The other day I was doing what I do best, daydreaming. I started thinking about a post I saw on Linkedin this week. It was about a tragedy that happened in São Paulo. A disastrous operation by the Military Police at a traditional baile funk that maybe occurs every week. Even though it is regular, the event has no execution planning and security, but it's rather spontaneously and in the middle of a huge slum.
The result of the tragedy nine people trampled to death. The repercussion was huge, and the Linkedin post surfed this wave. I had seen the same words elsewhere before. It's fair to say that the person was reproducing the thoughts without giving any credit.
It also simplified the matter but said nothing at the same time. It stated in a way that the problem is not what they say and that everyone knows what the real issue is. Except that the post didn't say what the real problem was. Despite some divergent opinions, the idea was to say that the police would never raid an upper-class even,t and it was motivated by discrimination and racism when it did at the slum.
I did something that I have the habit of doing it. I started writing an answer without reasoning, just letting the words flow through my fingers. When I finished, I thought about what my goal was in writing it all. Almost every time I think that the text will not fulfill the objective, so I don't send it, and I move forward happily. Usually, I only send it when I conclude that I was not offensive, and maybe someone will laugh reading it. Yeah, I deleted it.
But when I daydreamed, just before I decided to write this text, I started to think about how good we are at deceiving ourselves and denying the facts. And the most significant truth, maybe above all the others, is that we don't know much.
We ignore what we know
I'll start on the other side of the coin. One of the most curious things when we think that we know nothing is the capacity that we have to ignore what we know. We have the solution for all the world's problems at the tip of our tongue, but for our issues, we have infinite excuses.
The leading causes of death in the world today, it's due to smoking, drinking, worrying, and overeating. Also, because people do not sleep, exercise, and have enough fun.
All problems and solutions for most of these situations are known to most people. We made up a million excuses for not even taking a 15-minute walk to work, though. Until we get to the point that we have a real reason to avoid walking because the body doesn't even support a few steps anymore. Start at a slow pace? No way!
We live a life of complaints about the dissatisfactions, but we managed to do little to improve. Now ask most people what they would do if they were the president of the country, and the majority will be sure how they would guide everyone towards prosperity.
The world got too complex
If solving personal problems is a task that few do, imagine solving those of others?
I keep imagining the complexity that should not be the life of the building manager I lived in. I think that this kind of manager it's more common in Brazil than in other places. But imagine a building with 144 apartments. There are dozens of families to deal with and manage. In addition to internal and external articulation, the management capacity to make this all work and prosper is higher than many old tribes. One has to be very competent for all this to work — my admiration for good residential building managers.
Now we raise the complexity—a company CEO with hundreds of employees, a mayor, a governor, a president. The number of decisions and consequences each of them can generate is enormous. Impossible to grasp for the most intelligent of minds.
If we want to have enough information to make any decision with the minimum confidence, we may find ourselves paralyzed by the number of possibilities. It is better to think that we know and make a decision as soon as possible. If you lead people, you probably fit in here. You think you do a better job than all your peers, but this is probably wrong.
And if we want, we can go much further in complexity. We hear that the universe has billions of galaxies as if it were something common to hear. You read that the Milky Way is 5.5 million light-years in diameter, and doesn't seem like a big deal. If we try to understand what that means, it can be unbearable. We better stay here, surfing the internet and thinking we're smarter than ever.
We have evidence of our inability
We know that people's diversity of skills is finite. Each of us will be able to do a minimal set of things with high quality. However, it is easy to make mistakes and think that we can absorb all the complexity of the world and find the best answers to all problems.
Let's say I give an IQ test to a group of people — a limited one. The test can measure a person's ability to reach the right conclusions with a minimal set of information.
The vast majority of us will be able to process only a small set of information. Assessing the scenario and seeing patterns is not a simple thing to do. A part of us will not be able to handle even a small set of information.
For example, when looking at the figure below, try to imagine what the next one is:
It is a simple logic test. However, many people will not be able to find the answer. Even if you see the right answer here, you will not understand how this is the correct answer.
But all the information needed to arrive at the answer is there, in the image above. And we still have the benefit of having only one solution. On the other hand, most situations in our life are incredibly complex. Even so, we can accept that we do not solve the problem of the image, only to deny every day our inability to have no idea how to solve the problems of the world.
Otherwise, it would be unbearable
Let's dive a little deeper into the previous paragraph. If we had a real understanding of the size of our ignorance and the destructive capacity of our actions, we would all stay paralyzed.
There is a quote that says: they did not know it was impossible, so they did it. For this is the reality of all of us, every day. The advantage is that there are a lot of people trying to do something, and the system tends to correct itself towards the positive side of the spectrum. However, most of us face hit the wall a good deal of times.
I know that it is easy to look to the side and think that everyone is doing everything wrong. But the truth is that almost everyone, just like you, is doing the best they can. Few are the ones who wake up in the morning with the idea of ruining everyone's day.
If you imagine as a parent the number of things you will do today that will cause enormous suffering in your child's life, you will do nothing. We all need to keep trying to do something and hope that the sum of all efforts is positive.
I remember a movie I watched a long time ago, called Mr. Nobody. The protagonist of the film, Nemo, know all the possibilities that his choices will result. Choosing to live with a divorced father or mother and marrying each of the three loves in your life results in a different life.
In presenting each consequence of his choices, Nemo comes to only one conclusion — to choose none. That's why he becomes Mr. Nobody. Knowledge paralyzes the protagonist and makes him unable to decide and consequently build an identity.
And what is my point?
That we can try our solutions, but understand that others are as aware of what they are doing as we are. Without our ability to explain what is around us in our way, often inaccurate, we would not be able to have peace of mind and navigate through life.
We are only able to judge the world based on the amount of information we have. I had already written here how people judged me when I decided to quit based on their experience. Or the other text that I wanted to see the world in a broader way than my experiences allowed. All of these behaviors are the result of my limitations.
My view is that it is necessary to know that we are like this. Otherwise, we walk around as the truth bearers - those people who are so attached to their ideas that they can't grasp the possibility to be wrong. I wrote this text two months ago, and I'm posting in the middle of a world crisis (coronavirus) that the idea makes even more sense.
I know that every time I put an opinion here, I perpetuate the possibility of being wrong. Besides, I face the conflict of what I advocate, not agreeing with my actions. I have to face this hypocrisy every time I take a stand.
It is also healthy to know that this is entirely normal. Realizing that everyone does, it should allow you to see that you do too. There is no way you can be the only one with reason. We need to open our eyes to the possibility of being wrong. Relax a little bit in the discussions. The world has become far too complicated. You have more information about what is going on that you can figure it out. Relax and accept your ignorance.
Finally, the only thing I'm sure I'm not wrong is that I was wrong in the past and will be again in the future. And congratulations, because of you too.