Persuasion's First Law
Do you recall James Thurber's amusing description of "the day the dam broke" in Columbus, Ohio? It illustrates the fact that self-preservation is persuasion's first law.
The dam didn't really break, you remember, but everybody believed it did, and under the circumstances everybody was "set" to be persuaded of imminent and dire peril. You see, the Scioto River was on a record rampage, smashing bridges, ripping through levees, sweeping away houses -- a disaster unparalleled in that modest little stream's muddy history. In the back of his head everybody envisaged the crowning horror.
Thurber writes: "The fact that we were all as safe as kittens under a cookstove did not, however, assuage in the least the fine despair and the grotesque desperation which seized upon the residents of the East Side when the cry spread like a grass fire that the dam had given way. Some of the most dignified,