The most tolerant loses

I am still reading “Skin in the game” by Nassim Talib. I was bored in the middle and switched to “12 rules for life” by Peterson. I am now taking a break from it and went back to Talib.

One of the chapters I really like is “The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority” [1]. I read it before buying the book as Nassim published it on Medium. It explains what leads something dictated by a small minority in a society to become the norm of the majority. For example why most food in US is kosher, and why most food in Europe is becoming Halal. Even though both Jews and Muslims are minorities in both societies.

The tl;dr is that there are certain conditions need to be met for something dictated by a minority to become the norm of the majority.

  1. They need to be really intolerant: they won’t go to a party unless it has Halal/Kosher food. They won’t go to a restaurant if it has no wheelchair accessible bathroom. They won’t go to a meeting unless everyone speaks English.
  2. They need to be spread out: If it is a minority concentrated in some area, the rule won’t spread. The minority needs to be spread out across society so that in every sub group, there is at least one person representing the intolerant minority.
  3. There has to be an asymmetric relationship: Halal eaters can’t eat non-Halal, but non-Halal eaters can eat Halal. German speakers can speak English, but non-German speakers can’t speak German.
  4. The switching cost must be small: The cost of making food Halal doesn’t increase its price. Switching to English in a meeting isn’t a big effort for most people.

I am now thinking about myself. As a minority in a society (wheelchair users), my intolerance isn’t as high as sometimes people expect from me.

It is both good and bad. It is good because it gives me a piece of mind since I have low expectations. It is bad because I sometimes give up my own rights for my peace of mind, and sometimes I feel it is bad because as someone who can influence and change things making them better for others many times I don’t do that for the same reason of having peace of mind. It is what Essam[2] keeps nagging me about as my “moral responsibility”.

The reason I am writing all this is because the neighbors in my apartment complex are signing a petition asking the owners to install a gate at the entrance to prevent the repeated thefts that are happening from time to time.

I voiced my objection to the gate since my building’s door is directly on the street, and if I need to throw the trash away I have to get into the complex to what the Germans call “Müllraum” (waste room). The room already have a heavy door to the level that I just open it a little and throw the trash inside without putting it in the right bin. If I get inside and the door closes I will be locked inside or will have to fracture my shoulder to be able to open the door. Adding a gate will just force me into opening two heavy doors instead of one, and it won’t prevent thefts because all doors of the buildings on the street can lead to the inside of the complex and the garage. There are still more entry points that a gate will just make my life harder and won’t stop those motivated thieves.

I voiced my concerns and they decided to go with the petition anyway due to the rule of the majority. I am now thinking of whether I should do a counter-petition and side with the owning company that gates won’t prevent thefts and will strip me from my right to throw my own garbage (which they will love as they won’t want to pay for the installation of gates). I can also send them an official letter in German showing them how easily my bones get fractured and making them accountable for any problems that may arise as a result of installing this gate. Such a letter will make them so confused that they will think a 100 times before installing it.

There is also the hypocritical option of claiming that the building is pretty safe and those thefts are resulting from people’s complacence in protecting their belongings (which the owning company will also like). This is the beauty and curse of the post facts era we live in.

As you can see it is a typical situation of how intolerant one should be. Unfortunately the minority rule doesn’t apply to most situations related to wheelchair accessibility because conditions #2 and #4 don’t apply to most societies. There aren’t many wheelchair users spread out in every group of people (maybe it will be the case in Europe in 50 years when the median age keeps going up and as a result the % of wheelchair bound people), and the cost of making something wheelchair accessible is sometimes too high to justify the value (see my tweets above).

I am still making up my mind and didn’t decide what to do.