September 24, 2015

"There is no accountability... It’s shocking that almost every year there is some kind of death toll."

Said Madawi al-Rasheed — the anthropologist who has written books on Saudi Arabia — about the 310 717 pilgrims who died and 450 863 who were injured in a stampede near Mecca.
Mina, about six miles east of the city center of Mecca, provides temporary accommodation — with tens of thousands of air-conditioned tents.... Mina has been the site of multiple deadly accidents over the years. In 2006, a stampede there claimed more than 360 lives on the eve of the hajj.... In 2001, a stampede in Mina killed around 35 people; in 1998, about 180 pilgrims were trampled there after several of them fell off an overpass during the stoning ritual; in 1997, at least 340 pilgrims were killed in a fire in Mina set off by high winds; and in 1994, about 270 were killed in a stampede there.....

Professor Rasheed said that officials in the kingdom had avoided responsibility in part by citing the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage — which a Muslim is expected to make at least once in a lifetime — goes to heaven.
In that context, "avoided" seems far too weak. The officials should be seen as assuming responsibility for encouraging people to look forward to dying in this known, dangerous situation. Think of the dynamics of a very large moving crowd. It's already a huge problem, even before you encourage the people to think a deadly stampede would be in their interest.

Here's a 2011 article in The New Yorker called "Crush Point/When large crowds assemble, is there a way to keep them safe?"
[Physics student Dirk Helbing]... observed that at certain critical densities, such as occur in a crowd crush, all forms of collective behavior vanish. Shock waves are the result not of collective behavior but of the failure of it. Individuals at the back of a crowd, unable to tell what is happening up ahead, push forward, not realizing that they are injuring the people in the front. Unlike ants and fish and birds, humans haven’t evolved the capability to transmit information about the physical dynamics of the crowd across the entire swarm. Ants, for example, are able to communicate within a swarm using pheromones. Iain Couzin, a behavioral biologist at Princeton University, told me, “With ants, as with human crowds, you see emergent behavior. By using a simple set of local interactions, ants form complex patterns. The difference is that we are selfish individuals, whereas ants are profoundly social creatures. We want to reduce our travel time, even when it is at the expense of others, whereas ants work for the whole colony. In this respect, we are at our most primitive in crowds. We have never evolved a collective intelligence to function in large crowds—we have no way of getting beyond the purely local rules of interaction, as ants can.”....
We are selfish individuals...

57 comments:

rhhardin said...

anyone who dies during the pilgrimage goes to heaven.

It's the forever stampede.

traditionalguy said...

Don't tell the Pope and Obama I who both think collective behavior is the goal of society and only they are the anointed to send organizing signals. And they will do this for a huge chunk of the blackmail money to favor certain pigs that are more equal over the other pigs . Ergo they hate the competition from signals of the Evil Market based in individual private property.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

No insect politics tag?

Virgil Hilts said...

One thing the article does not mention -- its 109 degrees right now in Mina. It was probably closer to 100 when this happened. People packed very tightly together, in the bright sunlight, suffocating sweating all around. Easier to imagine a stampede in those types of conditions.

Original Mike said...

"in 1998, about 180 pilgrims were trampled there after several of them fell off an overpass during the stoning ritual;"

Speaks for itself.

Hagar said...

Life is cheap in the Middle East. Always was.

Christians speak of how wonderful Heaven is, but no one seems to want to go there.

Moslems do; probably because, whatever, it's gotta be better than the Middle East.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

...the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage goes to heaven

Nuke Mecca during the Hajj. A win-win.

tim maguire said...

We are selfish individuals

Right, because there has to be judgment attached to the fact that evolution has nor given us the ability to manage crowds. I have a judgment about him...

Hagar said...Life is cheap in the Middle East. Always was.

Life is cheap in every culture that doesn't embrace rugged individualism--that selfish philosophy so derided by liberals who prefer the humane forced socialization of eastern cultures.

CatherineM said...

Well at least "stoning the devil" is just stoning a bunch of pillars in Mina, but it still draws huge crowds.

Birkel said...

Good Morning America used the word "Holy" to describe Mecca. Twice. I was not amused.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

The difference is that we are selfish individuals, whereas ants are profoundly social creatures.

Clearly we need to have less of that! Good thing that Academia is packed with socialists. We're on the right road.

Yea, get rid of all them farmers living off by themselves. Y'all can raise all the food you need right there in the city.

Asshole.

BDNYC said...

Also unlike ants, we are thinking individuals.

CWJ said...

"The difference is that we are selfish individuals, whereas ants are profoundly social creatures."

It's how we're wired. Funny how capitalism tends to work out better than communism in actual practice. Stalin etc. should have used ants. When you try it with humans you end up treating them like ants. Every time. And every time, the theoreticians are surprised by the result.

Mark said...

Instead of stoning the devil, the should shout at the devil instead.

The only risk you run there is of hair metal bands and spandex.

Ann Althouse said...

"No insect politics tag?"

I thought about it. Is the behavior of a group -- pushing and shoving -- political? My answer was no.

J2 said...

I'm wondering to what extent these events are actually "stampedes" = fast vs undulating masses - slower hence more like "crushed".

I have had that experience at a rock concert (The Doors) and it's something that if your in it you don't in any way move yourself. You are moved.

Basil said...

Socialism in a nutshell, "Ants are better than people, we should be more like ants."

I guess he has never seen "The Fly."

Jeff Boulier said...

There is an interesting chapter in Amanda Ripley's "The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why" on stampedes and an American specialist's redesign of one of the pilgrimage destinations in Mecca to make them less common.

Ann Althouse said...

"Also unlike ants, we are thinking individuals."

Read the whole article at the New Yorker. You can only think where you are. You can't understand what is happening in other parts of the crowd. You could be creating movement that is innocuous where you are that contributes to waves of pressure capable of killing people at a closed door or choke point somewhere else.

SayAahh said...

There is a Darwin.

Ann Althouse said...

My point is that it's wrong to blame the people who make up the stampede. The officials who design the space and accept the crowds are responsible. It's dangerous, they know it, and they exhibit their disrespect for human life by promoting the assurance of heaven.

Fernandinande said...

The difference is that we are selfish individuals, whereas ants are profoundly social creatures

That's because ants and other social insects are genetically related to each other differently than are mammals. "Worker" ants can be looked at as half-way between individuals, and the cells in an individual; they're not really individuals the same way mammals are.

MayBee said...

Such a tragedy. A stampede would be a horrifying way to die.

MadisonMan said...

"Mistakes were made"

William said...

It's refreshing to take note of a calamity in the Middle East that's not a result of the creation of the Jewish entity nor of the American invasion of Iraq.

Laslo Spatula said...

It is Allah's way of restocking the shelves of Heaven with virgins: when you're giving them away 72 at a time you gotta keep up supply.

I am, of course, assuming there are some virgins in the crowd.

I am Laslo.

Titus said...

I never go anywhere there are crowds.

I despise crowds....even though I live in one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S.

Sometimes I walk out my door and try to find a space where there is no people and I can never find that space, and I say to myself, "fucking people".

thank you.

tits.

Michael said...

I assume that this kind of death would be like drowning in a sea of bodies where one is not crushed so much as smothered. It is a horrible way to die. I believe these stampedes have now happened in 8 of the last 15 years.

Is it possible that there are those fanatics who create the stampede in order to spin the wheel of life or death, heaven or here?

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The difference is that we are selfish individuals, whereas ants are profoundly social creatures.

I'm going to call bullshit on this. Humans are also profoundly social creatures. So much so that people placed in isolation for extended periods of time go insane and is widely viewed as a form of torture.

The reason we don't do well in large crowded groups is we aren't designed to be in that situation. Humans existed in bands of no more than 150 individuals until the advent of cities, a relatively recent phenomenon.

I have been in New Orleans during Halloween, on Bourbon street. I can assure you it is a frightening thing. We got out of there as quickly as possible and resolved to never go their for Mardi Gras.

And they had police officers on horses so they could see what was going on at a distance and use the bulk of the horses to herd the crowd. And they could put up barriers to prevent more people from coming on to the street and make people leave if necessary.

Virgil Hilts said...

Ann, I think they have gone to tremendous expense to design the space to allow for large crowds, but that just means the crowds get bigger, faster. "During the first 16 days of Ramadan. . .more than 14 million Muslims visited [Mecca], a 40 percent increase over the same period in 2014." Its like the air traffic system; the safer you make it the more frequent the landings and takeoffs, etc. until you reach an unacceptable death rate. Sounds like the "percentage" of Mecca pilgrims dying from stampedes is probably much smaller than its ever been, even though the raw numbers may be going up.

Freeman Hunt said...

I've never understood why this hasn't been fixed. They know this huge number of people will be coming every year. They could fix the spaces to make them safer. They could manage the crowds.

But they don't. They must not care.

Laslo Spatula said...

Disney solved this problem by making another Disneyland, and putting it on the other side of the country.

I am Laslo.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

In any event, I agree with the Professor about the fault lying with the authorities. However, my understanding is that Islam can foster a fatalistic outlook. (For that matter so can most religions.) If a few hundred people die in the hadj, well its Allah's Will.

Imagine being in this crowd of fervent believers, which considering the cost and danger of the Hadj they almost certainly are.

http://www.centre-zahra.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/invocation_tawaf_hadj.jpgh

Emotions are going to be running high as they fulfill one of their religious duties, one that they will probably only be able to do once.

Laslo Spatula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

The invasion of Europe by a stampede of Refugees is another Muslim tactic. So what some die. Stealing the goods of the targeted infidels ( I.e., those not a part of the raiding party) is the goal and deaths for Mo and Al are expected.

Laslo Spatula said...

The Japanese deal with crowds of men in a very orderly fashion during bukkake.

One at a time, fellas: everyone will get their turn to ejaculate on the pretty newscaster.

I am Laslo.

Sebastian said...

We are selfish individuals, therefore Muslims die disproportionately during their pilgrimage.

Chris N said...

Aren't those 'selfish' individuals in Mina part of an often once in a lifetime pilgrimage to show loyalty to faith, history, tradition, and the larger group under submission to a transcendent God, among other reasons?

Aren't the stopovers kind of a racket/big-business?

Humans, you have failed to be sufficiently evolutionarily adapted before the Ant God. Nature's design has not blessed you with all the powers you might wish for/dream about as a child

Do Not be Selfish.

The Chumpanzee God mocks your hubris.

***The Dolphin God says your testosterone levels are a little low, but STOP EATING dolphin livers.

Gahrie said...

If a few hundred people die in the hadj, well its Allah's Will.


It's also an express pass to Heaven according to Islam, almost as good as strapping a bomb on yourself and killing a bunch of infidels.

Fernandinande said...

Ron Winkleheimer said...
The reason we don't do well in large crowded groups is we aren't designed to be in that situation. Humans existed in bands of no more than 150 individuals until the advent of cities, a relatively recent phenomenon.


True, so some extent. Some populations have at least partially evolved beyond that. Note that these stampedes are most common in inbred (i.e. cousin marriage), low-iq societies.

Still, social insects are more "social" than any mammals.

EDH said...

Paul Wertheimer is a ghoul. For decades he's been trying to milk the 15 minutes of fame occasioned by his happenstance involvement as a Cincinnati PR flack at the time of the 1979 Who tragedy. He's failed to do anything but recite the obvious and advocate the ridiculous. His bane is the relative absence of tragedy. Lucky for him the case against Walmart was such a slam-dunk.

Jason Schwartz, the lead trial attorney for Wal-Mart, wasted no time in attacking Paul Wertheimer’s qualifications as a crowd expert—“the dubiously monikered ‘marshal of the mosh pit’ ”:

J.S.: What do you do when you’re in a crowd, Mr. Wertheimer, in order to enhance your expertise?
P.W.: I observe the crowd, the crowd dynamics, the crowd behavior, and people in the crowd and talk to people in the crowd to see how they’re feeling, see what’s going on.
J.S.: If I did that, would I have the same level of experience in crowds as you do?
P.W.: No.
J.S.: Why not?
P.W.: You’re not an expert in the area of crowd management.
J.S.: I see. . . . Your Honor, I would submit that this expert’s qualifications are the same qualifications that everyone standing in this courtroom has.

Anonymous said...

The more the merrier.

Char Char Binks said...

Shocking, but hilarious.

Bill said...

Mecca looks like a cross between a parking structure and a penitentiary.

Annie said...

Chivalry and good manners, such as waiting/behaving properly in queues, is not something acknowledged or practiced in islamic societies.

Scott said...

Professor Rasheed said that officials in the kingdom had avoided responsibility in part by citing the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage — which a Muslim is expected to make at least once in a lifetime — goes to heaven.

It's not a bug, it's a feature. Isn't it good that one's soul flies to Heaven? We should be encouraging this.

Ann Althouse said...

"In any event, I agree with the Professor about the fault lying with the authorities. However, my understanding is that Islam can foster a fatalistic outlook. (For that matter so can most religions.) If a few hundred people die in the hadj, well its Allah's Will."

Now, take that approach and apply it to the Charleston massacre. I bet the 9 people that got murdered were completely at peace with dying and joyful about the prospect of death that would take them to heaven, that they were trusting that God loved them and that whatever happens is God's will.

And now the Pope is going without too much security and expressing that attitude about death and God.

Anyway, this is one of the functions of religion, to help people deal with death. What's the point of "otherizing" Muslims over this?

Fernandinande said...

Ron Winkleheimer said...
In any event, I agree with the Professor about the fault lying with the authorities. However, my understanding is that Islam can foster a fatalistic outlook.


"Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live."

damikesc said...

I won't defend the Sauds --- but they have a crapton of people flocking there. It's relatively difficult to keep deaths at about .1% of the massive crowd swarming there constantly.

And, at the risk of being offensive, Arab society prefers the dead to the alive.

Disney solved this problem by making another Disneyland, and putting it on the other side of the country.

They also have limitations on visitor numbers. I've seen Disneyworld stop allowing new people into the park until several thousand in there have left. Not common, but it's happened.

Coupe said...

The King of Arabia is referred to as "The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques".

To Saudi Arabia, caring for the holy cities of Makkah, the birthplace of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, and Madinah, the Prophet's burial place, is a sacred trust exercised on behalf of all Muslims. Recognizing the unique and historic tradition these holy sites represent, King Fahd bin Abdulaziz adopted the official title of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques as an expression of his deep sense of responsibility toward Islam.

May the heads roll!

SayAahh said...

Build it and they will come

cold pizza said...

So, will Obama have a Secret Service detail (infidels!) with him when it comes time for him to make his hadj? j/k. We know he stands before his god every morning when he looks into the mirror. -CP

furious_a said...

They should sell tickets and assign times and "seats". One of the differences noted between the stampedes and crushes at European soccer pitches vs. their absence at American sporting events is the Euro practice of selling unassigned standing-room tickets for terraces vs. American assigned seating.

BN said...

"...and they exhibit their disrespect for human life by promoting the assurance of heaven."

Wait. Islam disrespects human life? Who knew?

R. Duke said...

Remember, it's a death cult, not a religion. Then this annual slaughter all makes sense.

cubanbob said...

If the Saudi's can handle 14 million pilgrims, then send the migrants going to Europe from the MENA over to the Magic Kingdom.
They have the room and they have the facilities and they don't need to learn a new language and adopt a new culture. They are after all brothers and sisters, why send family to strangers when the family can take care of it's own?

Kirk Parker said...

Althouse,

"they exhibit their disrespect for human life by promoting the assurance of heaven. "

The House of Saud, the custodians of the most precious sites in all Islam, don't have respect for human life???

This is my shocked face...

" What's the point of "otherizing" Muslims over this? "

Because the Arab Muslim (and most other Muslim) point of view about this actually is different than the POV that prevails in the West?