Paved with good intentions

October 11, 2017 3 Min Read

The warning of good intentions
Over the past month I have been involved in several discussions that have included the terrifying phrases:

  • you can’t worry about that as this is the perfect solution.
  • yes but we are good people, so that’s not a problem

Now let me add a context every time I have heard these or similar statements they have come from people I trust and respect or at the very least believe their intentions are good.
So then why do they worry me? We live in an imperfect world and the future unintended impacts of decisions are potentially much worse than the benefits they provide.

Protection and Freedom
Government, Religion and Society all exit to protect us and as part of that protection is to make sure that we have freedom.
With this in mind we need to look at the balance and how changing the balance can become the tipping point that allows one of these critical areas to be weakened.
This is most likely to happen when emotional arguments are used, and people travel a mental journey towards a goal that allows them to ignore the potential threats that the change may create.
It also gives them the emotional leverage to push aside valid concerns with phrases charged with emotive language; and other people will readily agree, the real issue with populist politics and discussion.
Which leads us to the most dangerous phrase in modern politics and social media
“if you are against (this) then you must be against protecting (this) what kind of person would not support this?”
You can see recent examples of this in Scotland with the Named Person Legislation, the UK with the Snoopers Charter, in fact, the references are unfortunately too numerous.

Why do we end up with these situations?
We end up in these situations because people care and want to live in a better world, and in a drive to create a better world we can quickly become blind to the possible problems.
As we fix on this single point, it becomes easier to use emotional and populist statements to defend our view and remove the opposition to our argument.
It is also easier as an individual to attach yourself to goals that you feel are of merit and in doing so use emotionally satisfying points to reinforce the type of person you are or your view of others.
Then all too quickly we have placed oneself in an emotional position that alienates others and places barriers between the different strands of the discussion.

How do we as a society or individual make better decisions?
I suppose first we have to accept that our understanding is not complete and we must make sure we have sufficient information.
Accept honestly others intentions as the basis for future discussion, ask them what would be happening if this problem has been solved (not how we addressed it) and in most cases, this will be aligned with your vision. (If at this point the views are too different then you understand the context. Although this is much less common than you would think).
Most importantly avoid and check yourself every time you observe yourself making a populist/emotional statement and accept that people including yourself are not perfect.

Final thoughts
This is nothing more than a string of view which was externalised on the then plane between Edinburgh and London.
It is born from my frustration with the increase of emotional arguments and populism rather than discussion and real progress.
For this reason, I have tried to stay away from specific policies or opinions in detail and only want to bring the issue into peoples awareness perhaps.