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#90- Living With Violence A Conversation with Gavin de Becker

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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06 August 2017 09:51
 

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Gavin de Becker about the primacy of human intuition in the prediction and prevention of violence.

Living With Violence A Conversation with Gavin de Becker

This thread is for listeners’ comments.

[ Edited: 10 August 2017 09:37 by Nhoj Morley]
 
_Sven_
 
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_Sven_
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06 August 2017 13:24
 

Wow, this interview has been an eye opener to me! Personally, I’ve been blessed with a rather violence free life so far and never cared to explore this topic. Quite frankly I’ve been surprised to discover just how ignorant/oblivious I’ve actually on this issue. While I don’t feel the urge to delve into this much further, as violence remains alien to me, I’ll definitely try to take some of your lesson to heart. It’s been a while since I’ve listen to two people talking to each other for a couple of hours and being presented so much practical advice for myself, raising my kids and being pointed out some red flags to be aware of in relations in general. Four hours well spent. Thank you very much for enriching my life!

 
Zardoz Speakz
 
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Zardoz Speakz
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06 August 2017 18:23
 

I thought that this was a terrific podcast.  I had not noticed how long it was and was wishing it would go on longer.  Just before listening to it, I’d been talking to someone about trusting your intuition, and not letting embarrassment get in the way.  I’ve been taken advantage by someone who I felt strongly that I shouldn’t trust, my intuition was screaming at me not to make the deal, but I did anyway because I was embarrassed to do otherwise.  I didn’t want to be rude, or seem suspicious even though I was very suspicious, so I went against my better judgment.  Actually, I did the deal after my companion said that I was being paranoid..

[ Edited: 06 August 2017 18:25 by Zardoz Speakz]
 
 
David Prejean
 
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06 August 2017 20:45
 

I’ve called Sam Harris my intellectual hero, but with Scott Adams and now this guy, I’m beginning to question the pedestal I’ve put him on.  This guy is an obvious salesman for his wares who is the least objective and least enlightening person one could find on this topic.  To say that our intuitions are always correct?  Well then, what’s the problem with religion as that’s mostly intuition driven.

Oh, and Sam is probably regretting spending all that time studying the brain when, according to Becker, we have more brain cells in our gut than a pig, or something like that.  We are talking Stephen Colbert mocking of G. W. Bush stuff here.

I love these podcasts and Harris in general as a beckon of rationality in an irrational world, but this is not his best effort, to put it mildly.

 
Souther
 
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06 August 2017 23:24
 

Yes, the guest is interested in offering his services, but I thought a lot of interesting and quite reasonable points were brought up.

Intuition is not perfect, because our own human instincts aren’t either, yet it’s still a useful natural tool that people should not easily reject because it will make them look bad, silly or insert any other label. Especially when you are in a potentially dangerous situation where there is no time for delaying or thinking about every single detail. That much, among other things, is good advice even if it’s harder to apply than to write down.

 

 
ZZYZX
 
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07 August 2017 01:15
 

Seems most of the praise so far is about the use of intuition. I thought so too. What else? Uh, that’s about it: 5 minutes of material in a 4 hour podcast. It did make me feel better about moving away from panhandlers, and the time when in a dark parking lot, a black guy was approaching wanting to know if I had a ‘light.’

I ran to the store nearby, not wanting him to get close to me. I later wondered if I was just being racist or paranoid. Now I feel better about it.

BTW, 2 of the local panhandlers recently got carved up by a 3rd over rights to a certain freeway exit near my home. Best for me if they have me on their list as a waste of their time.

 
Ronniestorrs
 
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Ronniestorrs
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07 August 2017 02:22
 

I agree with many comments: I admire Sam- usually. This last podcast was absurd, though! I mean just awful.

A handful of pretty much self-evident (or just common knowledge, really) observations spun out over hours…a real waste of time. Touch of the Malcolm Gladwell’s - spinning out a vaguely interesting notion into a whole book. (As I’m here, I was really upset by Sapiens -recommended by SH : this repetitive and jejune volume was aimed at the under-ten audience, I imagine. Once I’ve bought a book I read it through - and this was painfully bad.)

Nevertheless I am very impressed by almost all of the podcasts.  By contrast every now and again I try a TED podcast and quickly feel like smashing my phone to bits: the twee music and generally clunky ‘wisdom’ with this whiny guy linking it all together. TED infantilises but postures as high academe - most of the time.

By contrast Sam Harris’ thing is excellent: For example David Deutsch given free rein over two podcasts- brilliant. Those two I listen to over and over.

 
ZCaslar
 
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07 August 2017 04:13
 

So about 40 mins in and I realize I’m listening to pretty much the contemporary Republican; that is a Determinist who doesn’t trust any statistic except the ones that confirm what he believes and who can’t (I have to believe won’t, this man isn’t dumb) abstract out the difference between the statistical likelyhoods of a given violent event -except when they back up his beliefs like how as a white guy he’s generally safe- and the exceptions to the rule that are his profession.

Christ, this is not getting better, is it?

Gavin’s clearly high speed and hot shit, with that resume at least I’m inclined to think so, but increasingly I wonder if massive success isn’t one of the worst things a human can end up having given it’s capacity to enable just the most outrageous bullshit to be upheld as the universe’s own truths. See also; Robert, Jordan. =P

Sam as always you go interesting places. From your podcast I’ve encountered “thinkers” I wouldn’t trust to pump gas into my truck, but I’ve yet to regret contributing a few $ to have the encounter.

 
Probus
 
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07 August 2017 04:48
 

I’m halfway through, but already I have a few objections. I find his criticism of statistics kind of disingenuous. Do politicians skew statistics in their own favor? Absolutely. That said, statistics are very important to understand how policies work and to assess potential hazards. It’s a fact that violence in pretty much all it’s forms have declined both in the USA and the western world at large. It’s not irrational to take these facts to heart. Not in that sense that we should not be aware of violence and threats of violence, but in that sense that we now live in a society where we don’t have to be wary of immediate violence 24/7. Statistics can show us where the real dangers lie, and being a victim of violence is a blip on the radar when you take into account all the other hazards we face in our lifetime. The fact that violence is strongly correlated with socioeconomic and to some extent ethnic background make violence even less of a general hazard. If you are a middle-class American living in a typical suburban, the risk of falling victim to violence is quite low. I’m not saying that we should be oblivious to this risk of falling victim to violence I’m just saying that we should put things into perspective. Statistics help us do that. An example. Gavin de Becker says that women feel much more unsafe than men, with regard to being physically assaulted. Again, statistics show us that women are actually less likely to be physically assaulted than men. Still, they feel more unsafe. There is something wrong with that equation. The fact that women feel unsafe, is a big problem in itself. But, you have to look at the actual evidence. If you assume that women are more likely to be assaulted just because they feel more unsafe, you are less likely to be able to solve the actual problem. Which is women feeling unsafe. I think the sexual aspects of violence against women is important in this regard. I would argue that sexual violence is more terrifying and traumatizing than “normal” violence. In other words, even a small risk of falling victim to sexual assault or violence can be overwhelming to an individual. In many ways like terrorism. Even though, it’s extremely unlikely for a single individual to fall victim to terrorism there are visceral aspects to terrorist threats that make us fear terrorism way more than we should from a statistical point of view. Another important thing to keep in mind, is that unwanted sexual advances or innuendos against women are inherently interpreted as hostile and potentially violent acts even if these acts seldom lead to actual violence. Hence, the fact that someone made a ill considered compliment might very well be conceived as hostile to a women and she might feel unsafe. I’m not saying it’s wrong for her to feel unsafe. It’s a real problem that we have to tackle with. But, it’s another problem that is not necessarily related to actual violence. As said, you can’t just ignore that men are actually overall more likely to be assaulted than women. Even if men in general feel more safe than women.

Another thing that bugs me, is the way Gavin de Becker talks about intuition and how we should always trust our intuitions. These intuitions evolved while humans lived in very different circumstances. Tribalism and general xenophobia run very deep and people’s intuitions might very well be misleading or even counter-productive. Yes, an antelope never second-guesses it’s intuitions. But, that’s why antelopes do not live in large sophisticated societies. Humans can’t behave like antelopes, if we want to live in civilized societies. Anxiety is fundamentally a human being’s response to a perceived threat. As we know, anxiety disorders are very common. This alone goes to show that our intuitions are not always reliable, with regard to identifying real threats. His advice, that people should investigate whether their gut-feeling stem from a memory or perception seems a bit unrealistic to me. Yes, if you have a calm moment to contemplate your situation it might be useful but most situations don’t allow that luxury. Often you have to make a split-second decision if you want to avoid an actual or perceived threat. People are also very good at rationalizing. He does not explain how we can identify a rational process from an irrational one. My point is, that the whole idea of trusting your intuitions is to be able to trust your instincts. What he is suggesting is basically a way of second-guessing your intuitions. Isn’t that they main problem? Isn’t that basically what we shouldn’t do if we want our intuitions to be effective. I’m not saying we should never trust our intuitions. Often, it’s better to be safe than sorry but I don’t like his simplistic way of thinking about intuitions. Especially since he really did not provide any actual evidence in support of his claim.

I might sound very critical of de Becker. Actually I am not. So far, I agree with the basic ideas he presents. I just want to comment on the aspects, I find less convincing or productive.

[ Edited: 07 August 2017 05:35 by Probus]
 
Citizen of the Universe
 
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Citizen of the Universe
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07 August 2017 06:30
 

I’m not far into the podcast yet but I already feel like I have objections:

First, he’s right that word rape has been redefined (in US and other places) but not in the way that he means. For a very long time it used to mean only vaginal-penile penetration. By that definition a man could never be raped. He could only be sexually assaulted. The new definition of rape actually expanded to include what was previously classified as sexual assault and there was no longer a requirement that force must be involved. Not only that but women and men are encouraged by police, society and friends to come forward and report the crime more so than ever before and there is a greater awareness of the crime. This is the only time since 1927 that the definition of rape has changed in the US. Since before this definition the rates have been going down it is unsurprising that the rates are now slightly up because of the new definition. This reflects that violent rape against women has been on the decline and still is but since we don’t have the data prior to the new definition we can’t really say anything about the rates of the newly defined rape. Likely they too are on the decline as are most violent crimes.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/01/09/u-s-expands-its-definition-of-rape/#6528755754b7
https://www.justice.gov/archives/opa/blog/updated-definition-rape

Second, he talks about the difference in perception of violence between men and women. Women worry about being attacked more and feel less secure however ironically men are more likely to experience violence in their lifetime than women are. Your fear of violence has less to do with reality and more to do with your perception of security.
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/21/women-feel-unsafe-least-likely-attacked-crime-survey-analysis

 
Gamril
 
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07 August 2017 07:27
 

Your first hint that this might not go well is when Sam mentioned that this guy handles his security.  Definitely don’t want push too hard on the guy who has your life in his hands.  All in all pretty typical of how Sam coddles guests on the right and is merciless on those on the left.  And this is coming from someone slightly skewed to the right.

 
Probus
 
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07 August 2017 11:44
 

After listening to the whole conversation, there are some things I want to clarify and elaborate on (with regard to my earlier comment).

When discussing how to avoid and actually deal with a potential threat of violence, I think Gavin de Becker presents a convincing case. Later in the podcast he explained that it’s not about only trusting your intuition, but to educate yourself and become confident that you can spot a dangerous situation when it arises (if you only allow yourself to trust your gut-feelings). To me it sounds somewhat like how a soldier trains for combat. You prepare yourself in the best way possible by training and learning theory, but in the heat of the moment you really have to be able to trust your instincts and intuitions. In such intense situations, that’s basically all you can do. The same is true for fighters. They train and prepare, but in the ring it’s really all about intuition. In a sense, that is the opposite to “just follow your intuition”. You should train and educate yourself so you can trust your intuitions to be effective and dare to act upon them. I really have no objections to that argument, with regard to avoiding and dealing with potential threats of violence. As he explained, the idea is to become less paranoid and to worry less in general.

That said, I still think the first half of the conversation is a bit troubling (the half where de Becker is not directly talking about dealing with violence or a threat of violence). From an intellectual point of view, his stance on intuitions and statistics are incoherent and seem a bit half-baked. To me, it seems like he puts way too much faith in the power of our intuitions leading us right. He mentions how Steve Jobs and other successful entrepreneurs rely on intuition to make smart choices. But, for every Steve Jobs there are thousands of complete failures where someone also presumably followed their intuition. We just hear about the success stories. Hence, it’s terrible advice to tell people to just trust your intuitions when making important decisions. If you have have a lot of experience and knowledge, then your intuitions are most likely well adjusted. In many cases, you have no choice but to trust your intuitions since there isn’t enough time or information on the table to make a fully informed and rational decision. Thus, clearly intuitions are important and play a decisive role in all of our lives. But, to assume that our intuitions automatically will lead us right is very dangerous. It’s clear that intuitions often lead us astray. De Becker clearly despises statistics, but still he at least twice uses statistics to prove his point. You can’t have it both ways. As I explained in my former comment, statistics can be misused but are still very important when assessing dangers and potential threats. To me, it sounds like he is cherry-picking the statistics that supports his case while ignoring the rest. One thing that really bugs me, is that threat of violence just isn’t a general hazard. As I mentioned before, you are actually incredibly unlikely to ever fall victim to violence if you live in a middle-class suburb. It’s just isn’t true that people in general should be equally wary of violence. The saying “if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail”, came to mind while listening to this discussion. If your whole career is teaching people to deal with violence, then perhaps you start seeing violence everywhere. My main objections to this podcast can be summarized in the following way:

1) I think his view of intuitions is way too simplistic and he puts too much faith in the power of intuitions (without actually providing evidence that would support that claim)
2) I think his despise of statistics is ignorant and to some extent hypocritical
3) I missed a more thorough discussion about who is actually vulnerable. We know, that violence is strongly correlated with socioeconomic (and to some extent ethnic) factors. Still, he mainly assumed women are especially vulnerable even though statistics don’t necessarily support this assumption. In other words, there are people to whom preparing and learning how to deal with violence is of great importance. There are people who will likely benefit from such measures. Then, there is a large segment of the population where it’s not very obvious if such measures are necessary. By that, I mean that we all have limited time and resources. Time given to one something, inevitable is time away from something else. For example, should we urge people to spend time preparing themselves for a meltdown of society (basically survivalism)? In some parts of the world, that is probably time well spent. In the western world, we tend to find such people paranoid and a bit weird. That’s an extreme analogy, but I think the same line of reasoning can be used to discuss violence. Not all people, are equally likely to fall victim of violence. That’s an argument that was completely ignored in this conversation.

[ Edited: 07 August 2017 11:48 by Probus]
 
Probus
 
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07 August 2017 11:56
 
ZCaslar - 07 August 2017 04:13 AM

So about 40 mins in and I realize I’m listening to pretty much the contemporary Republican; that is a Determinist who doesn’t trust any statistic except the ones that confirm what he believes and who can’t (I have to believe won’t, this man isn’t dumb) abstract out the difference between the statistical likelyhoods of a given violent event -except when they back up his beliefs like how as a white guy he’s generally safe- and the exceptions to the rule that are his profession.

Can’t we, for once, leave identity politics out of the discussion and focus on the actual arguments?

 
Probus
 
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07 August 2017 11:57
 
Citizen of the Universe - 07 August 2017 06:30 AM

First, he’s right that word rape has been redefined (in US and other places) but not in the way that he means. For a very long time it used to mean only vaginal-penile penetration. By that definition a man could never be raped. He could only be sexually assaulted. The new definition of rape actually expanded to include what was previously classified as sexual assault and there was no longer a requirement that force must be involved.

Interesting. Thanks for your input. Doesn’t that contradict his whole argument?

 
Gamril
 
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07 August 2017 12:01
 
Probus - 07 August 2017 11:44 AM

After listening to the whole conversation, there are some things I want to clarify and elaborate on (with regard to my earlier comment).

When discussing how to avoid and actually deal with a potential threat of violence, I think Gavin de Becker presents a convincing case. Later in the podcast he explained that it’s not about only trusting your intuition, but to educate yourself and become confident that you can spot a dangerous situation when it arises (if you only allow yourself to trust your gut-feelings). To me it sounds somewhat like how a soldier trains for combat. You prepare yourself in the best way possible by training and learning theory, but in the heat of the moment you really have to be able to trust your instincts and intuitions. In such intense situations, that’s basically all you can do. The same is true for fighters. They train and prepare, but in the ring it’s really all about intuition. In a sense, that is the opposite to “just follow your intuition”. You should train and educate yourself so you can trust your intuitions to be effective and dare to act upon them. I really have no objections to that argument, with regard to avoiding and dealing with potential threats of violence. As he explained, the idea is to become less paranoid and to worry less in general.

That said, I still think the first half of the conversation is a bit troubling (the half where de Becker is not directly talking about dealing with violence or a threat of violence). From an intellectual point of view, his stance on intuitions and statistics are incoherent and seem a bit half-baked. To me, it seems like he puts way too much faith in the power of our intuitions leading us right. He mentions how Steve Jobs and other successful entrepreneurs rely on intuition to make smart choices. But, for every Steve Jobs there are thousands of complete failures where someone also presumably followed their intuition. We just hear about the success stories. Hence, it’s terrible advice to tell people to just trust your intuitions when making important decisions. If you have have a lot of experience and knowledge, then your intuitions are most likely well adjusted. In many cases, you have no choice but to trust your intuitions since there isn’t enough time or information on the table to make a fully informed and rational decision. Thus, clearly intuitions are important and play a decisive role in all of our lives. But, to assume that our intuitions automatically will lead us right is very dangerous. It’s clear that intuitions often lead us astray. De Becker clearly despises statistics, but still he at least twice uses statistics to prove his point. You can’t have it both ways. As I explained in my former comment, statistics can be misused but are still very important when assessing dangers and potential threats. To me, it sounds like he is cherry-picking the statistics that supports his case while ignoring the rest. One thing that really bugs me, is that threat of violence just isn’t a general hazard. As I mentioned before, you are actually incredibly unlikely to ever fall victim to violence if you live in a middle-class suburb. It’s just isn’t true that people in general should be equally wary of violence. The saying “if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail”, came to mind while listening to this discussion. If your whole career is teaching people to deal with violence, then perhaps you start seeing violence everywhere. My main objections to this podcast can be summarized in the following way:

1) I think his view of intuitions is way too simplistic and he puts too much faith in the power of intuitions (without actually providing evidence that would support that claim)
2) I think his despise of statistics is ignorant and to some extent hypocritical
3) I missed a more thorough discussion about who is actually vulnerable. We know, that violence is strongly correlated with socioeconomic (and to some extent ethnic) factors. Still, he mainly assumed women are especially vulnerable even though statistics don’t necessarily support this assumption. In other words, there are people to whom preparing and learning how to deal with violence is of great importance. There are people who will likely benefit from such measures. Then, there is a large segment of the population where it’s not very obvious if such measures are necessary. By that, I mean that we all have limited time and resources. Time given to one something, inevitable is time away from something else. For example, should we urge people to spend time preparing themselves for a meltdown of society (basically survivalism)? In some parts of the world, that is probably time well spent. In the western world, we tend to find such people paranoid and a bit weird. That’s an extreme analogy, but I think the same line of reasoning can be used to discuss violence. Not all people, are equally likely to fall victim of violence. That’s an argument that was completely ignored in this conversation.

I stopped at “how a soldier trains for combat…. learning theory”  You’re na├»ve if you think most soldiers are trained in any theory.  They are thrown out to the wolves with the most minimal understanding of how to use a weapon.

 
elan8000
 
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elan8000
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07 August 2017 12:12
 

Hello.
I was a victim of violence by a Borderline Personality Disordered girlfriend, that had immense legal issues, financial complications and losses and children involved - mine and hers. I found it really hard to listen to a session that seems to almost entirely focus on violence by men. I am not into identity politics much, but this complete lack of examples from the other direction really grated on me.

 
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