“The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.” ~ Winston Churchill House of Commons May 17th, 1916.
There is something that most Americans suffer from called “Decision Making Under Ignorance”. I could easily expand this to all of humanity, but for the purposes of this article, I am restricting it to just Americans. This problem is self-inflicted. It is 100% voluntary, yet has profound implications by not correcting it. One of the most frustrating problems with this issue is that most Americans don’t even know they are contributing to it. Most Americans can function normally without any knowledge of this issue. However, they are also completely clueless as to the damage their ignorance is causing their fellow Americans and our country’s course through history.
While others before me have figured this out and call it by other names such as “Decision Making Under Ignorance”, I reached the same conclusion on my own and call it “Short Story Decision-Making”. People read the short abbreviated version and not the whole book. Yet they make decisions based on just the short story and not the whole book. This has profound implications because usually information later in the book changes your perspective from what you read in the beginning.
Call it what you like. I have created an analogy that I hope best explains this phenomenon and how it has serious consequences for not only those who practice it but for those around them as well.
“Imagine you and I are on a boat on the ocean. We can only see what is above the water. We base our reality, our perspective, our opinions, and our decisions on what we see above the surface of the water. We were storm blown into unknown waters. The surface of the ocean is a desert, there is no water for us to drink and no food for us to eat. We must get our boat to a place where we can at least feed ourselves, there is plenty of fishing gear on the boat. We must also find a safe harbor for fresh water or we will perish. The only thing we do know is there are land and harbors to the west. But that land is where our enemies live and is not a place we would normally want to go. We know that if we make it there they will most certainly either kill or imprison us. It is also a very long way and the chances of us both surviving the trip are slim. But we have no other choice; there are no other destinations near enough. We will perish on the ocean if we do not head west to our enemies land. So we decide to head west since that appears to be the best course given the information we have gleaned from the surface of the ocean.
Now, you happen to find a box on the boat that contains tools and equipment to allow you to view the world under the surface of the ocean. You have sonar, a depth finder/fish finder, you have swim goggles and scuba masks to look underwater, and you have an underwater camera attached to a tether so you can lower it under and see below. You point this stuff out to me and offer to share them so we can look under the ocean surface together. I decide that looking under the ocean surface is too much work and will not benefit us and is a waste of my time, so I decline your offer.
You, however, decide to take a look. What you discover completely changes your perspective of the environment we are in. You can see fish right below us. You can see ridges and valleys on the ocean floor. You can see coral reefs and plant life growing there. You can see that these things are to the east of us. You can see in that direction the ocean floor is rising up, an indication that land and the possibility of a safe harbor is just over the horizon. You see that most of the fish and plants and reefs are toward the east. In fact, the wildlife is so abundant in that direction there is no doubt in your mind that we could feed ourselves with such plenty. However, toward the west the ocean is getting deeper and deeper, an indication we are heading out into the deep ocean devoid of any life or a safe harbor for a very long way. The wildlife is thinning rapidly and you can almost see a line where it all stops and there is nothing but rock and mud beyond.
Now that your perspective has changed and your concept of the truth of our environment has been drastically altered, you realize we are headed in the wrong direction. We can catch fish and harvest ocean plants to feed ourselves, but only if we go east, not west. You realize that the safe harbor we need to make for is to the east, not the west. You realize that the decision we made to head west to relative safety is now wrong. You now realize that we based that decision on incomplete information.
This shift in your perspective is irrevocable. You will never be able to un-see what you have seen nor narrow your perspective of our environment you now possess. There is no taking it back. Truth has a no return policy that is ironclad. The truth is like Pandora, once it is out of the box there is no putting it back.
Even if all the tools and equipment that you used to view under the surface of the ocean were taken from you, never to be returned, you will forever know that there is an entire world right below the bottom of the boat. You will forever know that in relation to our current location on the ocean, that safety is to the east, not the west.
Now, armed with your new perspective, knowing that you now possess a much greater truth concerning our situation, you try to convince me that we made a faulty decision and that we need to go east, not west. You implore me to use the tools and equipment so that I can see for myself a greater perspective and learn the actual truth of our situation as you have. You beg and plead with me and argue with me because this is life or death.
But to no avail. I will not budge. I cannot be bothered with the effort and time needed to see what you have seen. I don’t feel like it, that’s too much work. I feel that I have all the information I need to make the correct decision and head our boat toward safety. I do not need to waste my time with what you want me to do since I can move our boat to safety armed with the knowledge and perspective that I already have.
And I would be right, to a point. I know that there is a destination to the west. I know it will take a very long time to reach it. I also know that when we do reach it we will be either killed or put in prison upon arrival. But that is the best chance we have under the circumstances. I do not need to learn anymore since what I already know is the truth. It is the truth as I can see it in the perspective I have allowed myself. It’s just not the complete truth, as you have now discovered.
Now, since it is just the two of us you could take control of the boat and simply head us east and show me. Or you could throw me overboard since I refuse to see the truth and are endangering both of us because of stubbornly hanging onto my incomplete perspective. You are just as stubborn since now you know the truth, the complete truth, and will not be dissuaded by my ignorant arguments to the contrary. If it was just the two of us we would be deadlocked with regard to controlling the boats direction.
Now let’s add more people. You have two other friends who have seen underwater with you. You all know the truth and are trying to convince me and my group. I have one hundred people who all agree with me and that we need to go west and risk landing on our enemy’s shore. The three of you are not enough to control my group of one hundred and we take the boat to the west. Your only option is to convince us to use the tools and equipment and look under the water for ourselves. We refuse and continue heading west based on incomplete information. You have no choice but go along for the ride and a questionable fate at the end of the journey.
How frustrated would you be, knowing that almost certain death or imprisonment awaits us all at the end of the trip west, especially since in my ignorance I refuse to see the truth and correct our course? The tools and equipment to see the truth are lying right there at my feet, yet I refuse to use them. You know we are doomed if we continue west but you are powerless to convince me and my one hundred friends otherwise. You are powerless to convince me and my friends that we are basing our decisions on a tiny sliver of information that does not represent the entire truth.
Explained this way, most normal people would be screaming at me for being the idiot I am for not using the tools and equipment to see under the water. It is such a simple thing, is it not? If I just do my due diligence and take the time to look a little further I can save all of us in the boat with the right decision.
Bah, I cannot be bothered with wasting my time with that. I know the truth. I know enough to get us to dry land, I don’t need or want to hear any more out of you. I’m going to be ignorant and lazy and drive us all to our doom.”
And that ladies and gentlemen is my analogy describing short story decision-making.
This is what Americans are doing every day. This is why America is in the situation we now find ourselves in. This is why the vast majority of Americans simply refuse to look beyond that most basic introduction to our history, economics, social studies and civics they got in school; because they think they know enough of the truth.
The vast majority of Americans are driving us all to our doom by not educating themselves further and understanding a much broader perspective. It is a change in perspective that has profound and life altering implications. Most Americans are basing their opinions and decisions about how we are governed, and voting, by being lazy and using short story decision-making.
And yet when the few who have a much broader perspective try to show them they are heading America in the wrong direction because they are basing their voting decisions on incomplete information, they are usually shouted down. They are told to shut up and sit down by the majority of clueless Americans. They are ridiculed and ignored.
All the while, the majority of Americans are scratching their heads wondering how we got into the mess we are now in. The only thing they can see to fix the problems is to just vote, hope then cope harder, like we keep doing over and over, again and again expecting a different result this time…
Meanwhile, those few who have seen a far more complete picture of the truth are left frustrated that they cannot encourage the rest to open their eyes. Now they must be carried along to the doom that awaits everyone on the same train as it hurtles uncontrollably toward the gorge where the bridge is out. All because more Americans refuse to educate themselves further and switch the train to another track before they reach the gorge.
It is the most insidious of traps. The one where you can actually see the cage. The one where you can see that the cage door is not locked. The door is heavy so it will take all of you to move the door.Yet you cannot convince your cell mates to simply push open the door with you and walk out.
Please, I beg you, never stop educating yourself. Education is a life-long journey, not a final destination at the end of school. Don’t just settle for learning only the things that reinforce your current point of view. Look at opposing viewpoints as well. Never stop questioning, especially the views and opinions you are most comfortable with, you never know what you may find hidden there. There are always two sides to every coin. You do yourself, and all of us, a great disservice by looking at only one side of the coin. As the saying goes, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
True freedom and liberty require a great deal of personal responsibility, a lifelong commitment to self-education, a copious amount of critical thinking, and a willingness to participate far more in the sociopolitical/economic process than just voting.
The greater the freedom and liberty, the greater mankind can become. It is only through the freedom and liberty to act that innovation, invention, and creativity can survive and thrive.
Second, only to our very lives, freedom and liberty is the most precious and costly gift we will ever have the great fortune to possess.
Something this valuable requires continuous hard work and sacrifice, because freedom has never been free. If you truly want it, you have to work hard for it.
Every. Single. Day.