Thursday, September 6, 2007

554 "Daylight" and Responses to Disasters

Message no. 554[Branch from no. 553] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Monday, March 5, 2007 5:18pm Subject: Re: Summary

Daniela, you made me think of a story I read about peoples' responses to disasters. Rather than run away from the source of the problem, psychologists found that many people instinctively engage in a form of social comparison. As the event arouses them they seek the opinions of others. Evacuation personnel said this can get in the way of a successful evacuation plan, because people mill about looking at their neighbors and asking whether the others think this is really as bad as it seems. I have observed this sort of behavior among flocks of birds and among herds of cattle and sheep too, and it may be that we find it hard to respond individually to such arousal states because most gregarious beings need consensus and confirmation to act, particularly because individuals in the center of a group tend to do better than those at the periphery. My wife and I watched the film "Daylight" with Sylvester Stallone (about an explosion that traps people in the Holland Tunnel) and it shows similar behavior.

Another thing your post made me think of was the situation of constant learned helplessness that Egyptians exhibit. Here is a link to an article about the communities my wife and I work with in the dismal Egyptian slum and informal housing environments -- if you look at the picture of the woman in Manshiet Nasser you will see where we work.

The people here, whom you will read about in this article, are definitely overwhelmed, and there are many insitutional factors causing this.

Perhaps in your midterm assignment on your personal Eutopia you can give us ideas of how you might make your environment more manageable -- would you abandon working in a law firm altogether, or would you find a new way of organizing the work?


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