Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Thinking without the box

It’s easy to be narrow minded. Dig a trench and fill it with those who agree with you, don’t accept any arguments or alternate viewpoints, defend your right to an opinion without caring for those of others.

It’s harder to be open-minded, it takes effort and few of us have the time or energy for that. It starts by trying to accept that there are always other ways to think about something. I was prompted to explore this concept having heard a Ted Talk by Rory Sutherland. He was arguing that money spent in one way could be better spent in another if we thought about the experience in a different way. His argument was against speed and for comfort but the hypothesis applies in a lot of different areas.

Looking at the desperate plight of Syrian refugees it is easy to take sides pro and anti but the situation is inevitably more complex. Our government seems pitifully bad at taking responsibility for crises that it had a role in instigating. It’s sometimes as if the consequences don’t enter our thought process. We’re always looking for the right and wrong, the black and white. Perhaps there’s another reason it’s called grey matter.

Those that were able to flee Syria and get any distance did so with luck, and money. A great number were the intelligentsia, the middle-classes, those that could afford to pay traffickers. The vast quantities of money that entered the black market as a result of this conflict is frankly disturbing. Paying crooks absurd sums to get aboard overcrowded dinghies because the west couldn’t face up to its responsibilities.

When thinking about the plight of refugees it seems that the English (and our media) think only of them as a drain on resources. Aside from the moral viewpoint Germany may have had different reasons for accepting more of them. Apparently they could see an ageing population and a declining workforce, a demographic vacuum. Do we not have those issues?

Imagine instead, morals aside, that the money paid to traffickers had instead been filtered through a central European fund to re-house and re-establish the individuals concerned. Instead of an immediate (or short-term) drain they brought wealth into the countries that chose to take them.

Ignoring the obvious and oft-spoken truths that migrants often contribute more to the economies of countries they take residence in, this simple move would’ve prevented money being in the black-economy and instead been used for humanitarian purposes.



There are many reasons why it wouldn’t happen, not least of which are the ethical ones. It’s an argument I never heard voiced though and thus felt compelled to share it.  

Sometimes an argument breaks out over irrelevant things. Witness the MP’s debate over a vote whether to deprive Philip Green of his knighthood. Sir Philip could – and does – argue that he didn’t do anything illegal. What Government might therefore have been better to debate is how to change the laws to prevent/discourage such corporate behaviour. Of course that’s a longer process and likely to upset companies who donate to political parties and employ lots of people in the UK. Consequently, they went for the cheaper headline-grabbing instead.

Abstract concepts are all well and good in a think-tank environment where no ideas are bad except the ones that are awful. Applying them in real world circumstances is difficult because vested interests usually get in the way. When those vested interests are powerful and have large circles of influence it becomes harder still.


What we need and rarely get is educated analysis. We hear so much about big data but seldom see it employed. You’d think that pretty much everything can be predicted based on the past and models that can be created for analysis purposes. This could define and create the logical approach for the optimal outcome. Sadly, there are vested interests here also, where Government often decides to work in the best interests of those most likely to vote for them – or most likely to vote at all.  

It takes effort to think about and ask the right questions. Whether you agree or not this feature nails some facts just by asking in whose interests the lies are told. You can do the same, just by taking these steps:

Try thinking different, thinking properly, thinking at all.
When you’re reading something ask yourself whose perspective is being served by the conclusions.
Ask where’s the contradiction? Like – if we’re doing so well economically why can’t we fund the NHS


As with everything your perspective will be served by your own experiences and desires, your own viewpoint. Try using someone else’s for a while, it really is an eye-opener.


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