Friday, November 08, 2002

Straight Thinking 101, part 1:
Community Decision-making –is the Majority opinion always sound?

If we are to build a sound future for the Caribbean, we must first learn how to think soundly and act wisely. In particular, we must learn how to make good collective decisions, whether in the home, the office, the institution or the community.

This was again brought home to me in a recent conversation, during which the opinion was strongly expressed that the essence of Democracy is majority rule – and considerations about protecting the minority or the individual from the dangers of mob-rule [e.g. lynchings] kept on meeting with dismissals as to why the concerns were irrelevant.

So, I felt very concerned, and it seemed to me that we need to look again at Straight Thinking 101.

To see my point, perhaps the following account from Paul’s trip to Rome as an appeal prisoner will make it clear:

Sailing [from Crete] had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, "Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also." But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.
Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the "northeaster," swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. [Acts 27:9 – 15.]

Here, the decision-maker and the majority, swayed by experts who were all too willing to run dangerous risks to gain a more comfortable situation, ignored sound godly counsel, and took the path of folly as soon as opportunity presented itself.

Shipwreck was the result.

Parallels in our region over the past generation, sadly, are all too common.

For, if a decision fails to follow counsels of wisdom in light of the factors, trends and issues in a situation, it may well win enough support to be effected. But, all the hubris in the world – overweening pride such as was shown by Athens at the height of its political, economic and military power in the time of Socrates – is incapable of overcoming forces that are beyond human strength.

So then, let us heed Sophia:

Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:
"How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you-- when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
"Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm." [Prov 1:20 – 32.]

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