Monday, 17 December 2012

Theoretical Train of Theoretical Thought

A train is hurtling toward a group of five people who, for some unexplained reason*, cannot move themselves out of the way of their certain death and brakes are not an option**. Fortunately, there's a railroad turnout several meters prior to this, and you are in control of the switch.

But there's a catch. Standing on the line adjacent is a lone individual who will likewise meet his demise if you shunt the train. And, oh yeah, this is the best part: You gotta decide now. Hurry or it'll be too late!

The Probability of Not Unlikelihood
So. Do you do nothing and allow the hapless five (family?) to get ground to gristle? Or, do you flip the switch and put the trainspotter (not unlikely not unlikely eighty percent less-liked than the others - or, by all reasonable odds, a substantial enough percent less-followed) out of his misery?

Now, how does your thinking change when you are told that someone else would be redirecting the train and the information about the dangers spoken of in the scenario are, at best, third hand?

Is there any point in your thought process where you ask the question, "Where does that other track lead to?" or consider why somebody might otherwise prefer to send the train in that direction?

To be clear, while such plots are postulated to make the case for the goodest of wars, waged out of the most humanitarian motives to be found deep in our collective heart (or something), it's not only the thought experiment itself that is theoretical, but also the idea that you have any say as to whether the theory is put into practice.

So you might ask, 'Why ask the question?' which is a pretty good question, to which the only answer I can think of is, 'Why not?' hastily followed by, 'For theoretical consent.'

And who knows, maybe there's a premium on the use of expressions like "national dialogue" and "soul searching" that placates the most feared/revered god/monster deep in the bowels of a nation-state's subconscious.

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Maybe it reveals a coldness of character, but when I read glowing accounts of how Bo Rama has delivered yet another groundbreaker for the history books, I see "hagiographer's hypocrisy" (in the theoretical all-caps of my bad attitude).

As was pointed out by Weldon Berger yesterday regarding Saturday's preview of tears, the president doesn't engage in ostentatious fatherly reflection when he's the one pulling the trigger.

And that subtle-demonstrative flicking away of rhetorical teardrops was but a windup for the big Sunday pitch, whereupon, and from his hill of kindly contingent compassion, proclaimeth'd the Rama:
"These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and it is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this."
'Such nuance!' 'A triumph of #leadership!' 'Imagine what that creep Romney would've said or not said lol', tweet the uplifted and more faithful now than ever before. And in between their very-real tears and the names of children who are no more theirs than the collateral damage on the other side of the globe, "Wh-why, why, it's the Gettysburg Address!!!"

When he speaks of "violence in our society" he damn sure isn't talking about how we train to kill; when he says that such contradictions "can't be an excuse for inaction", I see theoretical loners all over the tracks.

 * probably to keep this experiment in thought manipulation simple
** probably to keep it from being too simple