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LongUlfPost (LUP) - 3Ps: Prophecies
Posted June 25th, 2007 - 7:53 pm by from Cologne, Germany (Permalink)
"It is Hell, of course, that makes priests powerful, not Heaven, for after thousands of years of so-called civilization fear remains the one common denominator of mankind."

(H.L. Mencken)

[THIS IS NOT AN IMPORTANT THREAD! NOBODY HAS TO READ IT to be able to continue being an active CS member or participant in this or other groups' (other) ongoing discussions! But if you do read it and then find some things I wrote annoying or even offensive then, please, read my "LUP - DISCLAIMER" - thread (-> http://www.couchsurfing.com/group_read.html?gid=429&post=250090 ) BEFORE you give me my possibly well-deserved telling-off - thank you!]

Posted June 25th, 2007 - 8:17 pm by from Cologne, Germany (Permalink)
[This is an elaborated version of my old "B) PRESENTING: The "CS Spirit", ladies and gentlemen!" - thread ( http://www.couchsurfing.com/group_read.html?gid=429&post=148172#gpid148172 )]

If this were not a long and (IMHO...) important enough thread in itself then it would actually have been a part of my "LUP - 3Ps: Propaganda" - thread (-> http://www.couchsurfing.com/group_read.html?gid=429&post=250104 ) - for it's about the oldest trick in the book of propaganda and still up until today the most powerful one of them all: If you wanna manipulate a bigger group of people to make them follow you into a certain direction: SCARE THEM! Declare something (anything goes!) a big enough thread and then tell them that only with what you suggest this imminent danger can be warded off! International Judaism and communism worked for Hitler, then communism again for McCarthy, the international Terrorism for Bush, foreign infiltration for all right wing parties and - the mother of them all - hell and similar concepts for religions!

So it's no wonder this trick is so popular with people who love ruling and regulating and prohibiting as much as possible - and why it comes up in so many threads here on CS, too. Now it always has two parts which I find both very annoying in itself already:

1) Its obvious lack of any reason or logic to begin with! The threat is always painted as diffuse and abstract as possible - which of course appeals to our natural fear of anything we can't really see (ever been scared in the dark?!?) or understand. We here on CS conveniently have our dear "CS spirit" for that ( http://www.couchsurfing.com/group_read.html?gid=429&post=148171#gpid148171 ) which in itself is already a very wooly thing. It can mean all kinds of things to all kinds of people and yet everyone who calls it as his main witness pretends that it is (or has to be) exactly the same for everyone. Marvelously blurred! And then whatever constitutes a threat to that spirit is even more so. What annoys me so much is that it works! No one ever seems to ask: "Hey - is that really what the CS spirit is all about? And why should that other thing be a threat to it anyways?!?" - because they're not given the time for that. You just scream at them: "... CS spirit ... in danger because of..." - and then you quickly rush to your suggested solution. And then perhaps a few people will waste a thought or two thinking about whether that definition of the CS spirit is the correct one - but most of the others usually make straight for the discussion about whether the suggested solution is actually the best one! Basically the first step is just skipped and after a while it becomes some kind of a given fact in the common consciousness...

2.) What is completely ignored in that process is what annoys me most about all that. It's the conditio sine qua non, the one element or condition without which the danger (be it a real one or a stupidly made up one) could NOT materialize! And that is the assumption that at any given time for no logical reason a majority or at least bigger amount of all CouchSurfers could suddenly behave in a completely irrational or immature or downright stupid way! It is that lack of trust into (and in fact respect for) our members that drives me mad. And - again - the fact that this so important "little detail" is always completely ignored by apparently everyone!

To explain what I mean I'd like to use an analogy we developed and used for a while during our discussion about Hans, the guy who asked for some money for surfing his couch and in which I said that I didn't mind him or other surfers doing that even though I'd never do it myself nor surf anyone's couch for money. So somebody came up with that image of a (super huge) soccer club - a group of people that I would join to meet regularly to play soccer. Surely, he said, I would not fancy if somebody would join who then wanted to play handball. Not that there was anything wrong with handball - but it's just not the thing you do as a member of a soccer club. And yet, I replied, as long as in that super big park with those thousand of other members there were still more than enough for me to play soccer with I really wouldn't mind that guy playing handball - not even if other people joined him in that! So apparently my counterpart thought it was time for more effective ways of persuasion and he let the good old propaganda trick #1 out of the sack. So they said that those people playing handball in our soccer club would be a real threat to all of us for they might attract more and more people to play handball with them instead of soccer and slowly turn our soccer club into something else. Something we did not mean to join in the first place. So we'd have to show zero tolerance to handball players.
And then things went the standard way:
A few people considered for a while if we're actually a soccer club and not perhaps in fact a ball-game club (the "What's the CS spirit" thing)...
But most went right away for the discussion about whether there might be better alternatives instead of the "zero tolerance" suggestion. Like only allowing them to play handball after having played at least to games of soccer...
Nobody however seemed to wonder why in all the world a huge amount of our members should actually suddenly stop playing soccer and start playing handball instead - when they had all joined our club to play soccer? The "zero tolerance" guys argued that the rebellious handball player could simply leave us and join a handball club - and yet it didn't occur to them that so could any other member of our club, too, and could have all the time already. Yet they all stayed with US - and very apparently because they wanted to keep on playing soccer. So actually it was completely irrational to imagine or predict that they would all start playing handball if we'd let the few rebels keep on doing that. NO - they would not! They are here to play soccer - no matter whether some of us play handball (EVEN THOUGH this is a soccer club...)!
And all the time we hadn't even gotten to the ultimate step which is asking whether it would actually be such a big damage if we did in fact turn into a handball club if that's what most members wanted to play...

I know what you think: I haven't gotten over the fact that I lost that Hans discussion. Actually I think I did not lose - it was never really fought through as the guy under some pressure from above removed his claim for money for surfing his couch;-) But that is not the point - as I said I've seen the same pattern many times after that! And I have no doubt it will come up again and then I'll point out to this thread!

Posted June 25th, 2007 - 8:18 pm by from Cologne, Germany (Permalink)
I've said above how much it annoys me that (usually ignored yet all the more important) part of the "SCARE THEM" propaganda trick is the lack of trust into our members independence and intelligence and self-organizational skills. That very same thing annoys me even more about the specific variation of that trick which I describe now:

"We have the obligation to make sure all our members don't misunderstand anything about CS and can't do anything wrong when using the site - for (watch out! here come's the imminent danger:) otherwise we'll loose a lot of members!"

Bullshit! What makes me so furious about that - on first sight so considerate appearing - approach is that it is of course (logically!) based on the assumption that we have so many members who actually can and will misunderstand and do wrong so much when using the site - while those who bring this matter up are of course the super-smart and experienced teaching gurus. I mean: otherwise they'd hardly be able to help those poor, retarded other members, would they? This apparently mindful but in fact almost arrogant view is usually (tried to be) disguised by declaring that the other ones who might misunderstand and err are NOT stupid but just poor inexperienced newbies. But that's (IMHO) in fact nothing more than a weak attempt to hide where the "so considerate ones" are coming from.
I can take the example from above again to make this clear: "If we allow some of us playing handball the newbies will get confused and may not understand that this is in fact a soccer club..."...

I have 3 things to say about that:

1) I'm honestly convinced that our members are not that stupid nor that our newbies are that helpless! IF THEY WANT TO they can find out all the information they need on the site (I figure if they use a web site like ours they will be acquainted with some basics like help links you can click on to (e.g.) find out more about the "ethnicity" field or the "CouchSurf Requests replied to" feature! Or come up with all they need to know by simply using their common sense! They are about to travel foreign countries with usually nobody to take care of them during the journey - if they don't know how to use their common sense then they're lost already anyways! (Anyone seen "The War on Them" lately...)

2) If they fail in doing so, if they do misunderstand things or make mistakes using the site - then it's their own fault! I don't say that just to blame them but to say that this has to be called their "fault" as their mistake is one which they could have avoided since they are smart and mature and self-organized enough! I mean - come on - they are travelers who often go traveling on their own and organize their own trips all on their own and stuff!!! And because that is so it is in the long term NO real help to them to simply prevent them in any conceivable way from committing such errors! If you wanna help a thirsty village you don't give them a truckload of water for that will be used up soon and then they'll need another one and they get dependant on you. Instead you give them a truck load of shovels and stuff and explain to them how to dig a well! And the best way to teach or new members how to avoid making mistake and to use that site as well as possibly is letting them make their own errors!!! If they were actually mindless enough to completely rely on that site and then get stranded on a day when the site is down for hours due to some server updates - then it's NOT our fault because we didn't inform everybody time ahead enough. But theirs for not having used their common sense to think of the possibility of a web site being down for some time! If they don't know how to find out about features on this site since they are not used to use the web - then they should not use such a web sight in the first place! You simply don't drive a car without first learning how to! And if you do and then run into a wall then this is NOT the car builder's fault!!!

3) WE ARE NOT "CLUB MED"! We are not some holiday resort where the tourists don't even have to think about what to do when as there'll always be animator around. We are a fantastic organization for smart and individual and independent travelers! And that's how we should see and treat our members then!

Posted June 25th, 2007 - 8:18 pm by from Cologne, Germany (Permalink)
I realize of course that the problem with trying to prevent anything bad is that this bad thing is to happen in the future for otherwise it could not be prevented any more! So acting on this field is always based on a "prophecy": the perception of a danger that some evil could materialized in the future. So the actual problem is how to asses that danger "correctly" and then react appropriately. It looks to me that both of those two different (though surely connected) things are very often NOT done the way they should (IMHO):

Here's how I always do it - I ask myself some questions:

First to asses a danger properly there are 3 questions to ask:
1) How probable and/or imminent is the threatening danger?
2) How severe would the damage be if that danger turned into a really happened evil?
3) How good are the chances to heal the damage done then and to what extent would it be possible to be healed at all?

And then you have to consider the 3 answers altogether - mix them together, if you want. It's like you have to fill up a glass with 3 different liquids - if you only have a little of one of those 3 liquids then you need some more of both the others. Or a lot of just one of the 3 if you only have very little of the 2 others: If the possible evil is really extremely severe and chances to heal it are almost zero then it wouldn't matter if the risk that this evil is really gonna happen super low - you still wouldn't wanna take it! If the evil is rather small and the chances to heal it are super good but it's also almost certain that this bad thing is gonna happen then why bother with the healing work if you can also prevent it. If - however - the evil would be really bad but chances to heal it super good AND the risk in general pretty low then you should think twice if you wanna take measures to prevent that evil WHEN those measures mean some disadvantages, too. I'm speaking, of course, of disadvantages like overregulation or limits to freedoms. For that's the next step: thinking about APPROPRIATE countermeasures:

And for that there are 3 more questions:
A) Is the suggested countermeasure actually suitable for an effective prevention of that (future) evil/damage?
B) Is there ANOTHER countermeasure that is JUST AS suitable/effective BUT with LESSER disadvantages (as mentioned above: e.g. less regulating, less limiting...)?
C) Is that countermeasure adequate to the result of the 3 questions above?

C) is of course what eventually links A)-C) to 1)-3) - for if you come up with some countermeasure that passes A) & B) but is totally not appropriate for that risk as assessed answering questions 1) - 3) then you might have to go back to find a measure that's perhaps less effective but eventually more adequate...


a) my little kids wanna play on our roof terrace
b) my little kids wanna play out in the snow

a) the terrace has no enclosure or fencing - so the kids could fall off the 10-store building
b) snow is cold - kids could get a cold

1) kids romp and in that process usually forget about precautions and have accidents; here that might easily be falling off the terrace (like when running after a ball or so) which would almost certainly result in death
2) death is a pretty severe damage
3) I'd only know of one case when death was healed...
Result: EVEN IF the risk is not so high (e.g. slightly elder kids who take care a bit more...) - the possible damage is too severe and cannot be healed to take even the slightest risk!

1) kids get colds all the time in winter - that risk is certainly very high
2) a cold is not that horrible! it's nasty and all - but it even has it's good sides (strengthening the immune system...)
3) it can almost always be healed easily!
Result: no matter how high the risk might be - the damage is just too small and too easy to be healed again to really bother too much!

Now the countermeasures:

A) forbidding the kids to play on the roof terrace is very effective! You can't fall off a roof top that you're not even on.
B) But that's really very restricting. What good is the roof terrace (for my kids) if they can't play on it? An equally effective but less restricting measure would be building a fence around that terrace!
C) building such a fence costs money. Now we have to weigh up if I wanna (and can!) spend that money "only" to enable my kids to play up there - when they could just as well go to the park. So while the fence up to here seemed to be the better (because less restricting) countermeasure it might (at least for the moment when I have no money) fail to pass C) and therefore we might have to fall back to the countermeasure in A)...

A) forbidding the kids to play out in the cold is very effective. It's too warm inside to get a cold here!
B) But that's really very restricting. Kids want to play in the snow and they should have the chance! A less restricting measure would be making sure they all put on their warm winter clothes - only that countermeasure is sure NOT as effective as the upper one!
C) the warm clothes would possibly not even pass question A) as they might really help in preventing a cold but do not guarantee the kids can't get one! But forbidding the kids to play out in the snow is simply out of proportion to the assessed risk (just a cold that can easily be cured!) - so the warm clothes would win even though they are less effective!

I'd like to use the Hans (money to the host) example again:

1) the possible danger would be more and more other surfers following Hans' example and start taking money for hosting, too, which would eventually lead to CS being a different thing. I explained above (under LUP - 3Ps: Prophs - SCARE THEM - the #1 trick in the book of propaganda) why I find that already a totally and unreasonably IMprobable fear - but even if we assume that we really have so many surfers among us who only wait for somebody to take that first step to then follow him - there's still:
2) if CS was turned into some kind of couch ebay I would personally find that bad, too! So - yes that's severe enough;-) BUT unfortunately that's just not a entirely correct description of the predicted danger! For even those who answered 1) with "Yes, the probability is pretty high" would surely agree that such a complete convert wouldn't happen over night. Letting Hans take his 7 € would AT FIRST only lead to more and more people STARTING to take money - but that would take days and weeks and months before they'd be so many that we'd even really take notice or could describe it as a real movement going on (and not just a few more exceptions!) - and that's important to keep in mind:
3) because that time lap means that we'd actually have super high chances to heal the damage! I mean: had we let Hans take the money and had that led to more and more other CS'ers doing so likewise (which - again - I'm sure had NOT happened in the first place!) THEN we'd have quite some time to observe that and still stop this once we'd come to the conclusion that this had actually turned into a mass movement which then in fact could have turned CS into something different.
But why let it come that far you might ask? Easy: because there's still A)-C):

A) forbidding every member to take money is surely very effective! And it does work - Hans took that request off his profile and for all I know nobody else ever tried that again.
B) it's a very restricting measure. It sure violates other principles on CS - the coexistence of different (and even contradicting!) ideas and opinions as well as the general trust in our members to make up and follow their own rules as long as those are not interfering with other member's freedoms and stuff. Let's not forget that many had surfed Hans' couch and obviously did pay that money. And don't we say again and again that CS is not (just) to save money? I had argued back then that there are surely some members out there who don't mind giving some money to a host at all for they use CS mainly to already have somebody to spend some time with wherever they travel to. So those members might even prefer if they get an a bit "better" accommodation for their money;-) So a compromise could have been to put a special sign or bold red letter warning on top of the profiles of members who ask for money - saying that this is NOT in accordance with one of CS main principles, but therefore forbidding to do so would neither be in accordance with another principle (Live and Let Live) and therefore taking money is not "supported" by CS but tolerated...
C) of course that second possibility would not be nearly as effective as the fist one - for it would in fact "allow" members to take money and that symbol or warning line could turn out to be not as off-putting as I think it would be. But then - following my answers to questions 2) and 3) above- since we'd still have the time and chance to impose a complete ban on taking money later this solution would surely have been the more adequate one! At least to try out first!

This way to asses a risk properly and then suggest an adequate reaction to it is nothing one can only know about or come up with who's super smart or has studied law or anything! It's COMMON SENSE! So why is it ignored so often?

I'm afraid the answer to that is the same to why people still support death penalty: Too often the considerations are NOT about how to make life safer and happier for all our communities' members by preventing certain risk with the help of rules and bans! It's about taking revenge! People who don't follow the rules we deem so important and necessary irritate (so many of) us! People who (seem {to some of us}) to exploit our community annoy us!! People who beyond any doubt do harm to our precious project make us furious!!! And for that all those people shall bleed! We'll let them feel who's in charge here! We'll show them that we have the means to force them to do what we want them to do - even if they fail to understand that, of course, we are right and where they were wrong!! We'll make them pay for making us angry!!!
And because none of that sounds very honorable we'll simply don't talk about those real motives of ours but build up a whole facade argumentation which is all about minimizing risks to our members and stuff.

After all: it would probably be a bit arrogant to think that we are any better then the rest of society!!! Or is it not? Shouldn't we try to be better! Shouldn't we try to not act out of anger and thus take revenge but in fact ONLY act against any of our members and take away any of their freedoms IF that actually is a countermeasure which passed questions A)-C) to a real threat which was properly assed by answering questions 1)-3)???