Freedom to choose

Yesterday I watched a talk of "TED: Ideas worth spreading" on the laptop of Dave, a volunteer who came for the second time to Diofior to teach English to the local youth.

It's strange, the longer I stay in Senegal, the more I start to look at the world from a Senegalese perspective. The speech we saw was from an American, and it was clearly from an American perspective. The speech itself was good, a clear analysis. What shocked me is the American focus on wealth / materialism. The first thing I noticed was that the man was wearing shorts. Why does he wear cloths like that when he is giving a formal lecture on television?

When I heard that he was going to talk about "individual freedom and choices" I thought: "That's a philosophical theme that I find very interesting". But what he said was not really philosophical. What he said was none the less interesting and true. It was more in the field of sociology / economy. But it's so strange for me to watch this film, to be confronted with the contrast with the daily life in Senegal.

The lecturer said that there are so many options to choose from in the American society today. He said that there are 175 different kind of salad dressings in his supermarket. And if you don't like any of them, there are still 15 more types of salad dressing that you can compose yourself with vinegar, olive oil etc. He said that it seems that it's good for the economy and for the personal well-being of an individual if there are plenty of options to choose from, but that in fact, it makes it more difficult for people to choose when there are too many options. Each time when you have chosen a product you are worried that another choice might have been better.

I have experienced this myself. I sometimes buy embroidery threads to make friendship bracelets. I noticed that when there are not many colors available to choose from, the combination of colors that I choose is more beautiful then when there are hundreds of colors. It seems that when there are really many colors to choose from, I can choose anything I like, so what I choose will be more beautiful. But when there are only 20 colors, it's easy for me to see which combinations are beautiful and which not. If I want I can try all possible combinations to see what's the most beautiful. With 200 colors there is no way that I can try all different combinations of e.g. 6 colors together. And I don't want to stay for hours in the shop to try many different combinations. With 20 colors I can choose the best combination, the one I like most, with 200 it's not possible.

I understand how it works, that it's more difficult to choose when there are too many options. But the perspective / cultural background behind the speech shocked me. When I heard the lecturer was going to talk about individual freedom and choice, I thought he was going to talk about ethics. But there is nothing ethical about salad dressings. He said that many people become depressed because they are unhappy with the choices they make, they keep wondering if they shouldn't have chosen something else. And they blame themselves for being unhappy because they have made the choice themselves, so if it was the wrong choice they blame themselves for that. In the American supermarket there are a 175 types of salad dressing. There isn't any shop in Diofior where you can find any type of salad dressing at all. Very often there is no salad available in Diofior neither, so what would you need the dressing for. People are happy when they have enough to eat. If you become depressed because you bought the wrong salad dressing or a pair of shoes that doesn't fit well or look nice, something is very wrong with you. You have forgotten about what really matters in life. I would not be depressed if there are too many options to choose from in a shop, I just choose for the cheapest option and then it doesn't matter if the quality is not that good. If you talk about freedom and the possibility to choose, there are much more important things in life, like the choice of your education, a good job, a nice partner, the friends you choose, the choice where you want to live, the choice for what kind of life you want to live, how you give a meaning to your life.
The talk about the salad dressings was so materialistic, as if lifeless objects are the only things that matter...
i agree with you, but there is another point of view for less is better, when there is little: that is the moment our creativity( parrallel at when the world was created?)is born and develops, when there is too many, it does not get awakened. so when you want to stimulate creativeness, inventing new things, try out with 3 small things...? or reduce what you have so you can go deeper( stuff and thoughts)... or what you an made as perfect as you could ( f.e. painting) add a dissonant, and than the real birth starts..ore labour is a better word...
It just needs courage an curiosity..
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