You have more choices than you think

This week Seth Godin wrote a blog post that include this gem:

Remarkable work often comes from making choices when everyone else feels as though there is no choice.

Also this week, Venkatesh Rao wrote a thoughtful article about how the middle class lives on financial autopilot and how he’s becoming more deliberate in spending his money.

One thought on “You have more choices than you think

  1. One of my teachers I recall most fondly was a middle school social studies teacher. He taught us about civil disobedience and thinking and acting for ourselves. These days he might be run out of town on a rail.

    The main think he impressed on us was that we always have a choice, as long as we are willing to accept the consequences. Even when someone has a gun pointed to your head, you still have a choice. He pointed out that he violated the speed limit on freeways (not too dangerous in Iowa shortly after the speed limit was reduced to 55 MPH) but was willing to pay the fine for a speeding ticket. These days I think his main point was that in his opinion, it was not appropriate to say “I had no choice” when questioned about obeying unjust laws, such as racial segregation, or (God forbid) racial genocide. I think his point was for us to recognize that we do always have a choice, and if we choose to go along with unjust laws or orders that we should recognize that we made that coice because we were not willing to accept the consequences of making another choice. I don’t think he would automatically condemn those who make the choice to comply, especially when the consequences are dire and the stakes not too high, but wanted us to recognize and assess the situation rather than choosing to comply by default because it seems we have no choice.

    Another experience I’ll always treasure from his class was when he divided the class in two to have quiz competition about social studies, like a college bowl. He split us down the middle, into those sitting on the right hand side and those on the left hand side. In pairs, one student from each side would come to the front of the class, and the two competed to answer his questions correctly.

    After a few questions, we noticed that our guys were losing often, even when their answers were undoubtedly correct. The other side was winning often no matter how they answered. After a few more questions, we knew it was intentional. So we refused to continue participating, telling him he was being unfair. When he insisted we had to continue playing, we refused to move and chanted about how the game was unfair. Not only our side, but the other side also refused to participate.

    I think he was quite proud about how we conducted ourselves.

    That was a great school system. I took a course on government over the summer because I was going to be out of the country for a year, and had to meet the graduation requirements. In the class we held a mock election. The “party” I was with had some funny free thinkers, including the guy who published the school’s underground newspaper. We decided to stage a coup d’etat, and on the day that the election was to be held one guy “took over” the school’s PA system, and the rest of us stood up with bandanas over our faces and toy machine guns at the ready. The PA guy announced he was dictator for life. All of the other students were hacked off that their campaining was for nothing, but the teachers (there were two of them) could hardly keep a straight face. The PA guy was duly recorded as winning the election.

    I would never have guessed it then, but I think we had a lot more freedom in those days than kids do today. These days even bringing an obviously harmless toy gun would probably get everyone expelled, never mind “taking over” the PA, even during the summer with only two classes being held.

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