A confusion of confidence

A confusion of confidence

Claire Jones, writing in the 06Nov19 Financial Times said: “The real world is hideously complex. So too are people.” It is true. A small measure of that increasing complexity is the decision that will be needed in the forthcoming British General Election. Matching your specific views about Europe with the political party whose broad canvas best suits your wider philosophy is going to be a tortuous exercise. It is not only British politics that present such problems. World politics do so too. Nor is it only the politics of democracy. Whatever political system you live under, you now have more choice than ever before.

Not all your choices are expressed by ‘X’ on a piece of paper. Many of them are seen on Facebook, that controversial but popular vehicle of news and gossip, and in other social media. Occasionally it is a street manifestation, as presently in Hong Kong. However it is demonstrated, we need to ask ‘Are voters educated enough to decide who to vote for?’ The answer inevitably is ‘no’. Are we, then, trying to educate them adequately? Should we deprive them of a vote simply because they are not up to using it properly? Or reward the educated with more votes?

Ten years ago I would have said that the majority of civilised people wanted a fairer world even if they often didn’t do much about achieving it. I’m not so sure today. And certainly not about motives in ten or twenty years time. When extremes of left and right appear in politics they express one growing common attribute – selfishness. The world has always been substantially selfish. Survival of the fittest is a selfish business. But humankind became civilised. Civilisation is an intention of unselfishness in whatever dealings we have with other people.

It is hard to distinguish between civilisation, as recorded in great literature, and the lack of civilisation, as still minimally recorded. The amount of recording has changed so much, so quickly. Open the floodgates of current communication and you substantially reduce the memories of the past. We used to have a world where knowledge determined status. Universal knowledge has turned that upside down. Confidence gets disturbed when certainties fail.

Now we have ‘A Confusion of Confidence’ on an unprecedented scale.

The norms we were accustomed to are changing. We adapt. Adaptability is the reason for humankind’s success. In the past that adaptability has generally been slow. Perhaps transport and medicine were quicker than most. Certainly our adapting to the internal combustion engine was erratic and painful. Our adapting to medicine has been more quixotic but with better results.

All this has led to many people becoming insecure, losing their confidence, doubting their ability to cope. Some of them come to us. We do not have a Confidence Cake from which to cut a slice and instantly restore their strength and vision. Lost confidence is the result of cumulative undermining. It is often difficult to know at which point it breaks down so much that it needs to be professionally restored. When it gives way completely it is obvious, of course. That is then a hard road to reverse. Better to catch it when the signs first appear.

Can the crisis of confidence be reversed, individually and universally?

Universally may be a big demand, individually we do so all the time. The objective is to restore a sense of control, somewhat like the treatment of people who fear flying. That sense has to acknowledge what cannot be achieved and must be accepted. However, we have more control over our lives than we think. To grasp that and know how to steer it when events overwhelm you is the secret of success. Boldness isn’t born in most of us. We have to acquire it.

When we do our lives change 180 degrees.

And we can smile once again.