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Choice is a word. Not an end itself.

January 7, 2010

Choice is a word. Not an end itself.


Words are wonderful things that have the power to convey a meaning and a message. Yet they are also a vague approximation of that concept and so can be twisted and distorted to mean far more than they actually do. With enough reading of the same sentence any meaning can be derived. We can narrow it down to a single word in a sentence and still there will be a multitude of definitions and hidden meanings. Even obsessing on a letter like ‘I’ can be a mental battle for some. One word that seems to mean all things to all people is the word ‘Choice’.


Choice has over the years become a catch cry for so many vested interests who want to sell an agenda. The word is devoid of any tangible meaning without putting it into some kind of context. I can choose the colour of my car; I can choose what time I get out of bed; I can choose to study or not. The context properly defines the word so everyone knows what we are talking about. If I was to say that I made a choice what would actually mean? Without knowing what I made a choice about my decision is completely meaningless. Yet for some this is precisely the argument that they wish to forward when they declare that their ideology is all about ‘choice’. They see choice as being an end itself rather understanding that it is nothing more than a means to an end.


When someone claims that their ideology is all about the ‘choice over their own life and death’ they laying claim to ‘choice’ being the critical factor. Whereas the real issue is ‘death’. Choice is just the mechanism of rationalizing the decision and stripping it of any values or ethical consideration. Like the concept of ‘free will’ we can consciously make decisions between alternatives but not all alternative are equal. The end result of any decision is the critical factor and all choice does is merely determine culpability. For example, if I choose to murder another person I am still a murderer. Choice advocates should hail the fact that I made the decision because choice is an end in itself. Rationally if choice is the be all and end all it does not matter that a person has been killed. In this case Choice has been promoted as the ultimate right.


It becomes an intoxicating argument when stripped of its logical inevitability. Choice leads to consequences. Every choice has consequences. A choice to kill has the consequences of death and often the law. People who cry out about choice are no different than those that cry out about freedom, liberty and equality. They are meaningless terms in themselves because any definition can be foisted on these words by anyone. Has there ever been a dictator who did not claim to be a liberator? Has there ever been a terrorist who did not claim to be a freedom fighter? What of equality? Do we all have the same definition? There is very little agreement over such words because they are so vague and undefined. The context and description is missing. A libertarian can be someone who wants to feel good for no justifiable reason; it can also mean a civil rights activist or a terrorist. There is no right or wrong answer because words can be twisted to mean whatever we want them to mean.


It is often amusing when reading people harping on about ‘choice’ as if it’s a new way of looking at things. There is an underlying accusation that those who do not agree with their choices are somehow crushing their freedoms. It is amusing but choice offers nothing but another consequence and ultimately another choice over the results of that choice. People make choices all the time but it is what they have chosen that matters. Celebrating the decision making is a total waste if it is a wrong choice or a choice that causes damage to others. Celebrating choice is like celebrating the ability to flip a coin and ignoring the result in a two up game. It is like celebrating the ability to throw a switch and ignoring that it is connected to an electric chair. Choice is means to an end. Choice is just a word. It is not an end it itself.

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