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Sunday, September 12, 2004

Authority versus Logic

Before I even start typing, I apologize. I'm grumpy and cynical first thing in the morning...

I was reading the "principles of persuasion" a relative of mine (Marilyn) e-mailed me yesterday. It listed a number of ways that one person can influence or persuade another. I noticed that "authority" was on the list. It seems to me that "authority" must have quite a bit more weight than "logic," which was farther down the list.

A postulation:
1. We get attacked, viciously.
2. Al-queda and Osama bin Laden are the attackers.
3. Al-queda and Osama bin Laden live in Afghanistan.


Question: Given the postulation above, where should we send our troops? Who shall we look for?

Answer: Authority tells us we should attack Saddam Hussein (an evil man) in Iraq.


Logically, that makes no sense. None whatsoever. But our Authority repeated his mantra against Iraq so often that at one point prior to the war a reputable poll came out indicating that something like 75-80% of Americans thought Hussein was responsible for 9/11! If you mentioned Osama bin Laden, there was an "oh yeah, he's messed up in this with Hussein, too," attitude.

So we live in a place where Authority trumps Logic. Hmmmm... I wonder if that has anything to do with a few items I read recently. One said that according to a worldwide poll, the most feared nations in the world were, in order, North Korea, Israel, the United States. Another recent poll had the U.S. listed second. While it's nice to bargain from a position of strength, I'm not sure it's a good thing to have Europe (or Nuclear North Korea) fear us quite so badly.

I just read an article on BBC.com that made me pause... A company polled citizens in 30 different nations on who they'd vote for, Kerry or Bush. "Only Filipino, Polish and Nigerian respondents clearly backed Mr Bush." The actual poll results are:

POLL RESULTS (KERRY-BUSH)
Norway: 74%-7%
Germany: 74%-10%
France: 64%-5%
Italy: 58%-14%
Spain: 45%-7%
UK: 47%-16%
Canada: 61%-16%
Mexico: 38%-18%
Brazil: 57%-14%
China: 52%-12%
Japan: 43%-32%
Indonesia: 57%-34%
India: 34%-33%
-------
Philippines: 32%-57%
Nigeria: 33%-27%
Poland: 26%-31%
Thailand: 30%-33%
-------
Source: GlobeScan Inc/University of Maryland PIPA


Normally I'm not a big follower of public opinion. I prefer to believe I make up my own mind rather than following the crowd. But, this poll makes me think of the old adage, "If one person tells you that you've grown a tail, laugh. If three people tell you you've grown a tail, it might behoove you to take a look..." Maybe if the rest of the world is telling us we should take our election seriously, we should take our election seriously.

Unfortunately, almost everyone I talk to about these issues responds from emotion rather than logic. We need to stop doing that. Look at the numbers. How many jobs are there today in the US compared to four years ago? How is our federal budget doing today compared to four years ago? How are we viewed in the national community today as compared to four years ago? How many strong allies do we have today? Think of questions like that... Then get personal. How much does a gallon of milk cost today compared to four years ago? Gas? Is YOUR job really secure? (I work at a printing company - we've lost half my department in the last four years.) Do you honestly feel safer (airports excepted)? Have you seen any more policemen in your neighborhood? Do your kids feel safer going to school? How are their schools doing? Talk to teachers, talk to firemen, talk to soldiers who are getting their benefits cut - these are people we rely on. How are they doing?

I fear they're faring poorly. According to another article I read, "...between 1999 and 2001, Congress invested $4.1 billion to help states and local school districts reduce class sizes. More than 37,000 teachers were hired nationwide as a result. But with thousands of teachers now being laid off, class sizes are ballooning to levels never seen before in many schools Years of educational reform are being undone."

Okay, I'm done now. Thanks for listening!

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