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September 09, 2008

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Bertrand Russell wrote about this fallacy in "The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed", in the collection "Unpopular Essays".

A BBC radio report suggests that this may be relevant, now, in Cyprus. If Greek Cypriots are reminded of Turkish atrocities against Greek Cypriots, can they realise that everyone loses because of violence, and the remedy is to come together with Turkish Cypriots who wish for peace? The BBC suggests that they can.

I wonder what we would learn if we repeated the experiment but substituted natural disasters for some/all of the events they used, e.g. hurricane Katrina instead of September 11.

I have noticed -- with one friend especially -- that if she is reminded of something that is painful or anxiety-producing like her own economic insecurity, she loses the capacity to be helpful to me. The times when this effect is most noticeable is after I have said to her, "I spent 2 hours yesterday focused on your needs, now I'd like you to spend an hour on something I need, namely, la la la." Then 15 minutes into the hour, something reminds her of an unmet need of her own, which causes her anxiety or pain, after which it is darn hard for me to bring her focus back to my need.

Not a lot of comments here, so I'll just note that this seems like really basic and important research - it's easy to talk about the flaws of victim politics, but this shows it right up front.

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