But what of the losers? It turns out they have clever strategies for feeling good, too. The first stage of coping with a loss is often CORFing—Cutting Off Reflected Failure. Here Cialdini’s research revealed that pronoun choice was highly subjective. BIRGers will say, “We crushed them,” while CORFers invariably distance themselves from the failure: “They blew it.” Losers may then continue with a suite of mnemonically-termed coping mechanisms, including: BIRFing—Basking In Reflected Failure, the underdog mentality; CORSing— Cutting Off Reflected Success, as in the nostalgic fan who rejects success gained through deceit (i.e. doping) and opines for the more pure glory of times past; and COFFing—Cutting Off Future Failure, a strategy of not getting too excited when a team with a historically poor record starts to do well (lest their success prove to be short-lived).
Sad things that we humans do.
I stand at the traffic lights waiting to cross. A young man beside me holds a lead – at the end of it is a puppy standing patiently between us. In the moments before the crossing signal, I listen to the dog breathe. The sound is old and bronchitic, a dissonant issuing from this neat little body, the laboured wheezing of a young dog’s breath. The man is fashionably dressed, and the dog most probably loved and precious. I’m not sure if the dog is a French bulldog or a pug, but he’s one of those that now form a widespread, snuffling, breathless band of canine respiratory distress. The lights change, and man and dog walk off, the dog carrying his possibly malign genetic destiny, his future skin-fold pyoderma, the corneal ulceration that may affect his protruding eyes, the upper airway obstruction that is probably already causing him to wheeze. It’s not the first time I’ve wondered – what made this man and others seek out and pay for creatures who may live shortened, suffering lives?
For many, the pandemic is merely an annoyance. But some groups face a particular risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd), the symptoms of which include nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of guilt, anxiety or isolation. The most vulnerable are those who have been very ill, or lost relatives, as well as victims of previous traumas (such as refugees), and those with front-line jobs, such as doctors and nurses. In Spain nearly a sixth of those infected are health-care workers, and most of them show signs of ptsd. In Bangladesh, where the incomes of poor people briefly fell by 80% when lockdowns were tight, 86% of people in one poll reported covid-19-related stress.
“The skyscrapers and office buildings in the city centers that used to be our most valued real estate have become places people avoid out of fear of infection,” Bloom said. “I don’t see people growing comfortable with packed subway trains and elevators, and firms aren’t going to want to open and close every time there’s a wave.” “It’s the fear of the virus that keeps people at home,” said Sven Smit, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. He added that while it was too early to be certain the shift would stick, “the tendency [for longer-term change] is there.”
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.
Is our reaction to bad odor learned?
I once asked the great historian Richard Southern whether he would like to have met any of the medieval saints and churchmen about whom he wrote so eloquently. He gave a cautious reply: ‘I think they probably had very bad breath.’ He may have been right about that, but it would be wrong to infer that this was something which didn’t bother them. The men and women of the Middle Ages may have had a greater aversion to unpleasant body odours than their descendants do now. If so, this was bad luck, for they were much more likely to encounter them than we are in our deodorised world
Start with the coronaverse, which people everywhere now inhabit, or the quarantimes, the era in which they now live. Early fears of the total breakdown of society in a coronapocalypse have proved, thankfully, too pessimistic. But viral anxiety reigns, as do complaints of Zoom fatigue. Participants appear on screen for meetings with a quaransheen of unwashed sweat on their faces. Feelings seem to be on an emotional coronacoaster. Meanwhile, covidiots are spurning lockdown restrictions in ways likely to make the pandemic worse, amid an infodemic of dodgy news and half-informed coronasplaining. At least there is a locktail hour at the end of the week (or, for many, at the end of most days).
There were 427 custodial deaths in India between 2016 and 2019. A 2019 survey of 12,000 police personnel across 21 states by Common Cause, a civil society organisation, and the Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, an MHRD-supported research institute, noted, among other things, a very high approval rating for police violence towards criminals. Nearly three-fourths of those interviewed thought it was acceptable for police to be violent with criminals for the greater good of society. Four out of five surveyed submitted that there was nothing wrong in beating up criminals to extract a confession.
Indeed, Finns derive a great deal of pride from the high level of social trust present in the society, which in turn is an indication of the perception that people are believed to be acting honestly. “In Finland the state is a friend, not an enemy,” Kananen said. “The state is perceived as acting for the collective good – so public officials act in everybody’s shared interest. There is a great deal of trust – towards fellow citizens and public office holders, including the police. Finnish people are also happy taxpayers. They know the tax money is used for the common good and they know no-one will cheat when collecting the taxes.”
Do you feel guilty when you are happy?
Liberal guilt has become a shorthand for describing those who feel keenly a lack of social, political and economic justice, but are not the ones who suffer the brunt of it. According to the cultural critic Julie Ellison, it first took hold in the US in the 1990s, on the back of a post-cold-war fragmentation of the left, and a loss of faith in the utopian politics of collective action that had characterised an earlier generation of radicals. The liberal who feels guilty has given up on the collective and recognises herself to be acting out of self-interest. Her guilt is thus a sign of the gap between what she feels for the other’s suffering and what she will do actively to alleviate it – which is not, it turns out, a great deal.