Monday, April 30, 2007

People are not the sensitive flowers that the PC brigade make them out to be

In "Stumbling on Happiness", just released in paperback, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert explores why we human beings are poor "affective forecasters," or predictors of future emotion. Interview with the author below:

Let's do a test: How do you think you'll feel at the end of this interview?

Approximately the way I feel now. That's almost always a good guess about how you're going to feel in the future. Most events have a small impact that doesn't last very long. More than one person who's gotten married or moved to California to change their happiness has found that it stays about where it is. My research has made me care much less about which of my possible futures I end up in. When I went to buy a house, I was much less concerned about which house to buy, because I knew from the data that whichever one I bought, I would probably be happy with it, and would quickly become convinced that I bought the only good house on the market.

When did you first realize that people were bad at forecasting their emotional states?

It first occurred to me about 15 years ago. I was watching myself go through some very difficult times of life and realizing that, by and large, I was doing much better than I would have predicted if you'd asked me a year or two ago. Being a scientist, I went right to the scientific literature to see what I could learn about this interesting phenomenon. What I found was, there wasn't scientific literature on it. So my colleague Tim Wilson and I teamed up and decided to do a couple little experiments to see if most people were as bad as predicting their emotional future as I had been. Turns out they were. The effect was very robust and what become quickly interesting was not whether this happened, because obvious it does, but why.

So, I'd guess negative events don't affect us as much as we think they do.

Human resilience is really quite astonishing. People are not the fragile flowers that a century of psychologists have made us out to be. People who suffer real tragedy and trauma typically recover more quickly than they expect to and often return to their original level of happiness, or something close to it. That's the good news-we are a hardy species, even though we don't know this about ourselves. The bad news is that the good things that happen to us don't feel as good or last as long as we think they will. So all that wonderful stuff we're aiming for-winning the lottery, getting promoted, whatever we think will change our lives-probably won't do it after all. We're resilient in both directions. We rebound from distress but we also rebound from joy.

But people do know what will make them happy, don't they?

If you ask people whether they would rather have gallbladder surgery or a weekend in Paris, they get the answer right. What they're wrong about is knowing just how bad or how good these events will be, and how long those feelings will last.

More here

Democrats and the Politics of Fear

Ever since the 1960s the Democrats have won about ninety percent of the black vote in presidential elections. Sometimes it's less, when John Kerry got 88 percent of the black vote in 2004. Sometimes it's right on the button, when Al Gore got 90 percent in 2000. How do you get 90 percent of anyone to vote for one side or the other? You have to make them afraid.

Back in the 1960s when Democrats bestrode the political world like gods they decreed an end to the politics of fear. They forbade the naked appeal to racial and religious fears and decreed a new era of universal tolerance. It was, of course, convenient for them at the time. Shaming the politics of religious hate helped them elect John F. Kennedy to the presidency. And shaming the politics of racial hate helped them bring in the civil rights acts. None the less, it was the right thing to do.

But then things started to go wrong for the Democrats. The unemployed working stiffs of the Great Depression started to drift away into suburban prosperity and ethnic religious voters were driven out the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by militant secularists. It became a matter of life-and-death for Democrats to keep the voters that remained. Fortunately the solution was at hand. After the high-toned years of the civil-rights struggle ended in a stunning victory African Americans began to develop an authentic politics of their own. It was not the high-toned politics of the civil-rights movement. It was more like the Irish machine politics of the nineteenth century, a politics of patronage and of racial identity, and it quickly became as corrupt as the politics of Boss Tweed and Plunkitt of Tammany Hall.

Perhaps in the years immediately after the civil-rights revolution Democrats were embarrassed by this Fall from the Garden of Eden. Clearly they are not embarrassed any more. Ninety percent of the black vote ain't beanbag, after all.

But it does take constant fear-mongering. It was one thing in 1970 to keep blacks in a frenzy of fear about the return of Bull Connor. After forty years of rising prosperity it takes more. It takes the chutzpah of a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton, or the creativity of a Mike Nifong, who after all won his election for DA.

Ordinary Americans were puzzled by the Durham accusations, and rightly so. If you go to the website reporting the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, as many people do, you can look up the rape statistics in "Table 42: Personal Crimes of Violence 2005: Percent distribution of single offender victimizations, based on race of victims, by type of crime and perceived race of offender." Under "Rape/Sexual assaults" the survey reports 111,490 rape/assaults in 2005 in which a white was the victim. The "perceived race" of the offender was reported as white in 44.5 percent of cases, black in 33.6 percent of cases, "other" in 19.6 percent of cases. Where the victim of rape was black, in 36,620 cases, things were rather different. The "perceived race" of the offender was reported as black in 100.0 percent of cases. White offenders? "0.0*" percent. The asterisk means that the sample included ten or fewer reports. The federal crime statistics show that white-on-black rape was almost non-existent in the United States of America in 2005. This is about as extraordinary as the fact that ninety percent of blacks vote for Democrats.

In the United States today remarkable strides have been made in the reduction of age-old hatreds and enmities. The average American is a remarkably tolerant and inclusive person. Why, the average American has even been taught to believe that Islam is a religion of peace.What a pity that liberals have exempted themselves and their political supporters from this advance in human societal relations. But it is understandable. You see, American blacks, gays, feminists, and academicians live in a world assailed on all sides by the menacing "Other:" Fundamentalists, theocrats, racists, sexists, classists, and homophobes. And do they ever hate and fear the fundamentalists, theocrats, racists, sexists, classists, and homophobes that harass and oppress them.

There is one group that voted in the same lopsided way as African Americans in 2004. In the CNN exit poll 90 percent of "white conservative Protestants" went for George W. Bush. Who is making them afraid? Karl Rove or People for the American Way?


Australia: Black refugees being trained for jihad

CLAIMS young Somalis are being recruited in Melbourne by terror groups are being investigated by Australia's intelligence agencies. Somalian scholar Dr Hersie Hilole said more than 20 Somalis had trained in Melbourne and returned to fight for the Islamic cause in Somalia's civil war. Two Melbourne-based Somalis have been killed fighting with Islamic militias in Africa and one of the deaths has sparked a police investigation. The investigations will focus on Melbourne's 15,000-strong Somalian population that lives mainly in housing commission complexes in Carlton, North Melbourne and Flemington.

It also has emerged that radical Islamic cleric Sheik Mohammed Omran has been preaching to local Somalian Muslims. Arabic and African Muslim communities in Melbourne generally live separate lives. But the Jordanian-born cleric regularly gives outdoor addresses to large sections of the Somalian Muslim community.

ASIO would not comment on the investigation into Melbourne's Somalian community. But a source said: "There are real security threats in Australia and this is one of them." Dr Hilole said Sheik Omran had established links with the Somalis through a radical group of Lebanese Salafists or Wahhabists. "A number of young people have either trained here or have been recruited," he said. Mogadishu-born Dr Hilole is a member of Sydney's Somalian Community Council and has been an outspoken critic of Abdurahman Osman, the president of Somali Community of Victoria. He said Mr Osman's mosque in Racecourse Rd, Flemington, was under siege by Lebanese Salafists.

Dr Hilole said Sheik Omran had created a link with the young Somalis after 18 alleged terrorists were arrested in nationwide raids in November 2005 under Operation Pendennis. Leaders at a popular North Melbourne mosque, home to about 300 African Muslims, yesterday refused to comment on alleged radicals. But a spokesman said Somalian Muslims in Melbourne's north planned to hold a meeting with police and politicians to discuss the issue. Victorian Somali Social Club president Osman Ali said local sheiks and imams urged followers not to rejoin the fight in Somalia. Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia last year to push the radical Islamic Courts movement from power.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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