Like most of us who love coffee, I do not love it. I cherish it. Every black, crusty, syrupy, foul-mouthed cup holds a secret only drinking it can reveal.
I wasn't always a coffee addict. I came into it gradually, dropping Coke and Pepsi and mocking their use as I slowly pushed my coffee consumption window into well after midday. Coke and Pepsi are for those who lack erudition. I am refined. I drink beans that have been ground up with hot water over them. Much more swank, no?
My coffee habit took work! Coffee is an acquired taste. Like heroin. Okay, bad example. The knock on heroin is it's crappy delivery system. Injection?! Pshhht. With coffee, you are pour and a gulp away from bliss. If heroin had such easy access, we might be buying stock in "HeroinBucks" or "StarCrack".
While my analogy sucks and is completely offensive, the comparison isn't completely foreign. Coffee's addictive properties make the dull warmth, the tooth-coating, bad-breath inducing aspects seem like a badge of honor.
Come here, I'll talk directly into your face. It's MAAAAHVELOUS. I'll bet you want another cup right now dontcha huh dontcha.
We use "slow" to describe people who aren't smart. Perhaps we're being hasty?
A recent study in Chicago demonstrates this. One researcher, Harold Pollack conducted a "social autopsy" on every homicide in the city. He did it to determine if homicides were, in fact due the "usual reasons:" gang violence, burglary, assault, domestic disputes.
At the core, the homicides weren't really related to that at all. According to Pollack's findings, which were rather anecdotal but nonetheless brilliant, included this basic idea:
"Young men + disagreement + impulsivity + gun = dead body"
It was the impulsivity - the lack of control - that controlled the moment. Jens Ludwig, who continued Pollack's research, cited the case of one young man who shot another over his backpack and water bottle and was sentenced to 120 years:
"If they thought about it for even one second...it's very hard to imagine that anyone would think it was a good idea to shoot someone at point-blank range in exchange for a book bag and a water bottle that would surely have a resale value of not more than a couple of dollars at best." (emphasis added)
These decisions weren't driven by thought - quite the contrary. These decisions were a result of a decided LACK of thinking in a heated moment and they resulted in stupid, stupid, senseless deaths.
Pollack also argued that both liberal and conservative arguments on violence reduction have serious limitations. Seriously, his slide 6 is pretty badass:
–Violence fundamental outgrowth of economic inequality, blocked opportunities, segregation, and discrimination.
–Violence fundamental outgrowth of adverse cultural trends including family breakdown, adverse media messages, and more."
That's a nice synopsis of the opposing viewpoints, isn't it? But that's a rather complex argument that needs to be unpacked elsewhere. Were focusing on THINKING here, and Jens Ludwig's research in Chicago had important insights on that too.
Gimme the ball
Ludwig's research consisted of following 2800 at-risk high school boys in Chicago. Half went through a training course called "Becoming a Man," which focused on Cognitive Behavior Therapy. One of the activities involved two boys and a ball.
The exercise was simple: one boy was given a ball. The other boy was told to get the ball out of his partner's hand. As simple as this sounds, the result with teenage boys was easy to predict: invariably, the activity ended in a brawl with the two boys fighting with the ball. The instructors noted that no one ever asked for the ball. This was rather the point, and discussion centered around that possibility: asking and thinking, rather than acting.
It's crazy that NO ONE ASKED, but there you go. Impulsivity ruled.
With number of arrests as the study's endpoint, the group that went through the behavioral class(n=1400) had 44% fewer arrests. That's a significant argument for the power of taking a moment to think before you go off half-cocked, literally. The year after the 44% decrease the group of kids who went through the training were back on par with their sub-par arrest-prone control group friends, suggesting that while the program was helpful, those darned teenagers need to be trained how to think EVERY YEAR. Sounds like, I dunno, maybe something they could learn in school?
Stupid acts fast, smart acts slow. It's as simple as following the adage "think before you act." In our world of instant gratification, on-demand programming, internet memes, sound-byte politics, and fast food, that's difficult advice to follow, isn't it?
I am a bourgeois spiritualist.