October 15, 2010

Miners Get Paid, As Expected

miners.jpg
real American heroes


Are they tough?  Damn straight.  Are they heroes?  No way, Jose.

COPIAPO, Chile - The first three rescued Chilean miners out of the hospital celebrated their new lives as national heroes Friday, as word emerged that the 33 want to closely guard their story so they can fairly divide the spoils of their overnight media stardom.

There's a subtlety to this story that might have been missed: they were already anticipating big paydays while they were still in the hole.

If society wants to pay them for the human interest story; if there's a market for that, I certainly won't stand in their way, but don't ask me to participate in the alteration of reality  that these guys are heroes.  Put me in a hole for 69 days with no hope of rescue-- call me a hero.  Put me in a hole for 69 days with no hope of rescue but every probability of a big pay day, and this stops being heroism and starts being a reality show.

"This is not a reality TV show," he said.

He's half right-- it's not reality, it's meta reality: pretend to be miners trapped in a hole.  Pretend not to be miners trapped in a hole about to get paid. 

Ramirez, as you'd expect from a man who embraces the risks of his profession [mining], scoffed at the need for all the psychological treatment.

"When we first spoke to the miners down below ... they weren't in bad shape," he said. "Psychologically, they weren't in bad shape at all."

But being thrust from the dark chambers of a gold mine into the limelight -- and knowing how to cope with overnight fame -- is quite another matter.


Note that the last sentence appears in the form of a reversal: that's narrative construction to keep you interested in a story, but it is factually inaccurate.  They weren't psychologically tough and now have to deal with overnight fame; they were psychologically tough because they were anticipating overnight fame.  Which isn't to say that they wouldn't have survived even if there was no money-- who knows?

So now they're going to make a TV show about them?  I'd like someone to explain to me how a movie about their ordeal differs from the news coverage of their ordeal, except that it is temporally contiguous.  Did the news not capture the drama?  Did the news not sex it up? 

The real mind bender for the media is: how do you tell the story about heroism, when the "heroism"  exists precisely because of the story?

II.

God told Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, to Moriah and sacrifice him.  The popular telling of the story is that this was a test of Abraham's faith.  Abraham obeyed God; but at the moment he was about to plunge the knife into Isaac's heart, God called to him and stopped him

for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.

Abraham passed the test!  Yay!

But what did he really do?  If God tells you to do something, there's no issue.  He's the highest law, so you obey.  Abraham's actions-- murder-- would neither be wrong (God is the highest law, he decides what's right and wrong) nor heroic: I did this because God said to.  All Abraham did was exhibit a preference for God over his son.  In the logic of the Bible, is that such a big deal?

St. Paul adds:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son... Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
Abraham had in the back of his mind that God could even raise Isaac from the dead.  So what's the worry?  And, despite God's insistence that Isaac was his only son, he had a backup in the woods somewhere.  Just call him Ishmael.


'Abraham_Leading_Isaac_to_Sacrifice',_oil_on_copper_painting_by_Domenichino.JPG
This is a painting of Abraham leading Isaac to sacrifice in what I assume is colonial Williamsburg.  Domenichino thought it important enough to paint three palm trees, but you know what he didn't paint?  God.  Because he's not there.  

Could Abraham actually hear God?  Of course not-- so he could only assume that what he thinks he heard was God telling him to kill Isaac.  Otherwise he was insane.  If he heard God, there's no test of faith, only a test of preference-- God or Isaac.  But not hearing God, he had to both prefer God and believe he had heard Him.

If Abraham had actually killed Isaac, then Abraham would actually be a murderer, punishable by whatever they did back then.  And he would know that, but he would have to kill Isaac anyway.

But neither was belief in God enough.  He had to believe in God and simultaneously have faith that such a God would not allow Isaac to die. "I believe God wants me to do this, but I have faith that this kind of God would not allow me to do something wrong, and no, even I'm not sure about any of this."  The real test God was challenging him with was, "do you believe in the right kind of Me?"

"All of this is absurd."  That's why he's anxious.  But the question is, what's Isaac to make of all this?

III.

Bible study is over.  Now to NYC, where the city has paid about $1B since 2000 in settlements for claims against the NYPD.  

"Right now it's open season against the city. Just file a lawsuit, and you're going to get money," said City Council member Peter Vallone, who has sponsored a bill he hopes will make it impossible to pay out dubious claims.

I realize many are legitimate, their legitimacy is not my concern.   "Some multimillion-dollar settlements have gone to officers themselves for on-the-job injuries."  Fine.

NY public hospital claims were almost $3B.

There's a shortage of money but a plethora of lottery tickets, and you can't fault a person for playing the numbers.  There are too many other people in the world, sufficiently odd looking to be slightly unreal, and so only a tiny, tiny amount of the world's attention, help, concern, love, is directed at you.  Hell, your own wife doesn't like you that much.  So if a transit bus happily breaks your leg, there's no shame in taking a 100 grand with you into your isolation.

But there's no honor in it, either.

The money, the narcissism, makes even good men go the wrong way.  Why not me?  Why not get paid for my suffering?  And the answer is: there is no reason, you earned it.  I guess.

But don't call it heroism.  Have the dignity to hide it from everyone, you may have earned that money but you did not deserve it.  It is not a mark of distinction, any more than sleeping with your sister-in-law.  

A real hero would come out of that hole, take one look at the nonsense around him, and say, "Fuck you.  Fuck you and your cameras.  I'm getting a sandwich."   That would be a show of inner strength, people would wonder "how did he do it? how could he survive? how could he not make a statement?" and they would be infuriated by their inability to tie it to something outside, to tie it to their own shame. 

But they very preposterousness, the impossibility of even conceiving this kind of response shows that if we were Abraham, Isaac would be dead.

---

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych








Comments

Does it make a difference t... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 12:39 PM | Posted by Carol: | Reply

Does it make a difference that the miners weren't assured of surviving the ordeal? (And what the hell do you talk about underground in a tiny space without killing one another?) So brave, for sure. Heroic? Why not define what exactly that word means to you rather than just saying someone isn't heroic? (The important part of this story to me is that it was an international effort to get them out and that if they had died, we never would have known a thing about them.)

Also, in the Bible, Isaac isn't named so the common interpretation for centuries by Jews (and still by Muslims) is that Ishmael is the one to be sacrificed (since he was the son that had ever been an 'only')- no backup son, no idea that a backup son was even possible. Does that change the story? Does it change the meaning for Muslims who interpret it differently?

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Blew. Me. Away.... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 12:40 PM | Posted by inarticulate in the city: | Reply

Blew. Me. Away.

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Carol sez: "Also, in the Bi... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 2:54 PM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

Carol sez: "Also, in the Bible, Isaac isn't named."
What translation are you looking at?

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"Fuck you. Fuck you and yo... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 3:23 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"Fuck you. Fuck you and your cameras. I'm getting a sandwich."
He would be "helped" by psychiatry if he did.

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A real hero would come o... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 5:27 PM | Posted by The Devastator: | Reply

A real hero would come out of that hole, take one look at the nonsense around him, and say, "Fuck you. Fuck you and your cameras. I'm getting a sandwich." That would be a show of inner strength, people would wonder "how did he do it? how could he survive? how could he not make a statement?" and they would be infuriated by their inability to tie it to something outside, to tie it to their own shame.

This is why Holly punching out that reporter at the end of Die Hard is so awesome. But I think this situation is complicated enormously by the fact that we're not talking about one person, we're talking about 33 people. And they weren't held hostage by Ze Germans for a few hours, they were trapped in a small area for ten weeks with nothing to do but talk to each other. For much of that time, they had communication with the outside, so they knew that the world was watching the rescue effort.

Given all this, they could not have not talked through every detail of how to deal with the publicity once they got out. Do you really think they didn't struggle with exactly this issue?

But even if a few of the guys are sympathetic to Alone's point of view ("There's no honor in exploiting the accident for money"), they cannot force that view on everyone else. So then the obligation becomes, don't screw this up for the other guys. If one of the miners came out of the hole, pulled a Holly McClane on Anderson Cooper, and stomped off to get a sandwich, he would be the story. Ironically, that would be more self-aggrandizing than what they are actually doing. Going back to the quote at the top of the post:

...The 33 want to closely guard their story so they can fairly divide the spoils of their overnight media stardom.

Fairly divide. Exactly.

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True. And certainly none of... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 6:09 PM | Posted, in reply to The Devastator's comment, by inarticulate in the city: | Reply

True. And certainly none of them would want to be seen as ungrateful. The world was watching and rooting for them. Nowadays saying fuck you to a reporter is akin to saying fuck you to whoever is watching, as if we had a right to hear whatever it is they're thinking/feeling. Unfortunately.

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What's so heroic about sayi... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 6:50 PM | Posted by Lise: | Reply

What's so heroic about saying fuck you to a reporter? That's not heroic, it's just being an asshole. And it's a poor way to thank the guys who worked so hard to get them out of the mine in the first place, who might like to see them behave, y'know, graciously, even to the parasites.

Perhaps they could have pulled a Lacy Davenport and said, "I'm sorry, I don't do television."

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Mining is a lucrative indus... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 9:18 PM | Posted by America: | Reply

Mining is a lucrative industry- if you happen to own, manage, or have large investments in a mining company. If you do not own, manage, or have large investments in a mining company, then you just might view it as an exploitative industry especially if you are a miner. How much per hour does a Chilean miner earn? How much is the conglomerate who owns this mining property in Chile worth? How much does the Chilean government receive in compensation when its native minerals are mined and exported from the country?

If I was a poor exploited uneducated nobody GOLD miner living in a shack in my exploited 2nd world South American country and accidentally I got stuck one day in my work hell hole with 32 of my fellow poor uneducated nobodies and we were suddenly thrust into the world media spotlight for 69 glorious days to become the best distraction story this side of Scott fucking Peterson, I think I might well decide to exploit my story for all its golden worth. I wouldn't give a shit about some rich white guy's first world meaning of heroism. I would say to the camera - why the hell was I saved? Why do you suddenly care about me? Do you want to know what my wage is or where I call home or anything about my country? No! All you care about is my fat mistress. If you think she's ugly, you should see my wife, biotch. And if you give me $250k, I'll let you. Thank you and have a nice day. we'll see you when Chile wins Miss Universe pageant or suffers a massive earthquake...

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From a US perspective, the ... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 9:40 PM | Posted by Miner in Possession: | Reply

From a US perspective, the entire event marries the elements of hubristic slumming ("but for the grace of NASA and American mining concerns, these poor South Americans would be dead") with a resurrection fantasy (not science that saved them, but a "miracle"), then secularizes it into a hero story that through a sleight-of-hand gloss reaffirms the American Dream: no matter how downtrodden your situation is, you can seize the opportunities offered and make something of yourself.

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I was making the point to m... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2010 10:27 PM | Posted by BHE: | Reply

I was making the point to my wife this evening that the miners must have been down in that hole thinking they won the lottery, so I was glad to see this post when I got home. It reminds me of "Office Space" in a way--the guy gets hit by a car, ends up in a full body cast, and can't believe his good fortune.

Spot on.

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This is inspired genius. C... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 1:46 AM | Posted by Going Back Down: | Reply

This is inspired genius. Certainly I knew the Kierkegaard version of the Abraham story, but this just made it more real. It almost made me wish I was a Christian.

I'm probably answering my Own question, but I see this post as a tie in to the star wars post. Do you see the decline of stoic virtue and honor as one side of the see saw, the other being a culturally approved narcissism?

Please do not die, you are needed.

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Her wedding is Feb 15th 201... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 3:11 AM | Posted by AnonyMouse: | Reply

Her wedding is Feb 15th 2011... but she hasn't found a husband yet so the logical(?) thing to do was post a video on YouTube of her singing about wanting a man. Yeah.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYtF83ToMXA

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Though I know it's insane t... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 10:08 AM | Posted by Charles: | Reply

Though I know it's insane to see it as anything but coincidence (I can squeeze meaning from a stone), I happen to be in the middle of Fear and Trembling right now.

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Not trying to argue that th... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 3:13 PM | Posted by Jaha Arnot: | Reply

Not trying to argue that they're heroic - but what strikes me about this whole post is that it seems kind of Kantian - is that a pre-requisite for psychiatrists? There's this sense that an act is only authentically virtuous if there is no ulterior motive - or even better, if it requires the agent to act AGAINST all motives and influences, for the very fact of its rightness, alone. It's kind of like Kant's quest for metaphysical certainty. An act not only has to BE virtuous - it has to be PROVED virtuous, and to do that, it has to exist in a controlled state without any possible influence, hope, or anticipation. In fact, the more difficult to perform, the better . . . like each act has to be some sort of moral crisis to be genuinely virtuous. EVERY human act has influences of which we may not even be aware. Does this mean that no act is virtuous? It might not be the goodness of God, but it's the goodness of a human. If it were the case that no possible influence is permissible (shame, acclaim, love, etc.,), then we would probably never even conceive of the notion of virtue. But we do . . . so what's the hang-up? My only explanation are that Germans are uptight, and Greeks are mellow. Aristotle could just chill about it - Kant couldn't. I probably totally missed your point - and yeah, I realize I'm making way too much out of it.

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Well the first 17 days they... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 3:36 PM | Posted by Fred: | Reply

Well the first 17 days they had no idea if they would live. You can see who they gave thanks to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONQBqOCApC4&feature=player_embedded

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"Put me in a hole for 69 da... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 6:54 PM | Posted by G. Abramowitz: | Reply

"Put me in a hole for 69 days with no hope of rescue-- call me a hero."

No. To me, heroes put themselves at risk for others.

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Dude.....what? Did you go ... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 10:35 PM | Posted by Um: | Reply

Dude.....what? Did you go off your meds?

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You stretched it too far. W... (Below threshold)

October 16, 2010 11:27 PM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

You stretched it too far. While they may have discussed it, I don't think the only thing on their minds was how much they would get paid. They are heroes because of how they kept their composure and positive attitudes down there in the mines. No one knew they were alive for the first 17 days, but they kept up their faith and carefully rationed out their food, getting down to two cans of tuna by the time the probes found them. It is amazing that they were able to organize and keep up hope for so long--had they given up, they would have run out of food early on and all perished. Then they remained patient and hopeful, despite the fact that it was not ever assured that a tunnel would succeed in bringing them out. No one but them knows the psychological toll it takes, the uncertainty and fear, and for all they knew the tunnels could collapse again at any moment. Their cooperation with one another and faith that they would get out alive is what is inspiring the world right now. It's not what they "did," but rather how they are admirably reacting to what has happened to them. How many other people would have a "why me?" or victim mentality to the whole thing? Not them. And as for their impending fame--they've spent their careers working an incredibly difficult and hazardous job, and finally they have a chance to tell the world their stories, while also ensuring a generous livelihood for their families. Ironically enough, if you put down your narcissism-colored glasses, you could probably learn a thing or two from them about faith in humanity as well.

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This feels like an example ... (Below threshold)

October 17, 2010 6:06 AM | Posted, in reply to anonymous's comment, by Aron: | Reply

This feels like an example of how the more a word get used, the less it means. Maybe I'm just a terrible misanthrope, but it always bothers me when "hero" gets thrown around just because someone managed to survive an unfortunate incident. The miners didn't do anything heroic, unless you count abstaining from premature cannibalism as heroic. The examples people give for why the miners are heroes sound similar to how you behave every day that you don't freak out and road-rage on the way home from work.
It's all well and good if you want to try to connect their story to your own to "learn a thing or two from them about faith in humanity," but it's important to notice that you're spinning a narrative that doesn't connect well to reality. A more healthy response to these events would to quickly and quietly take note of how well people worked together to help, try to improve the system to prevent a similar accident, and then getting back to living.

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What's really at the heart ... (Below threshold)

October 17, 2010 9:37 AM | Posted by Gospel X: | Reply

What's really at the heart of this for me is that there is some sort of payday for this sort of thing. The expectation for a payday surely helped get them through - and that means they ultimately expected to be exploited and welcomed it. I don't know what's worse: The fact that the media so readily exploits people or the fact that most any person welcomes it.

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Poorly written article, th... (Below threshold)

October 17, 2010 12:02 PM | Posted by Jerod: | Reply

Poorly written article, the jumps around and confuses the reader.

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Poorly written comment, not... (Below threshold)

October 17, 2010 1:14 PM | Posted, in reply to Jerod's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Poorly written comment, not everything that is confusing for you is confusing for everyone.

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Interesting tie to Kant. T... (Below threshold)

October 17, 2010 3:26 PM | Posted, in reply to Jaha Arnot's comment, by Not Kant: | Reply

Interesting tie to Kant. This is the popular Kantian response to Kierkegaard, though Kant write it half a century before:

"If God should really speak to man, man could still never know that it was God speaking. It is quite impossible for man to apprehend the infinite by his senses, distinguish it from sensible beings, and recognize it as such. But in some cases man can be sure the voice he hears is not God’s. For if the voice commands him to do something contrary to moral law, then no matter how majestic the apparition may be, and no matter how it may seem to surpass the whole of nature, he must consider it an illusion."

http://bit.ly/9l0Dup

I'm a psychiatrist, and I don't know ANY psychiatrists who are Kantian in their outlook, let alone Kierkegaardian. The overwhelming majority are fairly non-dogmatic, to a fault, with little interest in an overarching code of morality. Except in their practice, at which point it's flow charts and "I know best."

I wish you would write more about your perspective-- is it Kantian? What's your angle?

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What's my angle - hmmm. If... (Below threshold)

October 17, 2010 6:02 PM | Posted, in reply to Not Kant's comment, by Jaha Arnot: | Reply

What's my angle - hmmm. If you mean by that question, "do you have an agenda, here," would I say "yes?" And if I said "no," would anyone believe me? If you mean, "do you have a deeply held set of beliefs, or are you approaching the issue with a particular framework," to the first I would say "why can't my comments just stand on their own," and to the second I would say, "probably . . . but how would I know?" And so I think the most reasonable thing to do is just let my comments stand as they are, without trying to explain my "world view." Either my comments make sense, or they don't. In any case, I see our author has moved on (a MACHINE, I tell you!).

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No, no, I'm sorry!! I didn'... (Below threshold)

October 17, 2010 11:15 PM | Posted, in reply to Jaha Arnot's comment, by Not Kant: | Reply

No, no, I'm sorry!! I didn't mean, "Jaha, what's your angle?" I meant that comment directed at Alone-- what's his angle? Is he a Christian, is he a some kind of Deist, is he rocking the categorical imperative? I follow his descriptions of media and narcissism, of course, but I'd like to know if there is a higher framework for his ideas (or I should say, I am sure he has one, I just wish I knew what it was.) Like when you read Cliff's Notes and they say, "Faulkner's believed that..."

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Ah - sorry. But I always f... (Below threshold)

October 18, 2010 8:44 AM | Posted, in reply to Not Kant's comment, by Jaha Arnot: | Reply

Ah - sorry. But I always find it disappointing when someone says "I'm a post-deconstructuralist-meta-feminist-proto-libertarian Hegelian." It's the kind of thing that sounds really good, but then you still have to sift through what they say and figure out if it makes sense, regardless. I mean, it's just leading you on - you think you have something, and then POOF, back to having to use the ol' noggin. What a rip off. Besides, if he doesn't tell you, then you can have the safisfaction of categorizing him, yourself, without the chance of rebuttal.

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Blame the media narrative. ... (Below threshold)

October 18, 2010 1:20 PM | Posted by Daran: | Reply

Blame the media narrative. Still, as far as we currently know, they managed to survive for a long time (esp. the first 17 days) without descending into madness. I wouldn't trust myself in that regard. I fail to see how refusing the money (especially if done with drama) would qualify as heroic.

They had some bad luck; don't disdain them if they manage to profit from it.

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afafafaf... (Below threshold)

October 18, 2010 2:59 PM | Posted, in reply to Carol's comment, by eee: | Reply

afafafaf

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Trapped Chilean miner: 'I'm... (Below threshold)

October 19, 2010 11:10 AM | Posted by Sandy: | Reply

Trapped Chilean miner: 'I'm more human now'


http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9097000/9097701.stm

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sandy:Therin lies ... (Below threshold)

October 20, 2010 12:30 PM | Posted by caeia: | Reply

sandy:

Therin lies the problem with our media obessed culture. You aren't a real person unles you've been in the media. What was he 68 days ago? A monkey? The only thing I see as remotely similar was the old Egyptian belief that so long as a person's name was remembered, they would live on in the afterlife. That was a religion, a part of the way the universe opperates.

Media created and maintains the new version of that cult -- you exist as a real human so long as you get recorded by the media. In fact, the media has become the sole arbiter of what is and is not acceptable and who is and is not a hero. The miners going to work were nonexistant. Nobody outside their immediate circle was ever concerned about their welbeing. Had the mine collapsed on them 67 days ago, they would be statistics -- just like any number of other random nonpersons in the third world that work in dangerous conditions for pennies on the dollar. We don't even discuss other miners.

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All the news from Mexico an... (Below threshold)

October 20, 2010 6:50 PM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

All the news from Mexico and south is usually bad.

Here are 60 men who knew from the get-go that they weren't victims. There were competent people who were working to get them out. There were competent men trapped underground.

This does not fit the media template, and the media are irate.

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They wouldn't be heroes eve... (Below threshold)

October 21, 2010 4:42 AM | Posted by Iris: | Reply

They wouldn't be heroes even if they didn't cash in on their story. Heroism isn't something that happens to you. It's not even bravery considering that most of the time they had contact with the outside world and therefore received more help than many on the outside. What could be considered bravery is crashing into a snowy mountain, having to barbecue your fallen buddies to stay alive and finally walking for days to find help.

But it's true that in a dog-eat-dog world, one can't blame them for taking whatever they can get.

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<a href="http://www.asics-u... (Below threshold)

November 2, 2010 2:06 AM | Posted by coach handbags: | Reply

asics running shoes

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One of Kant's main tenants ... (Below threshold)

November 28, 2010 12:05 AM | Posted, in reply to Not Kant's comment, by Maybe Kant: | Reply

One of Kant's main tenants was never to treat others merely as a means to an end. A narcissist reduces an other's humanity to that of a prop object. This makes him prone to treating a person as a disposable means to accomplish his goal. So there's some common ground here.

Kant gives us the moral guidelines; Alone recognizes the root cause of the anti-behavior and bitch slaps it back the the abyss like Raksha Rahula.

You would probably have more luck catching Jack Sparrow than reducing Alone to a categorical philosophy box.

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Who knew Kant was a landlor... (Below threshold)

November 28, 2010 10:03 AM | Posted, in reply to Maybe Kant's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Who knew Kant was a landlord as well as a philosopher! ;-)

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YOU might not be capable of... (Below threshold)

December 27, 2010 9:42 AM | Posted by Richard Kulisz: | Reply

YOU might not be capable of conceiving of that response, but I can. It's exactly what I would want to do. Actually, it's what I WOULD do after imagining putting my fist through their face. But then again, I'm an iconoclast and people like me make society advance.

We're the people who stop nonsense like the Stanford Prison Experiment from happening. We're the people who refuse to take part in your ridiculous little psychology experiments in the first place. Because they're beneath us. Because YOU are beneath us. Which is why your statistics and your personality models don't account for us. Which is why none of your models has ever or will ever explain human progress.

Your blog is, so far, entirely accurate and quite insightful. And yet you're a psychologist, a member of a profession that is statistically incapable of abstract analysis or abstract synthesis, and so intellectually beneath me. Never forget that you speak ONLY about the majority and NEVER about me. Never forget that you lack entirely the cognitive machinery necessary to either comprehend or understand me, let alone speak FOR me.

And NEVER forget that there exists people entirely outside of your "we".

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