A scene I once saw

(inaccurately recounted)

Ms. Knox: When any of you feels ready, you can move in to the center of the circle, hold the stone, and tell us all about your feelings about what we are doing. Listen to the trees moving, encouraging you.

Sarah: I feel really proud. Young people are so passionate about the environment. Everyone will have to believe in us when they see how much we care.

Amanda: Excited! I feel like we are going to be part of a really positive change, across the world. It’s so great to be here now, when this is happening.

Marie: I’m just really glad to be here with so many likeminded people. When nobody around you sees what’s possible, it can be really disillusioning, but here I feel like everyone cares so much.

Linda: I feel really inspired by what the others are saying!

Becky: I’m so hopeful when I see all this engagement. I believe we can all stay passionate and keep the movement going until we are old, and inspire the new youth!

Odette: Irritated! I have so many things I would enjoy doing more than saving the environment, both this weekend and for the rest of my life. Preventing ecological catastrophe is very important, but I’d obviously much much prefer that someone else had done it already, or that it never needed doing. It’s extremely disappointing that after this many generations nobody’s got around to the most obvious solutions like taxing the big externalities. These things are not even interesting to think about. In a perfect world it would be nice to play video games most of the time, but I’m at least as frustrated that I won’t even get to work on the interesting altruistic endeavors.

***

Why is this so rare?

12 responses to “A scene I once saw

  1. > Why is this so rare?

    Because intelligence is a bell curve, and so is willingness to piss in the Wheaties of others, and thus it’s the intersection of these two +2SD subsets that defines the “smart enough to see through the crap and confrontational enough to comment on it” group.

  2. Odette is an unreal character. If she was that smart, she’d never have joined the circle in the first place. She’d either not agree with the objective, or she’d not agree with the strategy.

    • I didn’t recount it that inaccurately – she really said something like that. They were teenagers, if that helps. She probably wasn’t aware of a lot of other options, or was more willing to trust others’ conclusions than an adult with more experience might be.

      • Mitchell Porter

        You may have your answer. This outcome is rare because climate activists willing to express hate and resentment aren’t usually found at Ms Knox’s circle ceremonies; they’re down the road with Socialist Alternative, scheming how to smash the tyranny of the 1%.

        • I used to be in a far-left group. I can tell you, someone who came to a meeting and said “I wish that capitalism didn’t need smashing, and I could just focus on enjoying myself, or doing something more interesting” would have sounded rather out of place.

    • Odette might be there under compulsion — if her school/job/family/neighbors/etc. forced her to attend.

  3. When people want to spread a belief they often look for additional reasons to convince others of it, even if these additional reasons (often false) aren’t what drove their own conclusion. This works sometimes. In the case of environmentalism, to increase adoption people may cast it as being a lot of fun, and very interesting. They may avoid emphasizing a lack of fun, so as not to turn off others.

    The others in the circle are really enthusiastic and hopeful, and seem actually excited about the great results they expect to achieve. People like this seem to be little interested in video games. Much of the appeal of video games is the very high (in-game, simulated) returns we get by our action, and in the absence of knowing those returns, the high anticipated returns of environmentalism are more appealing.

    Also, people update on their current situation and think about courses of action within it. The other members of the group are just thinking about the world as it currently is, and what would be a positive change from that point.

    So 3 things most stand out about Odette. First, she doesn’t try to cast environmentalist activism as fun or interesting, and doesn’t avoid pointing out a lack of these things. She also mentions the disappointing lack of progress so far, which doesn’t help the appearance of being able to change things now. Second, Odette has a wider/more-conflicting set of pursuits, wanting the high fun and returns from video games, and of intellectual exploration, and of environmental improvement, and so is going to be more losing out on some of those. But she is still there, unlike many people with that pursuit spread, who focus on the other things. Third, she’s mentally stepped back to the somewhat irrelevant counterfactual of things being solved already.

    And in comparison to some who don’t stand up to speak, she’s breaking the pattern of hope and happiness, possibly interfering with what other members want from the group, especially given different ideas on how positively to cast activism. She risks unpopularity with this group, though if done with clear support for the issues and clear plans to continue working, she might be applauded for her honesty and an added perspective.

  4. I think this is rare because what’s the expected return of investment for Odette? She isn’t going to convince anyone else, she isn’t going to win any new friends and destroying warm, fuzzy feelings in others feels a lot like kicking puppies. Not many are inclined to do so and simultaniously intelligent enough to do it in the way of Odette.
    That said… <3 Odette. Soooo right. And funny too.

  5. It’s rare because Odette engages in near thinking in an environment designed to elicit far thinking. (http://tinyurl.com/88d329b) Odette looks only to the _immediate_ future, next weekend, as her reference point.

    What’s most likely is that Odette missed “far” cues because she is limited in her _ability_ to think far, perhaps by a subclinical autism-spectrum disorder.

  6. Pingback: The Demandingness Objection | An Algorithmic Lucidity

  7. Because normally people understand the pragmatics of the exercise. When asked “What do you feel about [our meeting/group efforts]” most people would understand that they are being asked to comment on how *the meeting/group’s work* is making them feel. The emphasis is on their feelings about *their group’s response* to a given problem- they’re not expected to take a mental step back and say “Thinking about our response to this problem reminds me how I really wish there wasn’t a problem in the first place!” If you said that it would be a joke, or a reminder to the group about how bad the problem is and how needful their response. If someone wanted to invite comments like Odette’s they’d ask a totally different question. And if the person had asked “What do you feel about the [lack of] responses to climate change by everyone else?” you’d probably get answers consonant with Odette’s

    How to interpret O’s response? I don’t think she’s simply misunderstanding. Rather I imagine she wants to reject the expectation- that is affirmed by the responses preceding her- that she express how positive their response is and wants to shift attention onto another question/matter, for any of a number of reasons (finds the gushing optimism grating etc.). It’s understandable people would infrequently do that either because it doesn’t occur to them to not respond in the expected way (and they’ve presumably been primed to find this whole meeting “inspirational” and respond accordingly), the emotional gushing doesn’t grate on them, or it does grate on them, they would like to shift the emphasis onto the problem rather than how great their response is, but they don’t want to suffer the social harms of derailing what is clearly meant to be a motivational bonding experience.

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