Notebook entry, January 31, 2002
The outrage continues to swirl around the Enron scandal. The February 4, 2002 issue of Business Week, p. 32, has a Special Report entitled: Bracing For a Backlash: After Enron, business may be subjected to a new wave of regulation. In the February 4, 2002 issue of Time magazine, p. 18, Title: Enron Spoils the Party: Bush wants his State of the Union speech to drown out those stories linking the disgraced company and the White House. In one particular striking paragraph, the magazine seemed to sum up the consensus view that is permeating the atmosphere. Here, Time is describing how the Democrats have had little to opportunity to oppose the war-time President, until: "Then Enron dealt them a fresh hand. The implosion of the huge Texas energy firm and the sudden loss of retirement funds for thousands of employees and pensioners opened up all the pathways to Scandal land that had been closed since Sept 11. Every populist conflict in the Democratic playbook has at least a cameo role in the Enron drama: fat cats versus little guys, energy producers versus energy consumers, corporate secrets versus shareholder democracy, business-friendly Republicans against lunch-pail Democrats." p. 21, & 22.
I think that I will incorporate these articles into my Resource Differential Intolerance Ratio essay, but this week has been a quite busy one at work. Stay tuned.
Notebook entry, January 27, 2002
In a related issue to my Jan 25 notebook entry, I came across a Natalie Angier piece in The New York Times. She had an article dated January 22, 2002 as reported in The Denver Post of the same date, p. 2A. The title of the article: "To punish is human, research shows." I'm going to quote the first three paragraphs to properly "frame" the article in your mind.
"Over the last couple of weeks, as the Enron fiasco has played itself out, Americans have been transfixed by the story, united in a nearly seamless sense of outrage.
"Regardless of whether any laws were broken in the spectacular collapse of one of the nation's largest companies, citizens of all political pipings have voiced disgust at accounts of top Enron executives selling off their stock in time to enrich themselves handsomely, while ordinary Enron employees were forced to sit by in impotent desperation as their retirement savings evaporated.
"In the ferocity of the public outcry, and the demand from even those with no personal stake in the Enron bankruptcy that "justice" be done, some scientists see a vivid example of humanity's evolved and deep-seated hatred of the Cheat. The Cheat is the transgressor of fair play the violator of accepted norms, the sneak who smiles while lading from the community till."
In essence, what Ms. Angier is writing about is that there is a "social glue" that has evolved and has led us to deal with "cheaters" that threatens the social compact that maintains social harmony (peaceful behavior, as opposed to violent) as the norm. This readiness to catch and punish the cheater is the centerpiece of group social behavior – or at least, that is the theory.
Angier then goes on to cite a study in the January 10th issue of journal Nature. The title of the study: "Altruistic Punishment in Humans." The study was led by Dr. Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich and Dr. Simon Gachter of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. The study suggests that "people will seek to punish a cheater even when the punishment is costly to them and offers no material benefit." Participants in the study were given a lump sum of 20 "monetary units" and allowed to play a series of games that allowed them to contribute to a community project which would be divided up at the end of the project. There was always the risk of a "freeloader" taking contributions that have been given by others. The problem of the cheater was solved by the participants willingly paying one monetary unit from their kitty to expose the cheater; which when exposed, would have to pay three monetary units. The bottom-line was this: Cooperators had to pay out of their own pocket to express their disgust at another's selfish behavior. The study found that 84 percent of the participants enjoyed the use of punishment when permitted.
The important thing to remember is that IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO punish others, participants would do so. The key is the wording, "given the opportunity"; how and who determines the "opportunity" for people in a group to go ahead or stop what they are doing? Another quick question that I would like to throw in: who and under what circumstances gave ordinary people in Nazi Germany the "opportunity" to "punish" the Jews the way they did? The answer to both questions in lies in the dominate culture that sets the display rules. The display rules are the accepted behavior norms for the group. See my notebook entry of Jan. 26, 2002 for more on this.
Notebook entry, January 26, 2002
I was musing on the impact of the Enron scandal here in the USA and I was trying to understand the reason for the depth of the "outrage" that seems to be occurring in our American "community." I mean, there have been business, political, and social scandals before, but nothing seems to equal the deep intensity of the outrage that appears to be spilling out over the televised and radio airwaves over this series of events. The American people seem genuinely angry about the chief executives of Enron bailing out of their company; selling their stock while the stock price was still high, while at the same time prohibiting their employees from touching their Enron stock investments and telling those very employees that their "company's future looked very bright" while in fact, the company was crumpling around them. The question that I was raising with my muse was why the story of a select few corporate executives soaking employees creating such a "buzz" now (since October 2001 to present) when past corporate executive "crimes" have hardly created a ripple of protest?
In America, for at least as long as I can remember, things like this happen all of the time. In fact, it happens so much, that one has the feeling that the elite males who run corporate America (and they represent over 90%) must consider this as part of their "compensation package." A perfect example of recent business "scandals" would be the Savings and Loan debacle during the Ronald Reagan administration in the "go-go" 1980s. Let's see...if my memory serves me right, about 150 billion dollars was soaked from the little people while savings and loan institutions were folding like wheat waving in the wind -- same series of events occurred there as with Enron -- the big guys walked away with their "golden parachutes" for their "dedicated services" -- and the American public was presented with the bill for bailing out the system.
Included amongst those savings and loan executives, was one person named Neil Bush, the brother of the current American President, who walked away with one million dollars in the defunct Silverado Savings and Loan located here in Denver (for his "services" on the board of directors). If my memory serves correctly, there were only a few executives who did jail time because of this scandal; most notable was a man named Charles Keating. In fact, there was a bit of a flap with this man giving so many political contributions to grease the deregulation laws concerning savings and loans that Senator John McCain was involved -- and he is supposed to be the current champion (in 2000 plus) of political finance reform here in America. In fact, if I remember correctly, I believe that Charles Keating contributions and ties to seven American Senators gave rise to calling the seven Senators, "The Keating Seven" in the media. Other Senators included Cranston, Deconcini, Glenn, and Riegle.
There was some 'buzz" and some congressional hearings over the savings and loan event, but nothing substantial in tenor and intensity of the Enron scandal...OK....how about the "Seven Dwarfs” in the 1990s? – Remember them -- the seven Chief Executive Officers of cigarette companies -- all standing up, lined shoulder to shoulder, with their right hands raised, swearing under oath before Congress, that, to the best of their knowledge, they did not think that cigarettes were addictive? Slowly killing 500,000 persons a year by cancer hardly caused a ripple amongst the media, and thus the public. Yes, the incident did cause the cigarette companies to cough up enormous sums of money to the states for covering medical expenses of the "victims" of cigarette abuse, but, once again, no big outrage nor "buzz" on the scale of the Enron scandal. (and the executives responsible for these "criminal" events lost not a penny -- they just raised the price of their additive product and the states quietly collected the increased tax revenue in their usual "wink - wink - nod -nod" compliance).
Well, its my hunch, that the amount of "buzz" that is being generated over the Enron scandal is in direct proportion -- on a national level -- to events that have preceded this event -- also a similar national level. What I am suggesting here is that September 11, 2001 -- an event on a national level -- has created a group "collective consciousness" that "frames" acceptable group behavior (display rules) for the next event that would come along and would "equal" that event. A sort of "clump" of emotional neurons that has stuck in the collective consciousness of the group at a particular "longitude and Latitude" (local environment) -- in this case, all of America became involved and "united" by the event. In this particular case, (the Enron scandal) I believe that the outrage over the executive soaking the "little person" is being created because the image of over three hundred fire and police emergency personnel perished in the conflagration of September 11 -- and thus "seared" the behavior of the "ultimate sacrifice" into the minds of America's collective consciousness as appropriate behavior (display rules) that others in one's group must follow for any new event. Thus, the behavior shown by the Enron executives on this scale has "act ivied" and is in 'conflict' with this clump of "acceptable behavior desired" that tells us, as a collective whole, that the altruistic behavior of the emergency personnel that response to 9/11 is what we want to see acted out -- not open thievery of executives of the seventh largest corporation in America. It's my hunch that the "outrage" or "buzz" displayed are equal to the hoots and pants of our deep history ancestors found on the jungle floor -- it is an expression of outrage that cries out to be corrected.
We must remember that the "sacrifice" and altruistic behavior shown by the 9/11 emergency personnel was praised and elevated to a very high level for many, many weeks here in America. (It is also part of the launching platform device we humans use as "justification" for "revenge" and "retribution" when our country decided to "protect ourselves" by launching the war in Afghanistan). What I am suggesting is that if September 11th had not occurred -- and the massive praise of altruism was not given that elevated the "acceptable behavior rules" to such a high degree, then the Enron scandal most likely would have created the same lower level national response as the Savings and Loan scandal in the Eighties and not the intense emotional "outrage" that is being displayed here -- post October 2001.
To support my theory, let's image for a moment that we are back in pre-colonial America at the time of the Salem Witch Hunts. A very important person dies suddenly, for some unexplained reason. Let's also say that this person is the patriarch, who just happens to be the local parson or religious head of this small, (let's say about 150 people) community that lies near the city of Salem, thus coming under its "social influence." This becomes a "major event" -- a clump of emotional neurons that is seeped into the collective consciousness of the local community at that particular timeline in their history. This is really big news -- there is a tremendous "buzz." Their patriarch (their "protector") has died suddenly -- which lies in sharp contrast to the exterior “factual” observation know by all that this man was healthy and hearty just a few days ago.
Preceding this upsetting event, rooting out evil witches was fairly common behavior of the dominates in this particular place and particular timeline current with this community's behavior. God is paramount, and the devil is the destructive element of that "safe" haven that threatens the social fabric found at that time. Suddenly, a remembered incident of just a few days ago begins to "circulate" -- "buzz" -- amongst the community about a chance meeting in the middle of the main road between the patriarch and the "old-female-who-lives-alone" at the edge of town. It seem that the old woman would not move aside when the patriarch approached along the narrow path there were both on, and if one did not make way for the other, one would have to step in the water and mud found on each side of the path. When the two met and hesitated before each other, the patriarch had to "remind" the old women of her place in the social hierarchy of the community by verbal abusing and hitting the old woman upon her hunched back with his walking stick to make her move out of the way. The old woman complied, and the two went on their respective directions. Except, of course, the patriarch suddenly dies a few days later, and the "old lady who lives alone lives down the road at the edge of town," suddenly becomes the possible reason for the patriarch’s death. The 'buzz' as framed by the social fabric of the time in history frames her as a witch and as the only possible conclusion based upon the "facts" of the situation; occurring to the social rules of the dominate group, action is then "decided" upon to either act upon, or dismiss the incident. In this particular case, the previous event -- (the normal atmosphere of witch hunting (display rules at that particular timeline) found in the local environment -- frames the next event -- the incident between the old woman and the patriarch, which then leads to the "conclusion" of putting this women on trial as a witch and then hanging or burning her. The final event then becomes part of the "normal display rule behaviors" for the next generation that lives within this local environment. Hence, 9/11, and the elevation of the "normal display rule behavior" of the ultimate altruistic behavior became the event that became the "temperature" gauge for the next event -- in our example, Enron executives stealing from the little people that defies the display rule behavior established by the previous framing incident of altruism and sacrifice surrounding September 11th, 2001. Comprehend? -- Capire? (kah-pee-ray?)
Notebook entry, Jan. 21, 2002
For those of you who have been sleeping in a cave and may have missed the evening televised news here in America for the past week, the current "buzz" that seems to be igniting debate across the country is the collapse of the Enron energy corporation. It is the largest bankruptcy of any corporation in America's history and the resulting thread that appears to be driving the direction of the "buzz" news is that the Enron executives most likely knew that the company was going to tank and sold off most of their stock options -- walking away with obscene piles of money, while at the same time, the executives were telling the employees that the company's future was bright and that they should continue to contribute part of the salaries into their company retirement funds.
The Buzz is actually a negative buzz instead of a positive one. This negative buzz helps to support my speculative theory that I raised in my most recent essay, The Resource Differential Intolerance Ratio Theory. This negative buzz is mostly focused on this "screwing" of the little guys (the submisssives) by the "big cheeses" (the dominates). It basically has created a firestorm of "intolerance" and has upset the peaceful co-existence between the socioeconomic classes. An excellent newswire story from The New York Times titled: Dreams Turn Into Nightmares, by Rick Bragg as reported in The Denver Post, January 20th, 2002 p. 16A. is such a perfect example, that I am going to place the entire article linked to the essay as a citation. Evolutionary psychology is maturing very rapidly as a science, and opportunities must be weighed very carefully in regards to proper copyrighted material vs. advances in sciences.
Notebook entry, January 19, 2002
To my regular readers, I apologize that I have not written for several weeks. The main reason is that I just purchased a new computer outfit and had Microsoft FrontPage 2002 installed along with it. FrontPage is the editing software that allows me to make additions to Evolution's Voyage; it's sort of a cyberspace word processor. When I print these words and then click on the Save button, it saves the material on a server somewhere in Florida while I sit here in Colorado. The problem for my absence was that my host company that holds this web site at its server was not ready with the proper extensions needed with MSFP2002 - sort of like fingers that extend outward and allow me the enter the program. But, after connecting with the technical folks at Verio, they figure out how I could enter the back door and continue with my work. I'll update you on some developments in a short while.