Between Stockholm Syndrome and Lima Syndrome
Part 5: Are you sure Wellington is in New Zealand?
In Stockholm, Kreditbanken employees believed that the bank robbers are harmless. In the Corporate world, overworked employees believe that the employer’s poor treatment of them is necessary for the overall interest of the company in the long term. In Japan, workers performing karoshi continuously believe in the importance to keep working in the office with the lights off or simply take their work home by performing hidden overtime. In complex interpersonal relationships and unhealthy marriages, battered spouses believe that the abusive relationship is sustainable. In America, taxpayers and bank regulators believe in the impunity of Goldman Sachs and too-big-to-fail mega banks. In the cold, rainy, and windy November darkness, hard-core Black Friday shoppers — who camp out over the Thanksgiving holiday — believe in the "value" of "doorbuster deals" which are nothing but derivative products specifically manufactured with lower-quality specifications.
According to Merriam Webster, "(to) believe" may mean (1) to accept or regard (something) as true; (2) to accept the truth of what is said by (someone); (3) to have (a specified opinion). Oxford lexicographers offer a similar set of definitions. "To believe" may mean (1) to feel certain; (2) to think that something is true or possible, although you are not completely certain (emphasis added); (3) to have the opinion that something is right or true; (4) to have a religious faith.
It is the aforementioned Oxford's subordinate clause "although you are not completely certain" that signifies the vulnerabilities of a belief to circular reasoning. From circulus in probando (Latin, meaning "circle in proving") circular reasoning is a logical fallacy in which the person begins with what he or she is trying to end with. A classic example of a fallacious circular reasoning is offered by Canadian academic and author Douglas Walton: "Wellington is in New Zealand. Therefore, Wellington is in New Zealand." In other words, "I believe in X, therefore X is true." One needs not be a scholar to realize that such logic does not fly. Yet circular reasoning has often distorted and corrupted what we believe.
It takes two to tango. Likewise, it takes two to believe—the belief and the believer. It also takes two parties to have a hostage situation—the captors and the hostages. Clearly the problem is not always with the belief (as "the captors"), but also with the believer (as "the hostages").
In the annals of hostage negotiation, the best outcome is called Lima Syndrome, which is considered as the opposite of Stockholm Syndrome. In Lima Syndrome, the captors develop sympathy for their hostages. Not everything about Lima Syndrome is fully understood, but there are several reasons why Lima Syndrome may develop. When there are multiple captors, sometimes one or more will start to disagree with the leadership. Other possibilities for Lima Syndrome to happen include (1) the captors, collectively, just start to develop sympathy with the hostages and decide to discontinue hurting them; (2) random act of kindness; or (3) sheer luck of the hostages.
Lima Syndrome is named after a hostage situation at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru, on 17 December 1996. At that time, 14 members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took hundreds of foreign diplomats, government officials and business executives—who were celebrating Emperor Akihito's 63rd birthday—as hostages. However, in contrast to the situation in Stockholm 23 years before, within a few hours, the captors had released most of the hostages, including the most valuable ones, due to sympathy towards them.
[To be continued.]
Johannes Tan, Indonesian Translator & Conference Interpreter