Thursday, March 13, 2008

Framing

Trevor says in the comments

Presumably we are a very long way from where we would like to be. Crime, hatred, poverty etc. are still intrinsic parts of our everyday life.

And

I agree with the sentiment that things are improving, but things are still pretty sickening.

Framing effects have an important effect on how we see the world. It happens when we hear that the crime rate has fallen 5% or that the economy has grown 5%. Five percent!? Are you kidding, crime is sky high! People are still dirt poor! Thing is though, that both statements can be true, but we chose to look at things differently.

We can ask, "why are people so violent" or we could ask, "why are people so much less violent now than they ever have been?" The second phrasing is consistent with unacceptably high levels of violent crime but also suggests we try to understand how things have changed that things are so different. The establishment of wise rules isn't magic; all we can expect is that things will move in a positive direction.

There's also a big difference between things being crap now and the evolved cultural norms etc being bad. When we think of things being pretty sickening we don't normally think of rich liberal nations, we think of places where many of these social rules have not been established. Many of the problems in countries like America could be traced to the breakdown of some important, well established norms, like marriage in the inner-cities.

5 comments:

Trevor Black said...

We don't live in a `rich liberal nation'...

So in general my comments refer to South Africa. In fact, I would wager that focussing on rich liberal nations misses the point a little considering how few people (relatively) have that advantage.

There is also that haunting possibility that a significant proportion of that wealth is off the back of damage to the other nations.

That being said...

I agree about the framing issue. People moan about crime in South Africa. This is justified and makes it hard in the conversations I have with people when they consider leaving... BUT, and I don't have the stats to back up my gut feeling, I think things, purely in terms of crime are no worse and are probably better than 20 years ago. They are just more visible now.

I also don't buy a lot of the stats I hear about SA having the second most murders per capita in the world... but I don't know where to find accurate, reliable stats disputing this.

I agree things are improving. And/But I think we have a long way to go.

Stuart said...

"We don't live in a `rich liberal nation'...

So in general my comments refer to South Africa. In fact, I would wager that focussing on rich liberal nations misses the point a little considering how few people (relatively) have that advantage."

"When we think of things being pretty sickening we don't normally think of rich liberal nations, we think of places where many of these social rules have not been established."

"There is also that haunting possibility that a significant proportion of that wealth is off the back of damage to the other nations."

this is important because I think lots of people feel this. it it's true, I think it's only very very small. I'll write about this again soon...

mutt said...

When praising the wisdom of cultural insitutions and not tampering with them lightly etc, I think I've been pretty clear that I do in fact mean rich liberal countries.

And I want to emphasise again the distinction between ciltural norms being wise and the current level of prosperity in a country.

Trevor Black said...

dude, after chirping my wandering mind... I thoroughly enjoyed "ciltural norms"... but it could have been even more funny with only one slight bit of dislexia.

There is a difference between

1) Rich countries being as rich as they are MAINLY because of abusing poor countries

2) Poor Countries being better off than if there had been no interaction but being worse off they could have been if things had been `fair'

A lot of wealth `sailed over the seas' when Colonists left Africa, and the massive `sans-transtion' destabalation I think should deservedly inspire feelings of remorse up North.

However, I also believe the only way poor countries can lift themselves/ourselves is if we do it ourselves.

mutt said...

you said wandering several times. I'm unmoved.

I don't agree that it was actually that much was taken. maybe they took as much as they could, but it's a trivial part of why they're rich now.

See post above.