My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

Darwin, Bonaparte & the Samaritan (starting the year on a good note!)


That’s the title of Michel Serre’s new book. Unfortunately I think it’s not yet available in English (but it is in French & Spanish.)

He’s one of the great minds of our times. In this book he explores, focusing on three different periods, where we’ve come from, who we are and where we’re going. He also takes the opportunity to discuss perception using some interesting numbers. Despite what politicians say (and 24 hour news), we’re living in a time of unprecedented peace and safety.

 Deaths in war by 100,000 peopleLas paradojas del progreso: datos para el optimismo

And even more interesting is his view on terrorism. Here’s the global death toll of different causes of death (Richard King via Oxfam)

Global Death Toll of Different Causes of Death - Oxfam0

So if we take France as an example, which has been Europe’s number one target for terrorism in the past two years- and take the number of dead (247), and consider the population (66 million), that means if terrorism continues at its current rate a person in France has less than two ten-thousandths of one per cent chance of being killed in a terrorist attack. That’s 27 times lower than their odds of dying in a car accident. (Thanks for the number Tom Pollock 🙂 )

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Oh, and the other day I discovered a rather interesting new presence on WordPress. Her name is Martina Feyzrakhmanova and she writes on a whole range of fascinating things which you might want to have a look at here.

Happy New Year!

12 comments on “Darwin, Bonaparte & the Samaritan (starting the year on a good note!)

  1. dpmonahan
    January 2, 2017

    I am more likely to be struck by lightning than be killed by a terrorist, but I don’t expect the government to pass a bill banning lightning; I do expect the government to take steps to prevent terrorism.
    An analogous case: comfortable white folk will sometimes criticize BLM on the basis that young black men are magnitudes more likely to be killed by other young black men than by police, but these black communities don’t really expect the police to prevent gangster murders, they realistically recognize that the problem is beyond the nature of police to handle; what they expect is that the police not be the ones committing the murders.
    Or another case: people are more upset when an illegal migrant commits a horrendous crime than when a natural born citizen commits the same sort of crime. This is often dismissed as bias or racism, but no one expects the government to prevent all crime; they expect the government to prevent preventable crimes, such as ones committed by people who would not be here if the government took things like borders and visas seriously.
    The deeper problem is that we have two different systems of ethics. Our rulers tend to look at things in terms of aggregate benefits, while we citizens still think we are owed something as a matter of justice. Hence, Merkel could let a million young Arab guys walk into her country knowing full well there would be terror attacks, but figuring hey, the murder rate will still be negligible and it is all for the aggregate good of the world.
    The result of all this is that you are a subject and not a citizen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The problem with what you’re saying is that the mathematics is what determines the importance of a variable in prioritization.

      When planning a strategy to deal with anything at all, being able to break down the meaning of the numbers is of fundamental importance. Mrs. Merkel understood that statistically taking in the number of migrants Germany took in would not significantly increase the risk of terrorism. She also knew that not taking in the migrants would not significantly decrease the risk of terrorism (as evidenced by history and the varying policies of different countries over time.)

      In the case of terrorism governments already do an exceptionally good job of preventing it (hence the insignificant numbers.) So constructing new national identities and cultures where terrorism is the gravitational centre everything else orbits around is to defy reality- and also to hand to demagogues a weapon they can use freely to manipulate the credulous.
      To take your own example of lightning; we’re talking about Breaking News banners on lightning across the globe every day. A scale from green to red called the Lightning Alert that appears on the news every time there’s a storm. See what I mean?

      Liked by 1 person

      • dpmonahan
        January 2, 2017

        I thought that was the opposite of what I was saying: that the statistical likelihood of an event happening is NOT what determines the amount of concern given it, nor should it be. No one is responsible for natural disasters, but someone is responsible for police discipline or border security.
        The problem is government officials pissing on your shoes and telling you it is raining, that is, doing you harm while claiming it is the result of an impersonal force. A million Arabs walking into your country, raping girls, and driving trucks through crowds is not a mysterious event as uncontrollable as the weather. A bunch of Arabs with expired visas getting on planes and flying them into towers is not some kind of inevitable occurrence like traffic deaths. Policemen murdering people is not the moral equivalent of getting cancer.
        Each of these cases is the result of government officials not doing their jobs because they do not feel accountable to the citizens. Free citizens have every right to be enraged as a matter of basic justice.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s not quite what you’re doing because although you start by making a distinction between statistical likelihood and reality, you go on to describe situations where you connect the identity of individuals with specific events. Allowing in migrants is not the proximate cause of rape 🙂


  2. Sirius Bizinus
    January 2, 2017

    I think Robot Chicken captured the paranoia quite nicely.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Dr Martina Feyzrakhmanova
    January 2, 2017

    Excellent way to put things in context. The Financial Times recently did an article on the real vs perceived economic and social markers you might like! Thanks so much for the shoutout, I will make sure to return the favour!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. acflory
    January 3, 2017

    You’re right, Pinky…and hello Martina! -waves-

    Liked by 2 people

  5. acflory
    January 3, 2017

    Reblogged this on Meeka's Mind and commented:
    I particularly like the graph showing the breakdown of what actually killed people from 2008 to 2012. When you see truly horrific figures like those, it really does put the bogeyman of terrorism in perspective. It also makes me wonder what motivates those who want to blame all Muslims for the acts of a very, very, vanishingly small few.

    Are they truly that scared of Islam? Or is the terror card simply a convenient peg on which to hang their fear of the Other? Cory Bernardi, I’m looking at you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hariod Brawn
    January 3, 2017

    The Oxfam graph is interesting; I never realised that children under 5 were such murderous little bastards.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. belasbrightideas
    January 4, 2017

    OOoohh, thanks for the referral to Martina’s blog. Looks intriguing. 🙂


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This entry was posted on January 2, 2017 by in activism, thinking aloud and tagged , , , , , , .
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