do not feel responsible for the “crisis”, and are not willing or able to pay the price thought necessary to “solve” the “crisis”. This might be an interesting research project, although the results might be deemed threatening to the Leftist gatekeepers of research funding agencies and peer review journals.

    • Jean Levant says

      Good point, E Ohlson. It looks like a fair refutation of the authors’ thesis.

      • Jean Levant says

        Sorry. Olson. I confused with another guy.

  13. Colin Johansson says

    Excellent article that summarized what many folks felt, but perhaps they could not effectively understand.

    Moreover, my biggest critique of the writing from the on-set was my intuition telling me that this would be an egalitarian piece merely advocating for idealistic group-solidarity. However, the writers then spoke of in-group/threat behavior, which is both historical and evolutionary.

    How to solve the evolutionary mechanisms that provoke hostility between differing groups and tamper down these “false crises” is still anyone’s guess. Diversity is our strength does not seem effective. However,the corporate media is propagating these events for profit; consequently, the mainstream left and right have no effective means to end the neurosis.

    Kudos for explaining it, though!

  14. Donna Reynolds says

    Thought-provoking piece. Well done. Thank you.

  15. Donald Tikkala says

    “Put 100,000 chimps in Wall Street or Yankee Stadium, and you’ll get chaos. Put 100,000 humans there, and you’ll get trade networks and sports contests.”

    Indeed. This reminds me of a picture published in National Geographic about 20 or 30 years ago of chimpanzees working on computers in the Boston Athenaeum library. Not sure if my link will work, but here goes:

    https://imgflip.com/memetemplate/57787310/monkeys-on-computers

  16. Valter Peric says

    Everyone who lived in Sarajevo during the siege (4 year siege, longest in modern history) will tell you the same, it made most of the people come together and closer to each others. However, the spirit of togetherness went away as quickly as it came, at least on a communal level. On a personal level, what you call here suffering did help me to become a more compassionate person, more empathetic, and I tend to appreciate much different things than most people around me (I live in the Netherlands right now).

    I was a child during those times, but I remember the blood, death, explosions, fires, noises. I am very aware what hatred can do, and what can come out of it. Instead of making me hate those who were sniping at my family, who were throwing grenades as birthday gifts, it made me instead to have greater capacity for love, and no hate whatsoever (albeit I’m not a very emotional person). Unfortunately, due to the enormous amount of hate fueling nationalism from the politicians that’s still going strong, this is not a very common thing amongst people nowadays.

    One more thing that I don’t think you’ve mentioned here — during times when your humanity is stripped away to the bones, when you’re not leaving your shelter for days, no water, food, electricity, nothing, there is a great need to restore your human dignity. At more peaceful times, you would see men in suits, women in heels and makeup, artists were organizing plays, concerts etc. You do anything you can do that can make you feel like human being again. Survival in us is strong, and suffering can often bring the best out of people, but it can also crush us and make us a shell of a person, or worse, a hate-fueled bigot with disdain for everything.

    Spread love, not hate folks!

    • watching and learning with interest says

      https://fransorin.com/one-small-act-kindness-saved-lives-impact-giving-lipsticks-women-brink-death/

      “One more thing that I don’t think you’ve mentioned here — during times when your humanity is stripped away to the bones, when you’re not leaving your shelter for days, no water, food, electricity, nothing, there is a great need to restore your human dignity.”

      Valter, I found your words in the above comment very insightful and it reminded me of how significant the shipment of lipstick was to the women who survived the indignities of a concentration camp.
      Thank you for reminding me that seemingly small actions can have an important impact on those around us.

    • Antiochus of Olympia says

      Thank you for your insightful and sobering comment. The best one I have read. You efficiently cut down the argument in the article as well as 95% of the asinine comments left here.

  17. Fickle Pickle says

    Human beings are living way down at the bottom of their evolutionary potential.
    Why is this so and what is actually preventing this this evolutionary development?

    It is the spirit-killing and heart-negating world view described and advocated in this essay.

    We live under fear-based stress, in a sub-human “culture” whose populace is completely confused even at the elemental levels of existence. We are all involved in an animal-like struggle for survival, without intelligence even at the level of the verbal mind. Such a circumstance tends to stimulate a chemical profusion in the body that only enables it to function and survive under stress, but that hard-edged chemical design does not allow the higher psychic and subtle centers of the brain to awaken. This same stress chemistry empties the body of the profound genetic signals than can trigger the higher evolutionary functions in Man (male and female)

    Until we have created a human order that is fundamentally free of mutual threat, it will not be possible for people to live in a truly Awakened and peaceful state, not only of mind, but of the total body-mind. The body-mind must receive the signals that the stressful world has been overcome, that we need not fear, that we presently have a peaceful human society, not a society full of bombs, benighted craziness, and full of constant threats. The evolutionary mechanism of the bodily being is programmed to awaken its next higher centers of function only when the chronic problems of its lower functional centers have been solved or mastered so that the bodily being can live without chronically creating degenerative stress chemistry. But we cannot thus become so peaceful that the right hemisphere of the brain and the higher evolutionary mechanisms of the body-mind as a whole are stimulated. To enter into our higher evolutionary destiny we must be altogether cured in our deep psychic heart.

    To create a human sanctuary for such higher adaptation and the ultimate Transcendence of Man is our true urge, even the primal human impulse. At the primal level of the feeling-heart we inherently desire a human and natural environment in which we can live without the chronic production of stress chemistry. We intrinsically want to be cured at the heart of our mind and thereby be bodily transformed. And we intrinsically know, deeply, psychically, that we cannot realize that Transformation until we can create a culture in which people can live without created such stress chemistry.

    Thus, sanctuary, or Sacred Spiritual Community, is the motive and means in Man that contains the genetic SECRET of the next stage in human evolution. It will not be at all possible, natural or common for people in general to exist in such a transformed condition until the human world is profoundly changed in a very practical way.

  18. Alan Appel says

    All of this seems quite familiar. I think I need to reread Orwell’s 1984.

  19. Charlie says

    I suggest people read Varlam Shalamov ” What I learnt in the camps”.

    I learned that friendship and solidarity never arise in difficult, truly severe conditions — when life is at stake. Friendship arises in difficult but bearable conditions (in the hospital, but not in the mine).

    https://shalamov.ru/en/library/34/1.htmlon

    Solzhenitsyn said Shalamov survived in the Gulag from 1937-1955 and endured far worse things than himself.

  20. Cardinal Biggles says

    Consider the rise in popularity of video games like Dark Souls, which are premised on the ideas of 1) immersing the player in a strange and alien land where danger lurks at every turn, 2) being very difficult, and 3) making death costly. Experienced players are also able to help newcomers through intense battles. They have inspired a rabidly loyal fan base who speak of a deep satisfaction in victory that cannot be replicated in other games.

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