Refugees to the US Prove Your Personal Experiences Will Bias You

One of the benefits of sitting in Atlanta traffic is that I get to listen to a million different podcasts. A podcast my brother introduced me to was that of Malcolm Gladwell.  You may be familiar with Gladwell from his  popular book “Outliers” or his Washington Post reporting.

His podcast is fantastic. I highly recommend it. Be advised, there are only a couple seasons, thus far, so if you’re taking the same route as me to work, you’ll knock these out in a weeks time and be desperate for more.

His second episode of season one, I found incredibly interesting. Here he talks of two Intelligence Analysts who work for the Rand Corporation on behalf of the US Government during the Vietnam war.  Their job was to decipher interviews of captured NVA and VC combatants to get a gauge of the communists resolve to continue fighting.

These two analysts came to America in similar circumstances, as refugees.  The family of the first fled the Bolsheviks in Russia in the 1920’s. While they were initially part of “leftist royalty”, as Gladwell states, they could see the writing on the wall with Stalin’s ascension and had to get out, fast, not unlike Trotsky.

The other analyst’s family fled the Nazi’s in the 1940’s. They too were an elite family, living nicely in Europe but they could also see where the future lay and fled for their lives as well.

So, in the 1960’s they find themselves working for their adopted country on analyzing how the Vietnam engagement is going.  Here is the backdrop of this story that I found most interesting that Gladwell unfortunately doesn’t address:  The analyst whose family fled the Bolsheviks’ felt the Communists in Vietnam were on the ropes(which they were by the way!)  Yet, the one who fled the Nazi’s felt the Communists were gaining strength.  Remember they were reading and analyzing the SAME INTEL yet they were in complete disagreement in their analysis.  Why???

Then I started thinking; Could it be the guy whose family lived through atrocities committed by the Communists in Russia sees the NVA as an extension of those who took everything from his family? Secondly, could the guy whose family fled the Nazi’s but who saw the Communists as a liberating force in Europe have felt the NVA also as a liberating force in Vietnam?

Remember exact same data these two men were looking at. Yet, 180 degree difference in opinion as to what that data meant. There can be no other explanation than personal experiences, i.e., biases, dictated their analysis. Nothing else makes sense.  Either the Communists were advancing or they were retreating.  But they couldn’t be doing both.  It was mutually exclusive.  Any yet, one guy felt they were advancing and the other felt they were retreating…again, looking at the same, exact intel!

And this is so important for me and maybe you too. I may think I know someone by their outward appearance or their pedigree or the way they talk etc., etc. But I don’t. I have NO idea at all about their own experiences so I need to remind myself, over and over,  don’t judge. I have never been in their shoes. Their experiences more than anything else determine who they are and until I understand those experiences I’m truly ignorant about that person. Thus if you want to know someone, simply ask about their experiences.  You’ll probably hear a thrilling story at the same time you get to understand that person as well.

The info you learn from just getting to know them better will allow you to be more aware of the world they see.  Of course, just being more aware of their viewpoint, doesn’t make that viewpoint correct.  After all, the Communists in Vietnam did evil, evil things upon their ascension to power.   That ascension was unfortunately helped along because many in the US actually felt they were liberators as opposed to the monsters they truly turned out to be, not unlike many viewed Castro when he overthrew Bautista, or even Chavez in Venezuela.

For some, well many on the American left, their disgust with capitalism has allowed a soft spot in their hearts for what is the counter, communism.  Even though the world is littered with the destruction of millions of human beings under the banner of communism, they still believe that it can work and that it IS better than capitalism.

That worldview boggles my mind, frankly.  As I look at all the wonders capitalism has bestowed everywhere it’s tried and I simply can not fathom why people don’t inherently get it.

Capitalism is good, communism is bad. That’s my worldview.  Of course, I truly believe my worldview is the correct one and others are wrong.  My experience of understanding the scourge that is socialism, marxism and communism has trained me to see the world in that way.

But why can’t others see the same? I truly, truly do not know.

I imagine it has to do with the horrors that was European slavery.  American segregation, income inequality, pollution, the Crusades, etc.  Yet, ALL THOSE THINGS ARE FAR WORSE UNDER COMMUNISM by a huge factor! Yet the opposite world view of mine still believes in it.  Again, boggles my mind.

So, I’d love to hear comments if you so desire.  If you are of the view point that capitalism must be “managed” if not outright destroyed…why?

I won’t argue with your viewpoint. I’m truly just curious.  As I imagine the American analyst who fled the Bolsheviks was probably as well if/when he came across the analyst who fled the Nazi’s.  I am sure they looked at each other and just shook their respective heads saying, “how could you be so wrong???”



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