Deciding to Decide
“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt” – Bertrand Russell (philosopher)
“I am the decider…” – George W. Bush
I had a difficult time deciding what to write about in the new year. There are so many topics that capture my interest but not one that overwhelmed me in importance. There is the economic crisis, the Obama inauguration , the conflict in the Middle East (although I prefer discussing ethics over politics), and the costs and benefits of competition. So I thought about decision, why we need to make more of them, who should make them, and how to make them.
Why is there a need to make decisions?
Eventually we need to act. Without making conscious decisions, we are simply reacting to circumstances, often out of fear. In my case, I couldn’t pick an essay topic, had many potential ones but I didn’t know if I had enough content in each to warrant a post, so I failed to write a full essay on ANY of those topics. I HAD to pick one in order to get anything done. Paradoxically, choice is pain, yet making a choice is freedom from that pain. Once I made that decision, that pain was relieved. So whatever variance there will be in quality, there WILL be content here every Wednesday at the very least. This one is late, but it is done.
If you don’t have a plan, someone has a plan for you.
This is why Bush said he’s the decider. Not A decider, but THE decider. That means all of us can’t decide on some important issues that affects us. And there’s a dark truth to that, as many of us don’t want to make decisions. This is associated to the word “responsibility” which I have previously written about. To avoid getting blame, or being bound by duty, we give away our power. We make others make decisions for us. This is why so many are so giddy about Obama becoming president. Many people see him as a saviour, and will keep us from making decisions for ourselves. Like this Monty Python clip, many need someone to tell them what to do. We are quick to blame the politicians, but we placed them on that pedestal, just to knock them down when they are wrong. Better that someone else be wrong. This is why politicians need to project an air of infallibility to get elected. They don’t admit mistakes, and the system relies on it. This is why during the Iraq War, they were so adamant that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. They couldn’t admit a mistake until much later, especially considering the human cost of such operation.
Obama seems like a thoughtful enough fellow but he (or anyone else) can’t be trusted with power over others. It’s not because he’s mean or duplicitous, he may be perfectly well-intended. It’s because power over others is addictive and even I wouldn’t trust myself with it. It’s best for each of us to decide what we value, find consensus and explore disagreements among ourselves. Looking towards the peak of hierarchies keep us as perpetual children, avoiding responsibility, and looking to the Daddy-state to solve our problems for us.
To make a decision does one need to be “cocksure” and restrict your intelligence as Russell suggests? It is good to acknowledge our ignorance, we don’t know exactly what’s the consequences of our actions will be. This is when we fall on faith, faith in ourselves, or confidence. Many will embrace a faith that comes outside themselves, from some ancient book or archaic traditions. While some contain great wisdom, the self is the best arbiter to selecting principles. We can listen or read, consider, accept or reject.
How to make a decision?
There are a myriad of resources on how to make decision, and some very creative tricks to do so all around the internet, although I’d be cautious on those that seem too complex. Whatever the tool, guided by conscience and acted upon will help give us direction through pure trial and error. In these uncertain times, we have a great space to direct our actions, yet that won’t start until we make the decision to do so.