Giving our power away

I've noticed a mini-trend in posts around the blog trapline lately. Maybe it's an end-of-winter rally against apathy, or maybe a reaction to whining about failed New Years resolutions. Either way, the idea of taking back responsibility for our choices and regaining the power that this confers is cropping up here and there like croci, and seems to respond to recent events in my life too.

I get an awful lot of food blogs through my inbox in a week, which is something I quite enjoy. Some are about cooking, some are about eating, and some are about food politics. I try to get a reasonable variety of points of view, but the real outliers do get killed off because I can't be arsed to filter through a whole lot of conspiracy theories or nutritional yeast additives to get to content I can use.

Casual Kitchen has an older post, about a similar phenomenon, that I like quite a lot.

I am about to suggest an alternate explanation for the realities of the food industry--one that doesn't involve the a priori assumption that our destiny is under the control of an evil cabal of greedy food lords. ... The foods on our grocery stores shelves, however unhealthy they may be, are the product of survivor bias. It's quite simple: the foods most heavily demanded by consumers always survive. So, who's really behind the curtain choosing the foods on our grocery store shelves? It's us. 

So I choose what I read. Seems obvious. But the politics of who I choose to read regularly will inevitably start to shape my belief in what's real, or at least has real value, and some of that may not be obvious. Think of the way news channels order their headlines, and what it tells you about the demographic of their viewership. How far into the program does the finance report come? Is it more important than the weather? If it's up there right after international unrest, this show is not aimed at farmers or left-leaning folk. That gives you some filter through which to view their reporting, but who thinks of this at the time? These people are professionals, it's the end of the day and I want to switch off and suck up some current events via their expert delivery.

When the expertise is finance, they can have it. But Tiny Buddha recently posted about looking for experts to guide or reassure us in personal decisions that are more than likely our own to make.

We want there to be far more absolutes than there are, and we don’t want to have to carry the weight of our choices alone. Sometimes in looking for emotional back up, we give our power away—and oftentimes to people who know far less about what we need than we think. ... The value we attribute to people and things isn’t always an accurate reflection of the value they can offer us—particularly when we’re looking for answers to avoid the pain of acknowledging there aren’t any.

Goodness knows, I'm no expert on cancer. I'm not really even an expert on my father in law. And since I get most of my information from the internet, how can I know if that even comes from experts? Once you start considering things outside the accepted cannon, you're in uncharted waters. But the desperate drive to do something, anything, to affect the situation - to reduce the sense of powerlessness - is so insistent that after a cursory run through the bullshit detector the provenance of these things doesn't float to the top of the consideration pile so often as it maybe should. Tiny Buddha's answer is simple: stop looking over the fence.

At the end of the day, we need to know when we know all we can, and then we need to act and own that choice. All the good advice in the world won’t change that the future is unpredictable, and even counsel from an expert with a wall full of degrees can’t guarantee a specific outcome. ... More often than not the real answer is that we have to use our own instincts and common sense and accept that what will be, will be.

Am I betraying my father in law's right to the power of his choice by offering alternative experts' alternative opinions - cluttering his shop shelves, so to speak? Or am I reminding him that there are no absolutes and he has nothing to lose by following every (reasonable) star?

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