To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Sunday, February 03, 2008
Have you read the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes? I had it as a lesson in school and it is one of those stories I have never forgotten.

I feel that most people tend to exhibit the behaviour shown by the Emperor’s subjects in the story. Let me first summarise the story (the details may be hazy).

Once upon a time (how I love stories that start like this!), there was an Emperor who wanted a new suit of clothes. A tailor offered to make the clothes from a very special piece of cloth that would be visible to all but the really foolish. The news of this magical dress spread far and wide throughout the kingdom. Finally, the day dawned when the Emperor was to present himself in a formal procession in his new finery. Thousands of subjects flocked to see him. When the Emperor made his appearance, there was pin drop silence. Soon after, loud comments of praise started ringing from different quarters. Someone praised some aspect of his dress and someone praised another. All in all, there was general agreement about how regal and majestic the Emperor looked and how the new clothes really became him. At this point, a little child was heard crying out in the crowd, “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!”

I feel that most people, out of fear of being deemed foolish or in a minority, tend to keep their real opinions secret and follow whatever the majority appear to be thinking or saying. They do not give any credence to their own opinions or thought, do not analyse what they really feel about the matter, and even if they do know what they really feel, when they find it to be non-conforming, or out of tune with how others seem to feel, they keep silent. I find this attitude extremely troublesome, because what it essentially means, is that certain actions are taken or certain opinions followed, without a careful evaluation of any opposing lines of thought—because nobody dares to oppose. What is even more dangerous, is that those who do try opposing or coming up with any contrary views, find themselves in a dismal minority, find themselves to be looked upon with disfavour, and probably, over a period of time, become one of the aye-sayers!

I was reading some management related concepts the other day, and chanced upon one that talks about this. It is called the Abilene Paradox.

An excerpt from the source—

“The name of the phenomenon comes from an anecdote in the article which Harvey uses to elucidate the paradox:

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it." The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.”