I hear the following sentence far too often:
We cannot do this because…
A shallow argument that looks convincing seems to discourage an activity, task or decision. Being afraid of your own courage helps you to find an excuse why something certainly will not be possible.
Mostly, however, all you have to do is think a little harder – and you will find enough reasons why it can actually be done quite well.
It gets worse if the statement is:
We have no other choice, we have to do it this way …
The fact that it can (allegedly) not be done based on one argument is now suddenly an “argument funnel”. It seems that the sum of reasons pro and con now has such a massive weight that all counterarguments are just considered to be querulousness by a notorious obstructionist or stupid fantasies of an idealist living in the past. I often witnessed this kind of thing. More often than not, the alternative that seemed so stupid would have been better than the “we-have-no-choice” path.
Occasionally, it brings us right to a catastrophe. Just because a mixture of lack of courage, lack of creativity, along with the wish not to make life hard for oneself and not to take risks, or else even lack of interest for the project left no room for an open goal-oriented discussion.
The catastrophe is perfect if you then say:
We had no alternative!
Just like our Federal Chancellor is in the habit of saying when really important decisions must be made. Those are the times when I really go up the walls.
The very word “decision” is wrong. Because if there were “no alternative”, then there would be nothing to decide, would there? Because the very meaning of the word decision implies that you have to make up your mind between different options and decide on one, regardless of all the uncertainties – because, after all, you cannot know what will turn out correct or right. You have to base your decision on courage, prudence and a consciencious balancing of potential damage and ethical responsibility.
There is no such thing as “no alternatives” in my concept of the world. I cannot remember a single really complicated situation in my entire life where I (even in retrospect) had no alternative.
“No alternative“ is the result of failure. If you admit that you had no alternatives, then what you say is that you failed. A politician who has reached that stage would be well advised to retire.
So – here is what I do not like:
“Not possible because”, “We have no other choice“ and, above all “There is no alternative”.
What will I do whenever I hear this kind of argument?
Deep in my heart, I feel:
There is no such thing as “no can do“!
And I say it out loud.
Because then you never have a “there-is-no-alternative” situation. Whenever I find myself in a situation with (mostly only seemingly) no alternatives, I do the same as when I write a program: Whenever I get stuck in a piece of code where I find I am stuck – I throw it away and make a fresh start. On a totally different path. Even if it hurts very much.
But good decisions often hurt very much.
(Translated by EG)