Friday, July 23, 2010

Mobs Blow...and Ultrarunning

Another gem from the Writer's Almanac (19 July 2010). This may be stretching the analogy a bit, but as my good buddy Don once said, "Mobs blow."
It was on this day in 1692 that Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good, and Sarah Wildes were hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Their accusers were mostly young girls who fell sick with strange fits and hallucinations, and then testified that they had seen these women flying through the air or asking them to sign the Devil's book.

Today, many scholars see the witchcraft trials as a product of tensions in and around Salem. There was a strong divide between the town of Salem, a prosperous port town, and the village of Salem, which was a poorer farming town.
In general, people who were accused of witchcraft fell into two categories. Some were easy targets -- they were old, social misfits, or generally unpopular. Others were upstanding citizens but their accusers had something to gain, either property or status, from the downfall of the people they accused.

Kinda reminds me of this from a previous post:

I promised, via my title, to connect the fact that mobs blow with Ultrarunning, so here goes.  I've not read of anyone doing any investigations involving administering psychological tests to Ultrarunners.  But if this were done I'd suspect that we, by and large, would turn out to be more independent and free-thinking than the population at large.  Thus we'd be less susceptible to the kind of group-think and mindlessness that characterizes mobs. 

I suggest that Ultrarunners would be more inclined to buck the trend, not go along with a (momentarily) popular but wrong cause, and be willing to call bullsh*t faster.  Valuing independence, we'd not be afraid to call attention to the turd in the punchbowl even if it'd be unpopular to do so.  So sacrificing rational thought--as in done when one commits to joining a mob--is not the typical behavior that one would expect in the perfect model of an Ultrarunner that I have constructed here.

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