I am sure, each one of us in a decision-making role would have faced this at least once.
When it comes to a decision that would affect a larger group of people — things are neither easy nor straightforward.
If you have to make a quick decision, what is your obvious, frequent choice? Would you go for the popular one or the right one?
Let us render one hypothetical example and have some insight into our way of decision-making.
A group of children is playing near two railway tracks, one that is still in use while the other is abandoned. Only one child is playing on the abandoned track while the rest are on the operational track…Imagine!
You are standing nearby, watching them play. Moreover, all of a sudden, you see that a train is coming. You also see, there is a track-interchange lever very close to you, and you have to make a split-second decision — you can use the lever, change the course of the train and save most of the kids. However, this would also mean that the lone child playing on an abandoned track would be sacrificed. Alternatively, would you let the train go the usual way?
Now analyse the situation for a moment, think, reflect, and decide your answer.
Most of us might choose to divert the course of the train and sacrifice only one child. It seems like a rational decision. We think — this is morally and emotionally correct decision to save many kids at the expense of one.
However, did you think about the fact that the child choosing to play on abandoned track had made the right decision to play on a safe non-operational track? Nonetheless, it has to be sacrificed because other ignorant kids chose to play on a dangerous operational track.
We face this kind of dilemma every day of our life, almost everywhere — in office, community, politics, and so on. Unfortunately, in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority (no pun intended !). It does not matter how foolish & ignorant the majority are or how farsighted & knowledgeable the minority are.
The child, who chose not to play on the main track with rest of the kids gets sidelined; and in case it is sacrificed, how many would shed a tear for it?
Now think again…do you want to change your answers?
To make the proper decision, it is not to try to change the course of the train. Because, kids playing on main track should have already known that the track is in use, and they can run away if they hear a train siren. If the train is diverted, that lone kid will die, because it would never have thought that the train would come on that track. Moreover, it may be the case that the track is abandoned because it is not safe for use. Also, if the train is diverted, we may put the lives of all the passengers at stake! Moreover, then an attempt to save a few kids by sacrificing one might end up in sacrificing hundreds of people.
We all are aware that life is full of tough decisions to be made all the times. However, sometimes, we do not realise that hasty decisions may not be right all the time.
What is right is not always popular… and what is popular is not always right! — Albert Einstein