Thursday, December 11, 2014

No Hero

We learn a lot through imitation. Once someone has either gone through the hard graft of figuring out how something works, or has stumbled on a way through trial and error, the others who follow the method don't have to repeat the effort. A lot of what we do, and a lot of what we believe, comes from the learning of others. So where we are born and who we interact with matters. Life is too complex to have to think through everything ourselves so our path chooses for us.

Thomas Edison famously said, 'I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work'. The final way worked. Those who used it were also bringers of light, but some brave souls will put the effort in and go through the history. They will look at the thousands of experiments. They will learn what Edison knew about what didn't work. Only then will they push forward. If something breaks you need those people. The same thing happens with the things we believe. When we come across a crack, we either have to put in the effort and delve deep or find someone we trust and just have some faith. Life is too complicated not to act partly on faith. 

Sometimes we should just admit that rather than trying to defend our beliefs. 'Look, I haven't thought about that in any real depth, but it seems to work for me and I see no reason to change.' says the uber-honest non-defender of the faith. When we do catch a glimpse of a crack or a reason to change it can be very unsettling. It is a signal that some effort is required. Quite often our whole life is based around something that we haven't delved into, and we really don't want to change. We see the cracks but no one else seems to be doing anything, and we don't feel particularly inclined to be a hero. The particular cracks that are being pointed at to me at the moment by Peter Singer in 'The Life You Can Save' touch on Poverty and Diet. I touched on this in 'Happy Meal'.

The thing is you can't really have an intellectual debate with someone on the justification for factory farming or why there is still extreme poverty. Most people haven't read, discussed calmly, asked questions and come to their own deliberate views. They have a way of life that they enjoy and there isn't a huge catalyst for change. It isn't pleasant to think about and so they choose to think about something else. Let me be more specific. Not they. me. Trevor. I can't handle thinking about it too much. When I have, the arguments are too compelling, but the lifestyle implications are also too hectic. I have tried to give up factory farmed meat. I am an addict. I can't handle order envy. I don't want to irritate my friends by being holier than thou. I value getting along with people and I value adjusting to suit situations so that I can learn about what other people think. The argument is not an intellectual one, it is about how we slowly change entire cultures rather than individual behaviour. I am no superman, I can't make these changes myself. That is why I like the end of Singer's book where he starts making practical suggestions. Extreme poverty seems less of a challenge to end than factory farming - it is actually very achievable. It is simply something we haven't collectively thought about and acted on... yet.


But even if you are going to think about these things, at some point your head just starts spinning and you can't process all the implications and connect all the dots. You have to stop thinking and go do something where you can switch off. Yesterday, after a long chat about these issues with John Gump from Unogwaja - the time came for Ping Pong. In truth, the time came for a 21-3, 21-3, 21-2 drubbing. I have discovered that being hammered in Ping Pong is also useful.

Sometimes you just have to play Ping Pong
Source: YouTube

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