Similar similarity?

When we read “I See Everything Through This Tragedy” and “Blocking the Transmission of Gang Violence,” we have an inclination to see the two comparisons as nearly identical. Both concern relationships between a medical disorder and gang violence. On closer examination, though, their equatability becomes doubtful.

Consider first “I See Everything Through This Tragedy,” which compares survivors of gang violence to PTSD sufferers. Kotlowitz certainly does compare them. But Kotlowitz’s comparison (looked at strictly as a comparison, not any other sort of argument) has the all oddness of comparing a pistol to a gun. The survivors of gang violence he describes do not merely have some PTSD-like symptoms; they have PTSD itself. Looking at the DSM-IV standards for diagnosis, we see they match street-survivors’ symptoms one to one.

Now consider “Blocking the Transmission of Street Violence.” A similar case is not made. To an extent, principles of epidemiology can be applied. Preventing transmission does have use both in epidemiology and preventing crime. However, epidemiology fails to describe street crime in a number of crucial ways. Diseases, unlike crime, cannot be half spread. Crime can. Preventing a shooting doesn’t necessarily decrease the chances that the victim will not be lead to violence by the mugging not averted. Disease is utterly blind. Crime isn’t. I could continue with this list, but I’m getting sleepy.

When I take a step back, I see a slight danger here: that we will read the first article, see it as an effective analogy, and generalize that effectiveness to other similar analogies—in this case, the second article. Doing this would be mistaken on two levels: first to assume the two articles make parallel analogies, and second to allow this conclusion to influence our understanding of the second article.

This all goes without saying I did love both articles.

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One Response to Similar similarity?

  1. focushoneynut says:

    I would have to completely agree with Ardenscor when the blogger says, “I see a slight danger here: that we will read the first article [“I See Everything Through This Tragedy”], see it as an effective analogy, and generalize that effectiveness to other similar analogies – in this case, the second article [“Blocking the Transmission of Gang Violence”].” This is actually what I did. I compared the two articles, and gave some consideration on how the methods in the first article could be applied to the second. However, I had not realized what I was really doing, which was as Ardenscor says, assuming the two articles are parallel analogies, and letting the first conclusion influence my thoughts on the second.

    After reading this blog post, I went back and re-read the second article, and I now see that they are not completely parallel. In fact, the two articles have a similar undertone, but in truth they are (at least to me) different.

    Oh, and I also have to agree with Ardenscor on the last sentence. I really enjoyed these readings! I also found them to be much more engaging, and interesting than the article by Paul Farmer, but that’s just one bloggers opinion.

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