Politics? Difficult! Taboo tradeoffs? The concept is not too hard to understand if you think of the compromises you make in your day-to-day life. Nor is it in inter-nation-al affairs, if you think about it. Just read this study by Messrs Ginges, Atran, Medin & Shikaki via the pdf I’m offering for download. It’s an article written in 2006-10, published by the National Academy of Sciences of the USA in PNAS vol. 104 no. 18 d.d. 2007-05-01, pp. 7357-7360.
Although previous research into judgement and decisionmaking has demonstrated the ways in which normative rules of rationality are systematically violated when people make decisions aimed at achieving instrumental outcomes such as maximizing profit, our results show that people with sacred values may not reason instrumentally. These results have powerful implications for understanding the trajectory of many cultural, resource, and political conflicts, implying that when people transform a resource (such as land), an activity (such as hunting a particular animal or farming a certain crop), or an idea (such as obtaining a nuclear weapon) into a sacred value, attempts to solve disputes in a bargaining setting by focusing on increasing the costs or benefits of different actions can backfire. Instead, when dealing with conflicts involving sacred values, culturally sensitive efforts at identifying symbolic tradeoffs that involve equitable gains or losses over those values may open up new channels for peaceful resolution of otherwise intractable conflicts. […] violent opposition to compromise over issues considered sacred is (i) increased by offering material incentives to compromise but (ii) decreased when the adversary makes symbolic compromises over their own sacred values. […] the use of material incentives to promote the peaceful resolution of political and cultural conflicts may backfire when adversaries treat contested issues as sacred values.
Creating peace is one thing. Keeping the dialogue going just to avoid polarisation and scapegoating (see previous post) is equally important one to keep the peace. Everywhere. Nationalism and nation branding are hard to avoid, nay impossible to eradicate. But the so called (brand) values have to be open for debate if a dialogue is needed to get a cohabitation going or in order to get other problems solved – rather than see them lead to further polarisation. A group of people has to be able to see a higher goal in the long run to avoid troubles in the short term, and therefore question some of its values if they stand in the way of the long term goals – especially if there’s too high a price to be paid – both in lives and economic damages. As Curtis sang: we got to have peace.
Source of the quote: http://PNAS.org/cgi/reprint/104/18/7357.pdf (zoom in below)
+ http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2007/04/16/0701768104.DC1 for more context
… discovered via “Taboe-uitruil” by Piet Borst in NRC Handelsblad, 2008-05-31 (and that’s not so long ago).
And see also: www.scientificamerican.com/article/psychology-of-taboo-tradeoff/ (Adam Waytz 2010-03-09).
Bonus: slactivism (~ Slacktivismus), http://mashable.com/2010/01/28/citizen-philanthropist/