Monday, November 25, 2013

Fisking Stupidity

Recently, a fellow forum-member linked to a NatGeo 8/08 article purportedly about survival, but mainly about filling column inches on their website and justifying the author's paycheck.
It was annoyingly bad, and in a way only NatGeo could be responsible for perpetrating, being enamored of exactly the sort of poorly-sourced, woolly-headed psychobabble mind fluff of which this article wasn't merely a fount, but may have been the Mother Lode.

So more for my own entertainment than anything else, a disassembly of the nonsense so recently encountered.

1. Do the Next Right Thing
" For example, Pvt. Giles McCoy was aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis when it was torpedoed and sank at the end of World War II, tossing some 900 men into the black of night and the shark-infested Pacific. McCoy, a young Marine, was sucked under the boat and nearly drowned. He surfaced into a two-inch-thick slick of fuel oil, which soaked his life vest and kept him from swimming—although he could see a life raft, he couldn’t reach it. So he tore off his vest and swam underwater, surfacing now and then, gasping, swallowing oil, and vomiting. After getting hoisted onto the raft, he saw a group of miserable young sailors covered in oil and retching. One was "so badly burned that the skin was stripped from his arms," Doug Stanton writes in his gripping account of the event, In Harm’s Way. McCoy’s response to this horrific situation was telling. "He resolved to take action: He would clean his pistol." Irrelevant as that task may sound, it was exactly the right thing to do: organized, directed action. He made each one of the sailors hold a piece of the pistol as he disassembled it. This began the process of letting him think clearly."

No disrespect to Pvt. McCoy, nor to sharpshoot his choices, but his survival had a lot more to do with doing the first right thing, which was swimming away from a sinking ship. And while I, as a lone Marine on a ship full of sailors, might want a ready sidearm as well, being on a raft sitting in fuel oil that had been recently inside a torpedoed ship, I think looking for suitable paddles, or something to serve as a sail and/or sunshade, not to mention things to collect drinking water, rations, medical supplies, and perhaps a compass or chart, would be a wee bit more valuable in the near term than a functioning .45. There's a time to stop and think, but that's after the immediate danger has passed. Until then, getting away from the problem and assembling necessary items beats fiddling with something that isn't going anywhere. Relocate before you cogitate.

2. Control your destiny
"The importance of this mentality is evidenced by tornado statistics. In the past two decades Illinois has had about 50 percent more twisters than Alabama but far fewer fatalities. The discrepancy can be explained, in part, by a study in the journal Science, which found that Alabama residents believed their fate was controlled by God, not by them. The people of Illinois, meanwhile, were more inclined to have confidence in their own abilities and to take action."

Yes, Cupcake, but the fatalities have to do with what and who the tornado hits, not about how they feel about it just before the car lands on their head. It has far less to do with controlling your destiny as much as it has to do with whether you have a handy storm shelter close by, m'kay? 

The response to the incident, OTOH, has a helluva lot more to do with the fact that the tornadoes in IL are hitting vast swaths of corn-, wheat- and soy fields, whereas the ones in AL hit small farms and small towns, (with a regrettable tendency to find trailer parks). If a Twister went through the Southside of Chicago, the fatalities would be horrendous, the average citywide IQ would increase afterwards, and those displaced by the trauma would go into full-blown post-Katrina "where's my cellphone, bottled water, and new house?" pissing and moaning, followed by looting in about 4 seconds, whereas in Alabama that sort of thing would only last about 4 seconds. So maybe you want to start comparing AL to Nawlins (or its city-mouse cousin, Chicongo) instead of to vast hinterlands of nothing but crops.

Or maybe just Google the pics of Mississippi River headless-chicken flooding response in St. Louis, versus by farmers in Cornland, who self-constructed massive personal dikes around their own houses and barns, and did just fine. Then tell me which ones believed in God and still took responsibility for affecting their own destinies before, during, and after.

Screw worrying about control of your destiny, control your address, where you plant your backside, and what you do with it right afterwards.

3. Deny Denial
"David Klinger, a retired Los Angeles police officer, describes in his book Into the Kill Zone that while moonlighting as a bank guard he saw "three masked figures with assault rifles run through the foyer of the bank." His first thought was that the local SWAT team was practicing. His second was that they were dressed up for Halloween. Klinger later said, "[I thought] maybe they were trick-or-treaters. It was just disbelief."

Or, alternatively, stop daydreaming during most of your life, and wake up and smell the reality. Luck is not a plan. No one expects a tiger to leap from every bush every minute, but the less time you spend wondering why one did, the less likely you'll be lunch. Everything we do, from getting out of bed each morning onwards, can kill us. You don't have to walk around waiting for the axe to fall, or be crack-fiend hyper-alert, but being awake enough to notice what's going on is vastly more mental energy than most people expend in any given minute, as any trip down the interstate in proximity to other drivers will confirm.

4. Use A Mantra

Right. Like when Christians were thrown to the lions, the mantra would be "Taste Bad."
Yeah, that'd work sooooo well. Not.
But if you're like me, and your karma ran over somebody's dogma, instead of Trusting The Force, how about using your head for something besides a hat rack?
PPPPPPP ring a bell? Beuller? Beuller...?

Like maybe don't drive through blizzards in cotton street clothes.
Or don't walk through the seedier parts of town at 3am with those $20 bills from your G-string hanging out to attract muggers.
Or not depending on your neighbors and your yappy little dog to deter burglars.

You don't have to look like Gilligan in the opening theme of Gilligan's Island, but Stuff comes in handy, and even more so the forethought you put into deciding which Stuff you might need, and the skills you learned to use the Stuff when things go rather unpredictably and annoyingly pear-shaped.

For instance, I don't carry a parachute as a carry-on for commercial air travel (mainly because I haven't learned to breathe on the way down from 40,000', and the FAA frowns on pony bottles of compressed oxygen for civilian flights) though I wouldn't mock anyone who did. But I do wear or carry on clothes suitable for anything short of an Arctic blizzard, and vastly better than a polo shirt and slacks if a plane were to go down somewhere other than the runway by my arrival gate. And a first aid kit, because all airplanes have on board are an AED, stethoscope, and BP cuff, under seal, and you practically have to get Papal dispensation to get them to open them even when people are having heart attacks. But I know that because I asked, and thought about it ahead of time, and have the skills to use what I bring, all of which work much better than deadheading from boarding to landing, or on any other trip throughout one's life.

(Only 10 more points to go.) To be continued...