In the early hours of 28th September 1994, a pleasure ship, MS Estonia, sank in the Baltic Sea. Of the 989 people on board, a staggering 852 died. Bizarrely, some 650 were found below decks—unable to believe what was happening, they had made no attempt to save their lives.
Why? One possibility: humans used to be prey, so where there is an inescapable threat, it is natural to freeze. But this was only in an inescapable threat in the victims’ minds: many people did escape, leaving behind paralyzed friends and relatives.
Another explanation: these northern people—strongly adapted to cold environments—are high in anxiety. This makes them plan for the future and be deeply concerned about how others see them, creating profoundly harmonious societies. But it also it means they’re more likely to be emotionally overwhelmed, leading to high suicide rates—14 suicides per 100,000 deaths in Finland in 2015 and Estonia, only 7 in the UK—and withdrawal from reality. They have evolved to be trusting, obeying their leaders and the rules, completely maladapted to a savanna-like situation of utter chaos.
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