When I hear people whose most important decisions each day are what to play on the iPod lecturing the country’s most senior policeman about the rules of engagement for suicide bombers, telling him how his men are “executioners” (these being the officers who ran towards, not away from, a man they suspected of being half a second from committing mass-murder), I want to be sick.
Now, if Brownie wants to criticize these people for their lack of empathy or their belief that the decision is a simple one, I'm with him.
What worries me, though, is that note of contempt for people who don’t take important decisions, and – by implication – the belief that we should respect senior policemen for having to take them.
This is wholly wrong. People who take important decisions – be they ordinary rozzers, top cops, cabinet ministers or chief executives – are selected not (just?) for their decision-taking ability, but for their ambition, their desire to impose their will upon the rest of us.
It’s not as if there is an open, national exam in classical and Bayesian statistics and cognitive psychology, with important decision-making roles being assigned to the people with the best scores, is it?
In a society in which decisions are taken, often in secret, by a self-selected group of ambitious mediocrities, our presumption should be hostility to that group.
iPod players should not be scorned for this presumption, still less for the fact that they cannot take important decisions because of the lack of direct democracy in this country. And, insofar as some of them don’t have any ambition to control others, they deserve our praise, not our scorn.
Now, I hope I’m reading too much into this passage. I hope Brownie doesn’t mean to scorn the powerless and praise the powerful. Because if he does, it’s a pretty lamentable attitude for someone on the “left” to have.
And another thing. Deciding what to play on your iPod is an important decision. And if it’s not Jolie Holland’s Catalpa, it’s the wrong one.