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Brian Burke: About Your Divorce (Column 158) — How Noozhawk Scooped New York Times

Oblique Strategy #52 — What can you learn from a monkey?

Check it out. On Oct. 10, 2011, the sub-title of Column #18 was Monkey business sheds light on the principle of fairness.

Now go to the opinion section of The New York Times on June 3, 2017, and find Nicholas Kristof’s column headlined What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Fairness.

Both columns were based on an experiment conducted at Emory University in which two monkeys were trained to perform a task for a reward.

The monkeys usually received a piece of cucumber (which they liked well enough to make the task worth doing), but they loved getting a grape instead.

The monkeys had separate cages positioned so one could observe the other receiving a grape while she was getting a piece of cucumber for doing the same thing.

The cucumber monkey displayed by trying to throw the cucumber and anything else she could find in her cage. Once exhausted from the display, she refused to perform the task so long as the rewards were unequal.

This was a remarkable demonstration of an untaught expression of the principle of equal pay for equal work in a sub-human primate.

I suggested this empirical finding could be one of the foundational premises in a system of natural law based on science rather than on revealed religion or a particular philosopher’s opinion about human nature.

Kristof used the study to support his contention that huge inequality of income leads a country to sharp divisions and generalized unhappiness.

My last column was on existential tasks, which is one of many ideas I first heard about from Joe Lodge. Email in response to that column reminds me of how many minds and lives in our community continue to be influenced by what they learned from him.

There’s no doubt the Noozhawk “fairness and monkeys” article beat the Kristof article by more than five years, and I could leave it at that.

However, I have a clear recollection of telling Joe about the Emory monkeys and how he said, “That’s what I wanted to tell you about.”

I’m sure I said it first, but I recall my information came from a secondary source, and I think Joe had read the full version of the report in Nature.

Kristof was scooped by five years, and Joe insisted I add the citation to the original report: Brosnan and de Wall, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay Nature #428, 140 [abstract only; accessed 6/28/17].

The title for my column on May 29 was Affleck and Garner Get It Right.

One reader has told me — and I pass the fact to you — that Ben Affleck had a three-year relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow before she married Chris Martin (with whom she began a “conscious uncoupling” in March 2014, after being married 10 years).

A year later (April 2015), they filed for a divorce that was quietly completed on July 15, 2016.

March 2014 to July 2016 is 28 months.

In our two studies of the divorcing population of South County Santa Barbara, done before the judicial council decided divorces should be put on a swiftly moving conveyor belt, the interval between separation and entry of judgment was 29 months in the Census and 28 months in the Replication.

(See Unexpected Consequence of Filing for Divorce, Noozhawk, May 2, and SBDivorceArchives.com.)

As soon as I Googled the letters G-w-y-n, hundreds of results popped up documenting Paltrow's romantic history.

I couldn’t help but notice that before Affleck, here was Brad Pitt of the (Angelina) Jolie-Pitt Split, which I’ve followed only on the front pages of magazines on the counters of CVS.

Despite a heated beginning, Brad Pitt seems to be getting credit for maintaining his cool, which appears to be leading to a cool conclusion.

This is a good time to recall Column #142, Noozhawk, Aug. 22, 2016, in which I wondered whether nations would grieve as a result of Brexit in a way similar to the way people grieve during divorce?

The Brexit election took place June 23, 2016, just one year ago. Recall in the month or so that followed there was shock and denial around the world, especially in the UK.

There even was talk about doing the election over again and the possible withdrawal of Scotland and/or Northern Ireland from the Union.

It didn’t take long for anger to make its appearance. David Cameron (whose miscalculation led to successful referendum) said he would step down in October.

Within the Conservative Party there were nasty exchanges between Theresa May and her primary opponent, Andrea Leadsom.

Remember Leadsom’s claim that motherhood was an important qualification for national leadership? It didn’t go over very well and Leadsom withdrew in favor of the childless May.

In the meantime, Nigel Farage resigned as leader of the UKIP and Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn lost a vote of confidence from within his party.

Heated elections pitting Pro-Union candidates against Euro-skeptics took place in the Netherlands and France.

The leading role of Germany’s Angela Merkel in the preservation of the Union was challenged from within her own country, while some potential negotiators said that since the UK wants out, it's going to feel the adverse consequences of its decision.

The invocation of Article 50 is the equivalent of filing for divorce and that step was not taken by the UK until March 29 — nine months after the vote.

That sets in motion a two-year period to negotiate the terms of the dissolution. If completed on time, the interval between separation and conclusion will be 29 months.

In April, May called a snap election for June with the expectation of increasing the Conservative majority, which would enhance her authority to negotiate the withdrawal.

It was considered a crafty political move since she would be acting on behalf of the majority that voted for Brexit.

But this is divorce and people are angry. This month’s election caused the Conservatives to lose a majority and saw an unexpected increase in Labour MPs.

The EU negotiators are sharpening their knives and are prepared for a UK that thinks it might be able to get out without paying a price.

As the bargaining stage begins, one of the first agenda items is to determine who will pay the cost of the dissolution, initially estimated at £52 billion. It is literally referred to as the divorce bill.

Oblique Strategy #53: Is it less painful to remove a dressing from a wound quickly or gradually?

— Brian H. Burke is a certified family law specialist practicing family law and mediation in Santa Barbara. A researcher and educator in the field of divorce and family conflicts, he is also the creator of the Legal Road Map™. Click here for more information, call 805.965.2888 or e-mail [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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