Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Witchcraft

I got the following study in a comment, finding it very useful. It's about researches of anthropology on witch-hunts.

The most recent witch-hunts are in Africa, where young and unemployed people blame their failures on witches. The witches (mostly elderly and middle-aged women) use supernatural powers to get rich (compared to them) and in the same time curse them to remain poor.

These young people invite witch-hunters who has methods to identify the witch. The witches then get beaten and humiliated (killing them is rare, even in Africa), so the order is restored.

Anthropologists found that witch-hunt emerges when things turn bad because of impersonal forces (see the diagram that shows that witch-burnings happened in Europe when bad weather destroyed crops). They also found that the "witches" are those who somehow seem to be immune to the harmful turn of events. The witches of Africa for example manage to have income when no one else have, "obviously" by dark sorcery. Of course the anthropologists found other reasons for the success of witches (probably they are witches too, that's why they protect their kin): trading!

The family ties between women is always stronger than between men. Elderly women know lot of relatives and try to stay in touch with them in every culture. The African women can use this natural social network to know the prices of crops in the nearby (and not so nearby) villages so they always know where to sell.

The witches of Europe in the middle ages knew herbs that could cure certain diseases. They could charge for their services and seemed to be immune to epidemics (as they lived alone in the woods instead of the middle of the town). These properties made them perfect witches.

We can also mention the Jews of Europe, who were not considered witches, but evil conspirators going for world domination. They always had money (obviously through immoral means), when others starved. Of course the locals were incapable to see that landowning was forbidden to jews so they had no other choice than trading. They were also forced to cooperate with each other as the majority society would not have them.

The post is absolutely right that market success depends on your skills, and this is often against social status. When people see this, they will find it unnatural (as they see the status natural) and blame dark sorcery or evil conspiration. They will try to stop this, even by violent means. He is also absolutely right in "Politicians going after businessmen for their arrogance and greed and calling for economic justice serve exactly the same role as the African witch-hunter".

What the article lacks is the solution.

The solution is teaching. If the African women would tell the other villagers that "My cousin just four days ago wrote me in a mail that the wheat price is X in her village, so I immediately pack my donkeys and travel there to sell some", the others would:
  • understand where her wealth would come, so they would not think of witchcraft
  • would also be able to sell some crops so they would not be so poor (the whole society would progress)
  • would learn that "asking around prices helps", so their business skills would improve
  • would see the businesswomen as valuable source of information instead of competitors (= evil ones = witches)
Of course telling our "business secrets" would harm our business. By telling the prices you would let others to sell where you sell, driving the prices down. While telling our secrets decrease our income it cannot turn it to zero, as the work element (farming the crop and transporting it) stays, and also because not everyone listens to you. While I could make more gold in WoW without revealing my businesses in the blog, I still make decent amount. I told many times the crystallized-eternal business, yet it's still here, because of the morons who read no material, ask no questions and unable to think for themselves.

What businessmen seem to ignore is that the violence that the poor use to get their money is no less "real" or "legitimate" than their business tricks. Calling the communist upriser evil is no less irrational than calling a businessman evil. They are just using the means available to them to get resources. It is our interest to show the people that there are better means to get resources (after all violent taking is a strongly negative-sum game).

I was called gold-buyer (an evil cheater) lot of times since I had full BoE ilvl 200 on the day I hit 80. Since I have the blog, these voices diminished as everyone can see the means that get me money.

Summary: if you are smarter than the average, you can be rich. But if you don't teach them, they will see you as a witch and try to burn you.

The businessmen are not evil conspirators. We are not getting our money by dark machinations. We purely, simply, clearly milk the morons!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"the others would:

* understand where her wealth would come, so they would not think of witchcraft
* would also be able to sell some crops so they would not be so poor (the whole society would progress)"

except that the noobs would just undercut her.

Carra said...

So to avoid being burned, you have to make other people like you. How ungoblinish!

Gevlon said...

@anonymous: they are already undercutting somewhere. It would be better if they would do it in the highest price market.

@Carra: they don't have to like me, or agree with me. But they have to understand me, know what I do/want. If they don't they fill the holes with superstitious imaginations about evil machinations.

Okrane S. said...

In modern society this could be also extended to people always blaming politicians and big companies for their problems.

Not necessarily conspiracy theories but the common thought that the leaders hurt general welfare for their personal gain.

This is linked to a certain need of a kind of society members to transfer the fault of their own failure from themselves to an exterior factor. I failed, not because of my incompetence but because of some evil forces working against me. Makes failure easier to bear.

However these "witch" claims are not always that far away from the truth...

Barrista said...

@Gevlon:
This article suggests that you post your info to help us not be the morons whom you are milking.
So, would you rather be poor or rich with lots of morons to milk?

On my server the complaint is that people are not moronic enough (or to quote them "people on this server are too cheap").

I really don't know where the witch hunt comes in though. I don't hear anyone blaming those on my server who make the gold for all their problems.

@OkraneS:
If people are laid off or fired because their company leaders were idiots who made illogical choices, then yes, you can blame those leaders. In the U.S. though, it's not just the banks. It's a society of people who want it all and want it now coupled with banks who wanted to give it to them (with a nice interest rate of course). Both were morons.

As for the politicians, we elect them. People don't necessarily stand up when they think something is wrong anymore or look too far into a candidates ideals. They are happy because they have their big screen TV, new car in the driveway and a big house. And that is their fault, not the politicians.

Grumpy Misanthrope said...

The solution is teaching. If the African women would tell the other villagers that "My cousin just four days ago wrote me in a mail that the wheat price is X in her village, so I immediately pack my donkeys and travel there to sell some", the others would:

understand where her wealth would come, so they would not think of witchcraft
would also be able to sell some crops so they would not be so poor (the whole society would progress)
would learn that "asking around prices helps", so their business skills would improve
would see the businesswomen as valuable source of information instead of competitors (= evil ones = witches)

No, instead they would be accused of unfair competition, monopoly, and other things, and beaten, and robbed for that. You overestimate humanity by a fairly considerable margin if you think that hatred of the better off will not continue just because someone learns why they are better off.


And, no, learning that information, won't spur them to follow the old woman's actions. It will just make them hate her more because she knew and they didn't. Humanity is always more interested in tearing down the successful than in being successful. The path of least resistance, and all that.

Matt said...

You're problem is that you're taking advantage of the M&S and so are the witch hunters too. Those people know full well how you make your money and they know very well that its not witchcraft.
These people want your money and they dupe the M&S into taking it from you. The same M&S who will never check the price of crystallized life verses eternal life don't bother to check the witch hunter's story, and instead follow their emotion and attack the business men.
You could show how you you make your money in detail and in plain English to them and it wouldn't matter. They attack you because the 1) Witch hunter wants your money
2) The M&S resent you
3) He can dupe the M&S into taking it from you
4) The M&S will never listen to you
5) Nothing you say will stop them, better to hire security

HP said...

Your entry is an interesting way to look at witchcraft as you don't seem to judge people that persecute others for being "witches" or whatnot. I guess people's willful ignorance and inability to think outside the box contribute to persecution.

Sven said...

It seems to me that there is a fundamental flaw in this analogy. Witchcraft isn't real, whereas corrupt business practices are. Just because one allegation is false, it doesn't make the other one false too.

That's not to say that false accusations of corruption don't happen, just that you can't dismiss all such accusations that way.

phoenixboy said...

You know, the point is that people tend to despise the ones that live better than them, they just need the excuse that they are evil for attack.

Witchcraft in the middle ages also got a little of the Vatican wanting to stablish himself as a supreme power by eliminating all other religions. I wonder if theres isnt somebody pulling the strings in Africa.

Marko said...

I would feel a bit skeptical about taking advise from a businessman that gives adivice to many people. It gives the businessman the ability to swing the market to their advantage.

Heres and outragous claim Gevlon....I think your little green herb farmer that has created this blog telling us wonders of selling glyphs as an elaborate plan to jack-up your herb prices.

Haha, yeah bad example guess you would need to do something to convince more people to buy glyphs.

For your witch senario:

WITCH: Hey guys, don't burn my house down, ive been making money because I sell corn for twice the price in the next village.

DUMB VILLAGERS: uhh, but thats over the ravine and we ain't got no flying lion thingies.

WITCH: Don't worry bout that shiz, theres a mad ass bridge across it now.

...After some hi fives and ass slapping the dumb villagers gather their corn and start walking to the next town. As they approach the bridge they see a sign...

"WITCHES TOLL BRIDGE"

pugnaciouspriest said...

In the Uk theres a campaign called
""Too Much Bling? Give Us A Ring" where the public are encouraged to report people who flash wealth around -on the assumption that its is all through illgotten means - I wonder how many false reports that they have received, or in your case how many tickets on you that Blizzard received because people assumed it was ill gotten.