Monday, March 21, 2011

Crisis Management

What do we need to get through a crisis? Prof. Elaine Scarry tells us that it is: “good habits.” Link here.

Looking at the response to the current earthquake in Japan through the lens of the Kobe earthquake, Scarry suggests that Japan has dealt with these events effectively because it does not rely on emergency government powers, but instead on the good habits that good people have cultivated in their social interactions with their friends and neighbors.

In her words: “Of course when things are done voluntarily often there is no visible sign of it for a while. It’s not self-announcing in the way that government efforts are....The remarkable participation of the population in helping after the Kobe earthquake was a habit. They hadn’t been practicing how to clear rubble from earthquakes. I don’t even know if they explicitly practiced first aid. But they did have habits of feeling it was their responsibility and their ability to keep the streets clean, to help take care of the elderly in their block and their town, and that translated during the emergency. I quote de Tocqueville saying that voluntary associations establish ‘habits of the heart.’”

This almost sounds Scarry is comparing a command economy with a free a market economy. She seems to be suggesting that a command economy places so much control in the hands of a centralized authority that they become morally lax and lazy. If the government is going to do it for you, why bother to do it yourself? And if the government is going to punish people who do bad things, why bother to try to good things?

When people do not depend on government to step in when something goes wrong, they are more likely to take initiatives and to treat each other with respect.

This tells us that weak government does not lead to the law of the jungle, to a dog-eat-dog world… it leads to community cooperation and an orderly marketplace. Who knew?

The notion that good habits will get us through a crisis is perhaps more radical than it appears at first glance.

Surely, this principle guides training exercises. The more you train for an event, the more you practice, the better you will function when the s#@% hits the fan.

Most people will agree to this principle, in the abstract. But what does therapy, for example, offer as crisis preparation?

Doesn’t therapy promote the notion that if we understand the past, integrate and process our traumas, we will be so filled with insight that we will be better able to handle future traumas?

And hasn’t therapy pretended that you can best process a trauma when you learn to express all of your feelings about it.

This is not at all the same thing as developing good habits.

If our good habits will help us to function optimally when we are going through an emergency, we getting in touch with our feelings about our past traumas is probably not going to be of much help.

Bad habits produce bad behavior and bad behavior will become the rationale for increased government interference.


Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman, et al.
RE: 'Good Habits'???!?!

What do we need to get through a crisis? Prof. Elaine Scarry tells us that it is: “good habits.” -- Stuart Schneiderman


....tell US....

....where do such 'good habits' come from?


[Conscience is what hurts when everything else feels so good.]

P.S. But the question THEN becomes WHERE does on find what is 'good'?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Hard work, good training, and good coaching... Also, from a respect for authority, an identification with the group, and an ability to follow rules.

JP said...

It's not so much "weak government" as it is optimal government given the level of cultural development.

In any event, the authority has to be morally legitimate and the group has to somewhat sane. There are lots of exceptions to those general rules.

And the rules have to set on the metaphysical ground, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: The 'Source'....

Hard work, good training, and good coaching... Also, from a respect for authority, an identification with the group, and an ability to follow rules. --Stuart Schneiderman

....of 'good habits'.

You're 'tap-dancing' around the central issue....from 'whence' these 'good habits'?

What is your 'reference'? Your 'evidence'? [NOTE: A question on the ballots of HS debate judges.]

What is 'good'? Versus what is 'bad'? In this particular 'venue'?


[The Truth will out....]

Therapy Culture said...

In my culture we cultivate "daily routine" - a fixed set of rituals pertaining to health, hygeiene, food taboos/intake, home environment, rising early and religious rituals or meditation practice.

This keeps us calm in times of crises.

Anonymous said...

"Also, from a respect for authority, an identification with the group, and an ability to follow rules."

didn't hannah arendt write about
"competent authority"?

in regard to the 60's gen rebels' bumpersticker "question authority",
competent authority doesn't object to being questioned, incompetent authority does.

Anonymous said...

Steven Covey's "Seven Habits" address some of what Chuck might be asking for,imo.

and they also address JP's question about a 'metaphysical ground'...Covey suggests his readers review their values
and apply the 7 habits towards reaching their goals based on that review of their values.

in addition Stuart, isn't it the goal of CBT to identify change problem thinking patterns and behavior "in the present" rather than the insight-therapy model of "uncovering the past"?

CBT is the only therapeutic regimen I'm aware of that
pursues developing "good habits of thought" as a means to a "cure".


Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree with you Shoe... and that is the reason why when I talk about therapy I am not talking about CBT-- cognitive-behavioral treatments, which do, in fact, function from within a completely different model... one that attempts to correct bad habits by replacing them with good ones.

I have occasionally made the distinction, but perhaps I do not do it often enough.

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: Why....

....was my previous comment deemed 'inappropriate' for viewing?


[What they are telling you can be important. What they are NOT telling you can be VITAL.]

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Which comment did they deem inappropriate for viewing? If I have it in my email, I'll post it.

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: 'Which Comment'

I guess I'm going to have to start recording ALL 'comments' in order to provide that sort of specific information. As opposed to 'trusting' in Blogger to accurately capture such.


P.S. PuhLEASE move up to a reliable system. I've asked this of Dr. Helen and Ann Althouse, but they insist on allowing others to control their input.