Monthly Archives: November 2013

Newsletter – October 2013





     3.  MORE SEX, ANYONE?







“It is always our own self that we find at the end of the journey. The sooner we face that self, the better.”



October greetings, dear friends…

The fall colors are beautiful here in New England, and I’ve had an extended trip seeing them through two months and six states in all stages. The “ordeal” of all this beauty was foisted upon me by lovely wife’s need to travel from Boston to Philadelphia to Asheville NC. How she could add in such traipsing around after a month and a half of providing primary daycare for grandson Xavier is well beyond this old monk’s ken.

But enough of my whining. I’ve had a personal revelation that is still reverberating, and I want to share it with you as best I can. The facts are mundane. I bought a 2005 Impreza Outback to replace the car my granddaughter McKinley totaled by hitting a deer, and it turned out that the windshield was unsafe to see through at night or when driving into the sun so it needed to be replaced at a cost of about $300. Of course, if the windshield were damaged with a sufficiently large crack from a stone, my insurance would pay for the replacement. A common “accident” would save $300 as I was advised by a number of friends and even some glass replacement professionals.

Strangely enough, I experienced this as a moral dilemma at this point in my life. The first part of my revelation was that I was simply going to do the right thing which was pay for the replacement. This moral clarity came to me easily – I can afford that cost without hardship. But the power of the revelation came in the feeling of being a decent person doing a decent thing. How cleansing this seemingly insignificant decision was for my habitual “always play the angle” mentality! I realized how my ten years living in New Zealand with its noticeable lack of guile has helped me grow and change into a better person – and I was rejoicing in my evolution.

For years, when I try to describe the difference between living in New Zealand and in the United States to American friends, I’ve said, “New Zealand is like being in America in the 40s and early 50s when I grew up. In general Kiwis just expect that people are going to do the right thing and are shocked when they don’t. This contrasts starkly with the America that is sure people are going to take advantage whenever they can and are truly surprised when someone does the right thing. In fact, we often called people ‘suckers’.” Over the last 25 years with Donna, my Kiwi wife, and the last decade living in New Zealand, I’ve been helped to recover some of myself, and it is truly a blessing!

That was the first part of this experience’s gift to me – that I had lost an important part of myself and could, by simple acts of honesty and decency, recover much of that goodness. It seems as though all I need to do is recognize my habit of “angle-thinking” and step back from it for a moment. In this pause, often called “counting to 10” or “taking a deep breath,” a much more wholesome level of personal choice is now possible for me and others. It feels truly wonderful!

The second part of my revelation seems more significant to me, both personally and culturally. I was so struck by how habituated I’d become to “angle-thinking” that I decided to investigate when I began this habit. Could I recall an incident or period in my life when I realized I had to protect myself from being taken advantage of and become a “taker of advantage?”

I thought I already knew the answer to this question and had written about it years ago…

Just after my tenth birthday we moved to Bethesda, Maryland, near Washington, DC. This was one of the most difficult experiences of my life and caused a huge loss of self-esteem. I’d grown-up in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, where I’d had a very easy and successful life for my first nine years (including being president of my fourth-grade class!). What worked in this “Dick, Jane and Spot” suburb was to be a smart, cute and well mannered child. These traits made you popular and successful with friends, parents and teachers. The way you handled difficult situations, like bullies, was to say, “You better stop that or I’ll tell your mommy!”

When I arrived in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington seemingly very like the suburb of St. Louis I had left, I soon encountered a shocking difference. For some reason the kids there were about two years older in terms of street-wise toughness and rebellion against authority. On the third day I was there, I was playing ping-pong with a new friend, Jobo, (who was nine) in his basement. Not long after we began, Jobo’s older brother, Pete, and his friend, Tyson, (both 12 and a lot bigger than our 10 and 9) came down and began taunting us with those stringy, filthy mops that lived in 1940’s cellars. The way they did this was to chase us around the ping-pong table sticking the mops in our faces. Well, I knew how to handle this situation. I stopped, pulled myself up to my full 4’6” and said, “You better stop that or I’ll tell your mommy!” Well, they stopped all right, and then burst out laughing! They thought this was about the funniest thing they’d heard in a long time, and they shoved mops in my face for another two hours. That was the last time I ever tried the “I’ll tell your mommy!” strategy.

I thought that experience at ten had shocked me into “angle-thinking,” but then I remembered a time when I was seven and had walked over the hood, roof and trunk dad’s newly waxed ’41 Cadillac. He was furious and demanded to know who’d done it. I immediately lied and said it was Janie, my four-year-old sister, and she admitted doing it! This is why I remember this event – not because I lied, but because she took the blame.

So I was well into “angle-thinking” by seven at least. I can’t remember examples earlier, but I’m sure there were many.

And this second part of my revelation has me wondering how early on I felt it necessary to protect myself by “playing the angles” in situations. And I don’t have a sensible answer.

I grew up in very secure and comfortable circumstances. Yes, I was living through World War II, but that mainly meant Victory Gardens, War Bonds, tin foil balls and John Wayne movies. I don’t recall ever being actually frightened by the reality. Where did my fear come from? I can’t locate the source.

But I do know it was present from as far back as I can remember and that my “angle-thinking” continued unnoticed right up to my present “windshield revelation.” I don’t mean that I was continually lying and manipulating, but I do mean that my life-long habit, despite all my education and experience to the contrary, was looking for “what would work” rather than what was simply honest, good and decent. It’s a powerful revelation at 75, and I’m grateful for it.

What seems so useful to me is that another layer of scales has fallen from my eyes, and I now clearly see a habitual pattern in me I’ve kept out of full awareness for all this time. It feels like I’ve had a good spring-cleaning in this autumn of my life, and that is rejuvenating.

This stage of life seems to be a time for reflecting on, understanding and accepting the learnings of our experience. Many call it “harvesting our wisdom.” This seems true to old FW, and I hope my sharing is helpful to your “harvesting” process, too…

Much love, FW

PS: For years I’ve had my Kiwi friends not-so-subtly imply that, while they are decent, genteel people like Canadians, we Americans are brash, boorish and pushy like Australians, and I’ve agreed. But now I’m wondering if maybe that’s an insult to the Aussies – check out these two pieces:



I also recommend Pope Francis and Dick Cavett’s takes on ideology and sex; they seem connected to me.

And then there’s “THE JUST WORLD FALLACY” which it seems can be used to justify any belief system you might hold.

Until November…




Speaking at daily Mass last Thursday, Pope Francis warned Christians against turning their faith into a rigid ideology.

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology,” he said, according to Radio Vatican. “And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid.

“And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

“The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people,” Francis added. “But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

He said Christian ideology was the result of a lack of true prayer.




You made me laugh. You, the reader who wrote that, on the subject of sex before marriage, your mother asked your father the farthest he had gone with his before-marriage girlfriend. “Poughkeepsie,” he replied.

My last column inspired a remarkable number of thoughtful replies. I wish I had space and time to deal with all of them.

The college I wrote about that posted information and advice on sex at school is, I learn, hardly unique. And many readers wonder what took so long. If only we had had that as a theme.

Only a handful could be considered shocked or disapproving of the practice. Many worried about the possibly lost distinction between sex and true affection.

I am always shocked that there are still a handful of defenders of the dubious practice of abstinence, surely the worst idea since chocolate-covered ants. Undoubtedly this practice urged on the young combined with forbidding them contraception has accounted for a hefty portion of the income of the baby-shower industry.

Abstinence. What sex-drive-free human specimens dreamed this one up? Were, or are, they utter strangers to the turmoil of the storming erotic drives of the young? And, as several fortunate readers attest, some lucky members of the old?

If there is an Abstinence League, my image of its leader comes from William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell”: “Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.”

Remember when the “one true church” was heavily promoting the “rhythm method” of pseudo-contraception? Of course the jokes came thick and fast about inability to keep a beat, etc. I wonder what wit first labeled the fiasco “Vatican roulette.” A daredevil version, it proved to be, of roulette with about four chambers loaded.

I liked the reader who admitted quite frankly that, yes, she did think additional sex experience would have been a good thing in her case, probably producing a more successful marriage.

Several people referred, or at least alluded, to the danger of a wrecked school life and education from an unwanted pregnancy.

No small concern. More so in my day, when detailed knowledge of the traps and pitfalls of the loins was often sparse.

I received zero sex knowledge at home. Had my mother lived, I might well have, but my dad merely worried that I was going to impregnate someone in high school. But no advice.

Considering the thinness of my sexual activity at the time, the odds against the calamity that haunted A. B. Cavett were somewhere below zero. I wouldn’t be surprised, such was the extent of my dad’s concern, to learn that he might have had some such related experience himself.

In college, where the odds favoring inadvertent calamity at least climbed to just above the freezing point, I can still recall a stabbing and chilling moment of angst, fear and trembling.

The previous night had included a rare episode of pneumatic bliss, properly conducted, safety-factor-wise.

The next day, as chance would have it, Fate, or one of my roommates, placed in my hands one of those pamphlets for boys. It at least felt as if my hair stood up at reading the icy words: “Be careful not to touch the end of your penis to the wrong side of the condom, then turn it over and…”

It went on to make it clear that the not inconsiderable frequency of this inadvertent “transfer” mishap could account, accidentally, for an addition to the population.

At that, the black and white tile floor of the dorm bathroom where I was standing seemed to zoom up at me as in an early film-noir special effect.

Had I done that? Had I wrecked my life? Cold sweat.

Was there a preacher in my immediate future? Would I be on a train back to Nebraska? Would I be home, saying, “Hi, folks. Meet Janie”?

For a good time thereafter, sleep was fitful and sometimes impossible without a mild sleeping potion and a page-or-two dose of Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene.”

Why tell this? As an argument for sex education? Surely no one with a measurable I.Q. is still against that, although, in fact, you can still hear folks with but 10 watts upstairs say, “Why put ideas in kids’ heads?”

My wondering about whether more sex in school, in my part of The Old Days, would have made me a better person seemed to divide the audience.

I was assured it would have and that it emphatically would not. I suppose all we can say here is, how will we ever know?

Some readers made the distinction of how different things always are for boys and girls. A female reader, disputing assumptions about the time, wrote of the incredible pressure “in the 60s even” for girls to “keep your knickers on” or be looked down on by female classmates. But that now, she says, the pressure is to “lighten up, get with it.” To shuck ’em down.

She feels the school’s enlightened document I quoted is spot on.

Some urged that doleful term “waiting,” maintaining that “character” is built by biting the bullet and waiting.


The great Marlene Dietrich told me that in her German childhood upbringing, she was commanded to go without a drink of water when thirsty “to build character.” Did it? I asked. “Not one brick’s worth of character was built. It probably injured my kidneys.”

One reader, Joe of Brooklyn, touchingly wonders if, as a schoolkid, that certain gorgeous dream of a teacher ever fancied him, envying those 15-year-old students these days taken “twixt the sheets by a comely and passionate high school teacher.” (Who subsequently does time.)

Poor Joe has never gotten over it. He thinks in today’s atmosphere, the “it” he longed for just might have happened. She was 33 then — she would be 92 now — and “she is still more enticing than any woman I have ever encountered.”

Joe says every man he tells this to has a similar school days story and longing. I know I do. Would we have been better off? Anyway, Joe, you have at least a sitcom episode here, if not the core of a feature.

Glad that so many writers liked the column and applauded the school’s efforts, warnings and advice about that old devil, sex. Many wish they’d had it. Such a document I mean, of course.

(A few practical souls pointed out that it is also greatly in the school’s legal interests to able to say to thundering parents, “We told them.”)

Predictably, I guess, I was taken to task (what in hell does that really mean?) by some readers for committing humor within such a topic. This always puzzles. The old, “There is no place for humor here.”

You have it almost right. There is no place for no humor. At what boundary must humor halt? I commend you to my friend, Mark Twain on the power of humor: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

As further assertion of the place of humor being everywhere, let us close with the wise, wise advice about life given by the great George S. Kaufman to his young daughter Ann.

“Sample everything in life. Except incest and folk-dancing.”




When Americans think of Australia they generally imagine a vast and arid desert, inhabited by killer wildlife and famous for Crocodile Hunter [3], Sydney Opera House [4] and glorious beaches. However, the land Down Under is far more progressive than many countries care to understand and in fact could actually teach the United States a thing or two about how to look after its own population. Here are some interesting facts and policies found in Australia that you probably haven’t head about.


For those seeking a good excuse to move to Australia, look no further. Australia’s minimum wage is $16.38 [5] an hour ($15.77 USD), demonstrating that high wages do not necessarily hamper a country’s economic growth. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in May 2013 the average full-time adult weekly earnings were $1,105.20 [6]. 

While the minimum wage for youth is still on the lower side, the hourly rate actually increases by $2 every two years between the ages of 15 and 21. Casual workers are covered by a national minimum wage and paid an extra 24 percent, which equates to up to $20.30 an hour. In the state of New South Wales [7], the average hourly rate for a 21-year-old is $18.30 an hour, with casual employees paid an extra $4 an hour: $22.33 per hour.

Despite the fact that Australia is comparatively more expensive to live in than the United States (a Big Mac costs approximately 53 cents more [8]), the system is working to Australia’s advantage with unemployment in the country sitting at only 5.6 percent [9].


For Australian youth aged between 16 and 24 years currently studying, undertaking an apprenticeship or looking for work, the Australian government rewards them by providing a generous monetary allowance, which is income-tested [10]. A person under 18 years of age and living at home with her parents can earn up to $223 biweekly [11], which increases to $268.20 ($258.30 USD) once she reaches 18 years of age.

Yet, the benefits do not end there. If or when a youth decides to leaves the parental home for study reasons or to look for work, her youth allowance can be increased to $407.50 biweekly. Alternatively, if a youth is single, lives away from the family home and has a child, the government will pay her up to $533.80 ($514.10USD) biweekly. 


Australia’s public health system, called Medicare [12], is one of the best in the world providing universal basic coverage to all citizens and free treatment at public hospitals. The Department of Human Services branch of the federal government pays for Medicare benefits and includes coverage for dental, optho, and mental health as well as services for the elderly and disabled.

There is some cost-sharing at private hospitals and for certain doctors but even then the government foots the majority of the bill (up to 75%). Medicare is funded partly by a 1.5% income tax [13] Medicare levy. An additional levy of 1% is imposed on high-income earners without private health insurance. In addition to Medicare, there is a separate Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme [14] that considerably subsidizes a range of prescription medications.  


Unlike the United States, where mandatory paid holidays for employees simply do not exist, Australia is the vacation nation capital. At the minimum, each Australian is legally entitled to 20 days (4 weeks) [15] of vacation per year, plus 10 paid annual public holidays, with public servants receiving even more generous vacation benefits.

Two weeks of vacation can be “sold” or cashed-out. Australians also get “Long Service Leave” to encourage Aussies to stay with a company which is payable after 10 years service at the same employer or seven years in the public service—accumulated at one week leave for every 60 weeks of employment or 8.5 weeks additional leave for 10 years service.


To encourage population growth, Australians can apply for the “Baby Bonus, [16]” an income-tested payment of up to $5,000 which is made in 13 biweekly installments to help with the cost of a newborn baby or adopted child under 16 years of age. This scheme has been criticized in the past for being “wasteful middle-class [17]” welfare and was almost abolished by the Labor government this year, but to date is still alive and kicking much to the delight of many clucky young couples.

The government also offers a number of civilized allowances for its citizens with financial help available at every corner to assist with rent assistance [18], age pension [19], bereavement allowance [20], carer payment [21], disability support pension [22], orphan pension [23], family tax benefit [24], partner allowance [25], sickness allowance [26] and widow allowance [27].


Australia has some of the most modern prostitution laws in the world and often cited as a success story [28]in an effort to make sex work a safe and reasonable job for women. Unlike the United States where prostitution is outlawed, in Australia the state governments regulate prostitution generally.

From complete decriminalization in some states to licensing and regulation of legal brothels in others, Australia is constantly reviewing its prostitution laws [29] with sex workers considered to be service providers who can even file “unfair dismissal” employment claims [30] in New South Wales and have the right to receive pay. 

In Victoria, licensed commercial brothels are legal and single-owner managed brothels with one additional worker are also legal if the owners obtain a license to work. Pimping [31] is also legal as non-sex workers are allowed to manage licensed brothels and benefit economically from prostitution.

Some organizations such as Scarlett Alliance Australian Sex Workers Association [32] view prostitution as a legitimate occupation. While the system has its flaws [28]—obtaining brothel permits can be tough; sex workers still don’t have civil protections to the same degree as other occupations; and licensed brothels have to compete with unlicensed operations—the laws are definitely headed in the right direction in recognizing the rights of sex workers.


Australia is currently in the midst of “bikie warfare” with a number of states recently having outlawed motorcycle gangs following a series of violent incidents involving notorious bikie gangs Hells Angels and the Finks (affiliated with the US bikie gang Mongols MC [33]).

Queensland is the latest state to criminalize bikie gangs [34] declaring 26 motorcycle gangs to be “criminal organizations” under tough new laws [35] which provide mandatory sentences of up to 15 years for serious offenses committed as part of a motorcycle gang activity. The state has also introduced “bikie-only” maximum-security facilities.

Such laws, which are now being followed in other states such as Victoria, have been criticized for being draconian, particularly for likening gang members to terrorists. Nonetheless, efforts to tame the “Bikie Wars [36]” in Australia are gaining momentum.


President Barack Obama recently commended Australia on its gun laws at the Navy Yard Shooting Memorial. Since Australia’s gun laws were reformed in 1996 following the Port Arthur Massacre [37] in which a lone gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle killing 35 people in Tasmania, there has not been a single shooting massacre [38] in the country’s history, whereas prior to the gun law reforms, there had been 13 massacres in 18 years.

Australia’s gun laws prohibit all automatic and semi-automatic weapons and impose strict licensing rules. Even paintball guns need a permit. There are also background checks and lengthy waiting periods for all purchases. Following the laws, more than 600,000 prohibited weapons [39] were destroyed at a cost of half a billion dollars. Consequently Australia’s homicide rate is 1.1 murders per 100,000 [40], while the United States’ murder rate remains at 4.7 murders.


Despite the United Nations World Happiness Report [41] this week declaring Denmark as the happiest country, earlier this year Australia took the title as the World’s Happiest Developed Country for 2013 [42] for the third year in a row as ranked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [40] Better Life Index [43].

Australia fares exceptionally well in the following areas: safety, income, housing (on average each person has 2.3 rooms), life expectancy (which stands at an average age of 82 years) and lifestyle—more than 80 percent of the population live on the coast and 84 percent say they are satisfied with life.

Australia also ranks high in having a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation with 94% of people [40] believing they know someone they could rely on in a time of need. In Australia, 71% of people say they trust their political institutions [40], in direct contrast to the United States where polls show Americans have high general distrust [44] in government institutions.


Aussies don’t do diets well…with majority exceptionally fat.

Despite the image of the bronzed, muscled and tanned beach babe depicted in pop culture, Australia is in fact one of the most obese countries [45] in the world. According to a new report, 40% of the country is “dangerously fat [46]” with 75 percent [47] of the northeastern state considered to be grossly overweight. As a result, last week the federal government announced a plan to launch a major anti-obesity advertising campaign to fight the obesity epidemic.

The best part? For those Americans seriously considering moving to Australia, while you won’t necessarily be entitled to the same degree of benefits as an Aussie, the government does offer new arrivals a range of payments and services [48] to help out while you settle, subject to certain waiting periods, as well as extensive information on job resources [49] and visa options [50]. Best be packing your bags!

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Vincent’s life was an essay in patience and confidence that time is a currency all its own that money can never replace.

Vincent Lingiari is a gift to the world. Packaged in the rusty, red soil of his homeland in Central Australia, he carried this soil inside as well – embedded in his body, his spirit, and his story. Born a Gurindji from the Aboriginal tribe of the Northern Territory around 1918, Vincent spent most of his life on Daguragu (Wattie Creek). He died in 1988. He was an honored and respected lawman and leader of his people.

The story we know begins at a cattle station at Wave Hill owned by a British cattle farmer or pastoralist. Aboriginal stockmen managed the cattle and ran the property. They were poorly housed and often went hungry. In the beginning they worked for no wages and then over time worked for a pittance.

In 1966, Vincent said, “We shouldn’t be treated like dogs”. He inspired 200 of his fellow workers to walk off the land. He said this isn’t about money for wages, it’s about land.

Despite attempts by the pastoralists to offer more money and try intimidation tactics and general bullying, the people were not moved. Their stance inspired many to act in solidarity with the Gurindji. Eventually, through a series of legal and political actions, funds were made available for the Gurindji to buy the property. The eight-year long standoff ended, making Daguragu the first cattle station to be owned and managed by an Aboriginal community.

The Australian Prime Minister (Hon Gough Whitlam) at the time ceremoniously poured a handful of soil through Vincent’s hand, ritually closing the injustice of more than a century. Vincent said, “We can all be mates now.” This soft-spoken man accepted that all had been resolved, with right relationships now in place.

Vincent inspired his fellow workers and in turn their actions inspired a generation of activism that re-ignited the land rights and reconciliation movement in Australia. His actions inspired authors, poets, artists, activists and along the way his story has been immortalized in song. These songs have become a national call to solidarity (Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly in from Big Things Little Things Grow and Gurindji Blues by Ted Egan).

When Vincent and his friends walked off the land Aboriginal people did not have the vote as citizens in their own land. Their infant mortality rate was equal to any developing nation, even though Australia ranked amongst the highest in wealth.

Vincent would have been able to remember the 1928 massacre of his people nearby at Coniston. The dispossession of land was theft, and Vincent brought this clearly to the attention of all Australians through his persistent confidence and faith in his law. Returning the land to its rightful owners was the only just and right outcome from his point of view, and he never wavered from his confidence that this could be achieved. He said “we know how to wait” – a deep and profound demonstration of fidelity to his law as a prevailing and enduring truth.

Vincent’s life was an essay in patience and confidence that time is a currency all its own that money can never replace. His acts of sitting down, walking, and occupying space with dignity add to the nonviolent litany of actions by people such as Rosa Parks, Gandhi, and the landless people’s movements in Central and South America.

Moira Deslandes lives in Willunga, South Australia which is on the lands of the Kaurna people. Moira has worked from the kitchen table to the cabinet table – as a grassroots community social worker to a chief of staff to a minister in government. She is a founding member of Willunga Playback Theatre, aspiring poet and likes to write a weekly blog, Letters to Hildegard. She spoke at TEDx Adelaide 2013 on resignation.

References:Ted Egan, entry in Australian Dictionary of BiographyWikipediaNational Archives of Australia




The Misconception: People who are losing at the game of life must have done something to deserve it.

The Truth: The beneficiaries of good fortune often do nothing to earn it, and bad people often get away with their actions without consequences. A woman goes out to a club wearing stilettos and a miniskirt with no underwear.

She gets pretty drunk and stumbles home in the wrong direction.

She ends up lost in a bad neighborhood. She gets raped.

Is she to blame in some way? Was this her fault? Was she asking for it?

People often say yes to all three in studies asking similar questions after presenting similar scenarios.

It is common in fiction for the bad guys to lose and the good guys to win.

It’s how you would like to see the world- just and fair.

In psychology, the tendency to believe this is how the real world actually works is called the Just-World Fallacy.

More specifically, this is the tendency to react to horrible misfortune, like homelessness or drug addiction, by believing the people stuck in horrible situations must have done something to deserve it.

The key word there is deserve. This is not an observation bad choices lead to bad outcomes.

In a 1966 study by Melvin Lerner and Carolyn Simmons, 72 women watched a woman solve problems and get electric shocks when she messed up.

The woman was actually pretending, but the people watching didn’t know this.

Lerner based these studies on the things he had seen working with the mentally ill. He noticed how he and other doctors, nurses and orderlies would sometimes insult people who were suffering or come up with assumptions about what kind of people they were, or joke about their illness.

Lerner thought this behavior might be an attempt to protect the psyche of people facing an abysmal, unrelenting amount of misery and despair.

In his study, when asked to describe the woman getting shocked, many of the observers devalued her. They berated her character and her appearance. They said she deserved it.

Lerner also taught a class on society and medicine, and he noticed many students thought poor people were just lazy people who wanted a handout.

So, he conducted another study where he had two men solve puzzles. At the end, one of them was randomly awarded a large sum of money. The observers were told the reward was completely random.

Still, when asked later to evaluate the two men, people said the one who got the award was smarter, more talented, better at solving puzzles and more productive.

A giant amount of research has been done since his studies, and most psychologists have come to the same conclusion: You want the world to be fair, so you pretend it is.

“Zick Rubin of Harvard University and Letitia Anne Peplau of UCLA have conducted surveys to examine the characteristics of people with strong beliefs in a just world. They found that people who have a strong tendency to believe in a just world also tend to be more religious, more authoritarian, more conservative, more likely to admire political leaders and existing social institutions, and more likely to have negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. To a lesser but still significant degree, the believers in a just world tend to ‘feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims.’”

– Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez from an essay at The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

You’ve heard “what goes around comes around” before, or maybe you’ve seen a person get what was coming to them and thought, “that’s karma for you.”

These are shades of the Just World Fallacy.

It sucks to think the world isn’t fair. It feels better to believe in karma and justice, in fairness and reward. A world with the righteous on one side of the scale, and evil on the other – that seems to make sense.

You want to believe those who work hard and sacrifice get ahead, and those who are lazy and cheat do not.

This, of course, is not always true. Success is often greatly influenced by when you were born, where you grew up, the socioeconomic status of your family and random chance. All the hard work in the world can’t change those initial factors, which is not to say you should just give up if you were born poor.

The Just-World Fallacy can also lead to a false sense of security.

You want to feel in control, so you assume as long as you avoid bad behavior, you won’t be harmed. You feel safer when you believe those who engage in bad behavior end up on the street, or pregnant, or addicted, or raped.

It is infuriating when lazy cheats and con artists get ahead in the world while firemen and policemen put in long hours for little pay.

Deep down, you want to believe hard work and virtue will lead to success, and laziness, evil and manipulation will lead to ruin, so you go ahead and edit the world to match those expectations.

Yet, in reality, evil often prospers and never pays the price.

There are anecdotal accounts of people seeing the prisoners of concentration camps for the first time and assuming they must have been terrible criminals. The first place the mind goes is the place where the world is just.

Why do you do this?

Psychologists are unsure. Some say it is a need to be able to predict the outcome of your own behavior, or to feel secure in your past decisions. More research is needed.

To be sure, you would like to live in a world where people in white hats bring people in black hats to justice, but you don’t. 








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