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KNOWING vs. BELIEVING

A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Sunday, 31 July 2016

THE DRAWING OF THE CARDS

So we have #MunicipalElections coming up on Wednesday. #America has a #PresidentialElection coming up in November and the #UnitedKingdom has just emerged from its #Brexit debacle. It's intriguing to see the cards being drawn upon by the various interest groups.

#Trump has of course been playing the #FearCard which, as far as I can tell seems to be pretty effective. The man can lie, connive, treat his workers badly, abuse Mexicans, women and minority groups with impunity but nonetheless continues to build his support base. So clearly fear works and there's no need to fall back on the #DecentHumanValuesCard.

The good folk of the UK will confirm this. That's exactly what the #Leave campaigners relied upon, although their fear card specifically targeted immigrants with the #XenophobiaCard and all that that would mean for the UK. To hell with the #PowerfulEconomyCard.

Here in #SouthAfrica, we have far more interesting cards to draw in order to pull votes. The four shining examples are:

  • The #EldersCard, in which our beloved President said that the opposition parties were full of educated young people who knew nothing, so people should rather vote for the ANC because the elders know what they are doing. Hmmm.
  • The tried and tested #ApartheidCard, in which the ANC can continue to blame all ills in the country (including corruption apparently) on the old apartheid regime because, after all, it only ended 22 years ago.
  • The ubiquitous #RaceCard, in its multiple forms, but perhaps the most recent version is one to watch in which an EFF local government candidate posted on Facebook a call for all Whites to be hacked and killed. Really? Will that alleviate the poverty and unemployment in South Africa? I wonder whether a party like that belongs anywhere other than alongside #ISIS?
  • Finally, the #AncestorsCard, in which our (still beloved) #Zuma suggested that if voters turn their backs on the ANC, the Ancestors will turn their backs on the voters, with all the karma that will surely follow. (One must of course assume that Zuma has a hot-line to the Ancestors.)
It's funny that parties are having to resort to the above drawcards in a local election when, surely, the only card worth pulling would be the #ServiceDelivery card? Which, incidentally, the #DA seems to have pulled pretty successfully in the Municipalities which it controls. Just saying.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

FEAR-BASED DECISION MAKING

Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. Not a bad result in turning the word 'fear' into an acronym. For that is what much of our fear boils down to: we invent evidence in our minds which in turn becomes our reality. Let's take #Brexit, for example.

The Rest of the World view is that Brexit represented a vote which pitched economics against xenophobia. I accept that it was more complicated than that, but from where I sit the Leave campaigners appealed directly to the deepest fear of the voters who eventually supported the campaign. What were those fears? Well, they included hordes of Turks and other foreigners spilling into Britain, taking jobs, living off the dole and generally making a nuisance of themselves. If you were to dig deeper the fears probably led to a catastrophe scenario millions of Brits begging on the streets, increased taxes to cover social security benefits and general, abject poverty.

This seemed to the man in the street a worse outcome than, say, world stock markets crashing, the Pound taking a bath and a loss of access to the EU markets.

The problem was that Turkey is not and has never been a part of the EU, so the fear that Turks were going to start migrating to Britain was as fanciful as it has always been. The fear of mass immigration and a damaged social security system was all about things that might, or might not, happen at some time in the future, but somehow this became the reality for the Leavers. What their fears ignored was the predictions of virtually every economist on the planet of what was most likely to happen with a Leave vote. And guess what happened? We're told that US$3 trillion was wiped off the global markets. The Pound has dropped to its lowest level against the Dollar in over thirty years, meaning that every import into the UK has become 15% more expensive and potentially, the thing that the Leavers feared most, is the thing that their vote will end up bringing about: higher taxes, more of a strain on social security, increased cost of living, a worse relationship with the Europeans and so on.

The simple point here is that a great number of Leavers - I can't say everyone, but I speculate that it was many - made a decision based on fear rather than common sense. Their decision was based on false evidence which had become their reality, rather than on real evidence (i.e. what was so about the UK immediately prior to the vote - a stable and relatively strong economy, sensible Government, strong currency and reasonably good working relationship with European neighbours).

When we make our decisions, we need to be able to discern the actual truth - Life's reality - from the falsehoods which we make into our own reality. This requires a discernment of what is true from what is false, because it is the falsehoods which engender the fear. We fear outcomes, that things might happen (which so often don't), that others will think ill of us, or that markets will go a certain way, or that we'll run out of money, or a million other things that might or might not happen. This is the unstable, untested ground and as long as we fear the future and the unknown we will be unable to base our decision-making on the reality of what is so right now. We basically become gamblers, rather than rational thinking human beings.

I saw Chris #Froome, leader of the #TourdeFrance, start running up Mont Ventoux the other day without a bicycle after his was damaged in a crash. The clear rule in the race is that you cannot do any part of it without a bicycle, but Froome ran up the hill anyway because he feared that no one would get a spare bike to him, he feared that the race officials wouldn't fix the problem that had unfairly caused him to crash and he feared he would lose his lead and so lose the race, so he made his decision based on fear and could so easily have brought about the result he feared the most: not winning the Tour de France. Thankfully sanity prevailed, he stopped running, was given a bike and the race officials sorted out the unfairness, but fear-based decision making could easily have cost him very dearly.

Mr #Trump wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of America, and wants to keep Muslims out of America, and wants everyone to carry guns, and, and...Whether these proposals are based upon his own untested fears of the future, or are simply a product of a devious, vote-seeking mind feeding on the fears of his electorate, the fact is that if voting is based on the fears being stirred up by Mr Trump, there is a real risk that America could emulate Brexit, make its decision about who should be the next President based upon fearful perceptions and bring about a result which it may live to regret bitterly.

I'm not telling anyone how to vote, but my greatest wish for the people of America is that your vote is based on what you know actually to be true, rather than on your greatest fears, especially when most of those fears have been stirred up by a man whose acquaintance with the truth appears to be both rare and coincidental.