This lengthy New York Times piece by Jon Mooallem is subtitled, "The Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 surprised everyone by showing that natural disasters can bring out more kindness than selfishness." The piece is worth reading just for the stunning photos of the devastation that occurred in Anchorage on the evening of March 27, 1964 when the state was struck by "the most powerful earthquake in American history, and the second most powerful ever measured in the world."
Mooallem's piece packs a powerful punch, too. In the aftermath of the earthquake, Alaskans were sharing and cooperative, and it turns out that unselfish behavior during a disaster is the rule rather than the exception:
In the 56 years since the Great Alaska Earthquake, an entire field of sociology, disaster studies, blossomed around the Disaster Research Center, with sociologists parachuting into scores of other communities after natural disasters around the world, and it’s stunning to look back and recognize how much of the resilience, levelheadedness, kindness and cooperation those sociologists saw in Anchorage turned out to be characteristic of disasters everywhere.
The one thing that interferes with the tendency towards altruism in a disaster is something scholars call "elite panic."
Many of our ugliest assumptions about human behavior have been refuted by their observations of how actual humans behave — though we seem tragically slow to shed those old myths. (In some cases, disaster studies teaches us, those in power are so overcome with worry about mass panic and looting that they overreact and clamp down on a public that isn’t actually panicked at all. Disaster scholars refer to this phenomenon as “elite panic.”)
On May 6, 1937, LZ 129 Hindenburg burst into flames. 36 lives were lost as the horrific event was caught on camera.
On Electric Lit, Halimah Marcus, interviews speculative fiction author Ted Chiang (Exhalation, Arrival) on the current global pandemic and whether there will ever be a “normal” for us to return to. HM: What’s the relationship between disruption and doom? Would “the disruption is resolved and nothing is ever the same” qualify as a doom narrative? […]
When Yale research psyhcologist Irving Janis coined the term "groupthink" in 1972, he identified eight symptoms of the pathology: the "illusion of invulnerability"; a "belief in the inherent morality of the group"; "collective rationalization"; "out-group stereotypes"; "self-censorship"; the "illusion of unanimity"; "direct pressure on dissenters" and "self-appointed mindguards."
Virus quarantines and shuttered restaurants sent millions of Americans back to their homes, only to rediscover the joys of firing up an oven and cooking something special for themselves. Whether by desire, necessity, or both, many of us have certainly been spending more time in the kitchen these last few months. And we haven’t just […]
Now that the world is starting to re-emerge from its self-imposed COVID-19 quarantine, we’re all going to have to start making some adjustments to both short-term and long-term changes. And the questions… Should customers be hounded out of a store if they aren’t wearing a face mask? Are crocheted face masks safe or not? And […]
Maybe you had a piano teacher as a kid that drove you off the instrument forever. Or maybe you always wished for some serious training, but never found the time. Whether you have dreams of tossing off a Beethoven or Chopin piece at the drop of a hat or you have visions of being the […]