The Ostrich Attitude
October 3, 2007 6 Comments
Sometimes, when the gravest of problems stare us in the face, we choose to ignore it just because we find that we can’t do anything about it. And in most cases, we just ignore it and carry on with life — laughing, dancing, acting — as if everything is going to be set right, somehow. We just repose our faith in the omnipotence of Time — innocently believing that it is going to use a magical formula to answer all those questions, solve all those problems we haven’t a clue about. I wonder if it is called complacence, callousness, or just plain powerlessness.
To use a metaphor, I often see people using in Computer Science, if a problem is intractable, we would just create a perfect model of the universe, where we just elide a large class of problems by definition, hiding them in the assumptions section hoping nobody will notice that those assumptions don’t really hold in practice. Our simple model of eat, sleep, work (in that order) and party with your salary cheque without a worry for anybody else fails miserably when real life asks questions which we neither comprehend nor seek to do anything about — because our limited vocabulary hasn’t prepared us for something of this magnitude.
Even if sometimes we are aware of the problem, we realize that there is very less that we can do about it. In principle, we know what is do be done. We can just issue a few instructions and hope everything will be hunky-dory very soon. In principle. In practice, execution is far tougher (and this is not limited to the scope of this exposition). In practice, we realize that our brilliant ideas, and one-stroke solutions fall inadequately in a quicksand, the logistics are so complicated that we just propose, we never prove. We console ourselves with the false assurance that somebody will implement those ideas for us. And one day the false assurance comes back to haunt us.
The problem, in most cases, of course, is going to have many facets. What we observe and what we try to cure is only the symptoms. The real thing lies deep down — in the deepest recesses of people’s minds, and they have been implanted not by one statement, one event, or one person, but by years of internalizing the environment and people’s reactions to it. The problem, in most cases, is deep-rooted, inexplicable, irrational, and very very dangerous. We just observe simple deficiencies, deviations in behaviour and we just hope that it will all be alright in Time. We can not do much more because being able to look deeply into people and reason is something we haven’t figured out very well. Science falls short on this great promise — we have learnt to built machine that work faster than us, but we still can’t understand ourselves. We just scratch the surface, make up some explanations, propose some solutions we can’t even validate and claim victory. And soon, we cower in the face of defeat.
And if everything fails, we escape. We provide explanations, we run off on work, we circumambulate in order to avoid the problem, we evade not just with alcohol (that is the easy one!), but we do with sleight of words and actions.
And then one day that problem we’d hoped so dearly would somehow solve itself, gets out of the box and slaps us across our face. And with all our accomplishments, our competencies, our arrogance, pride and confidence, we feel helpless. We wish to hide ourselves in the pillow, unable to fathom the why, how and how to of the problem.
Powerlessness. Helplessness. Cluelessness. A welcome feeling?