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Why some societies make disastrous decisions - Essay Example

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In this article the author provides an analysis of why human societies have ended up making destructive group decisions at various points of time in history.His students express incredulity at human folly causing self destruction in the past ages,especially in cases like the Easter Island which died out of deforestation…
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Why some societies make disastrous decisions
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Download file to see previous pages Firstly, the origins of some problems cannot be easily perceived, like the loss of salt nutrients or salinization, which are undetectable to unaided human senses. Also, if the decision maker is unaware of ground realities, problems may go unnoticed. Some problems may be very slow in occurring and be hidden by up-and- down fluctuations, so that they may go undetected, for example, the problem of global warming in recent times. Diamond mentions the term "creeping normalcy"used by politicians to describe a very slow deterioration, or "landscape amnesia", coined by scientists, where people are so used to seeing a landscape change successively little by little each year that they do not grasp its total change, or remember what it was like originally. When combined, these two can lead to a large but very gradually worsening problem going unnoticed. In this he finds an answer to why the people of Easter Island could cut away all their palm trees, because the deforestation was not a sudden, remarkable change, it happened at a slow pace across generations.

Diamond also puts forward various reasons for the next factor, the failure to work towards a solution, and the very first one is "rational behavior": logical, but maybe ethically unsound, where a few people reason that they can greatly further their own interests by harming that of others. Since this minority stands a lot to gain and each of the majority loses very little individually in the process, the majority do not protest much and the minority has its way. For example, a minority of subsidized professionals like fishermen or farmers benefit at the cost of majority of the taxpayers. At other times, it is pure selfishness that...
To answer this puzzle Diamond relates it to individual foibles and issues of group dynamics, proposes various factors like failure to anticipate a problem, failure to perceive it, failure to work towards solving it, or alternatively, not being able to resolve the problem despite knowing all abouBad decisions can happen due to “irrational” behavior, where people cling to long-held beliefs even when they are detrimental to survival, and Diamond proposes this on the basis of examples from religious as well as secular realms, like the cult beliefs of Easter Island that led to its deforestation to the belief in having a large family in Rwanda, which has now led to over-population because of falling mortality rates. The trick for survival is to retain some of the old values and adapt some new ones, but it is a gamble at best. The resistance to newer values comes from dislike for people who first report a problem, or shrugging off problems as not being one's own, or prioritizing short term problems over long term ones, with full knowledge that future livelihoods are being endangered. In times of stress, a group of people may want to keep everyone happy, which is called “group think” resulting in decisions that are crowd-pleasing rather than judicious, or a group can be roused to a rabid frenzy, like Hitler raised in Nazi Germany, both of which do not result in a pro-survival, long-term decisions. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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