Curiosity Weekly I

Welcome to the first edition of Curiosity Weekly! I’m really excited about this. It’s a way for me to learn, to investigate, to keep curious and to improve, using three awesome devices I really love: questions, people and the internet. And maybe on the way, teach someone something new too. I hope you enjoy it!

Last week I was curious about what people think about the rules of war. I never planned for the first questionnaire to be on such a strong topic - it just happened that I had a brief on hand, and this here looked like a good way to test a hunch and learn a little bit more about the subject.

I asked people if they cared about the Geneva Conventions and the rules of war, and why. I really wanted to find out to which point they cared, if people didn’t really know about them, and what were their reasons.

The results showed that most people care about the rules of war to some extent, but nearly thirty percent of respondents didn’t really know about them. They claimed a general lack of interest or familiarity with the subject. Some said they had ‘never learnt about it’, or they ‘never dug into it’, or that they ‘just kind of ignore, for better or worse’.

This lack of interest is also seen by those who don’t really care about the rules of war. People explained that there are more important things closer to home to worry about. It is quite hard to really care about something when it doesn’t personally affect you. It’s not really about being selfish, it’s more about being passionate. There is a lot of activism going on at the moment, and people tend to stand up for causes that are important to them.

As one respondent summed very well: 'I feel there are a set amount of things I can worry about, if that doesn't sound too crazy - I'm very active in my community in a number of ways and take on lots of things. So I feel like I have to trust that others will take on other causes in the world, if that makes sense!'

It wasn’t surprising then, that global impact was a well-mentioned factor for those who did care about the Conventions and rules. This idea of empathy being related to physical and emotional distance is confirmed by a slightly more formal and bigger research conducted in 2016 by the Red Cross with over 17,000 people, which found that ‘those who have experienced the worst of war believe that rules can save lives’. Similarly, one survey respondent said he cared about the rules very much because he lived in a conflict area and has ‘seen the destruction war can bring first hand’.

Still, there seems to be hope from afar too. Most of the respondents of the survey were from countries without armed conflict, and even if a few people questioned the effectiveness of the rules, the majority still cared about them. In fact, the use of the rules as a means to control the devastation caused by war was the most cited reason to care about them in my survey, closely followed by humanitarian grounds, with a special concern for civilians.

All in all, this survey showed me that empathy crosses borders, but action requires more than that; to stand up for something, people need to feel a personal connection.

This first survey was an amazing experience for me. Its sample was too tiny to be statistically significant, but it still was quite enlightening. It confirmed some views and it showed new directions. The whole project, in greater depth beyond the survey here, was even more fascinating. War is a delicate subject, and it was really interesting to learn more about it. It is not something I’d normally go for, and it is really the kind of challenge that makes me glad to be a strategist, and do this job.

The next Curiosity Weekly will tackle a completely different subject. Well, this week I’m curious about tooth brushing habits in different countries. Take the survey here!

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