Saturday, May 9, 2020

Framing Reopening

We're currently experiencing a framing conflict, both between segments of society, and within each of ourselves. As ever, we don't frame it as framing. We stubbornly refuse to trace our thoughts backwards to their source. We just arbitrarily adopt a frame (based on tribal cues, like flocks of birds), and freeze right there for a while, satisfied that we've selected the "correct" one.

It is brutally inhumane to proclaim thousands of deaths tolerable in the interest of re-opening the economy. Life is precious. Let's not love money more than we love human beings. Let's wait and do this when we can spare every soul.

We accept 38,000 annual traffic fatalities, without flinching, as the cost of a functioning modern society. We continue to grow and serve peanuts even though the tiniest bit of one can threaten the life of .6% of our population. Two million Americans would have their lives imperiled by bee stings, but we've not only failed to exterminate the bees, we're actually distressed that they're dying out on their own.

Neither of these antithetical views is wrong. They're simply different framings, both of them obviously correct. It is unquestionably callous and inhumane to condemn thousands to death just so we can relaunch the economy. Yet every one of us is callous and inhumane in the face of thousands of actual or prospective deaths.

These aren't differing "opinions", because an opinion has built-in traction, whereas both these perspectives are easily interchanged (unless you've willfully frozen yourself). It's like owning two houses - each feels like "home" when you're in it.

I'm not saying we can believe two contradictory things at once, because we can't. We can only oscillate between the two, like choosing a framing for the optical illusion below. One or the other comes easily, but you cannot see both at once. That's the hallmark of framing: it can effortlessly shift (so long as you haven't frozen perspective) but only one can be experienced at a time. Serial monogamy!

Belief is contextual, and context comes from framing (an inner choice which we project onto outside circumstance). Beliefs, ethics, and opinions all stem from framing. Among many other things, this explains the apparent endless hypocrisy of human beings, who are actually quite consistent within each framing. And, once again, framing is easily shifted...just so long as you haven't chosen to freeze it - which I'd discourage, because frozen perspective is what depression is. The shiftiness of framing is a feature, not a bug.

Regarding the virus and the economy, what's not a matter of framing and is a matter of right and wrong is the need to proceed intelligently and cautiously, weighing all risks with thoughtfulness and responsibility. To open the economy impulsively, and without consideration of different framings, would be an abomination. That's the Centrist view (and most of the country is Centrist without realizing it).

Buried the lede again. Doh.

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