It is the ‘silly season’ of politics once again. One cannot fail to notice because of the characters that are being thrown onto the stage of the ‘theatre of the absurd’. I too would not have noticed until I was bumped off the highway by the motorcade of one of the newest would be ‘presidential advisors’.
It reminded me of the wisdom of the natives – one of those observations that my mother sanguinely keeps on making - “do not insult your tribe (nation) before you die”. Loosely translated, this is more like ‘never say never’. So how could I ever have imagined the ‘whole of me’ being bumped off the road to let Buchaman’s motorcade of ‘ghettoians’ pass on?
Who could have ever imagined this latest trio of comedians graduating beyond the cannabis industry, mediocre ballads and vulgarity competitions to being national sages? But there you are, never say never! In throwing up this mad trio of ‘Buchaman’, Kusasira and ‘Full Figure’, the political class has provided us with an opportunity to examine the implications of ‘the paradox of choice’ and how it results in unintended consequences.
Whereas choice is fundamental to well-being, too much of it often leads to a situation known as ‘fear of missing out’ or FOMO. In Barry Schwartz’s seminal book The Paradox of Choice, we learn that too much choice has a cost, and our obsession with it contributes to anxiety and bad decisions, among other things. Here are a few of the results of the choices that the political class has thrown at us and how they can create a quandary.
First up is the problem of trade off. How do you choose between ‘Buchaman’, Kusasira, or ‘Full Figure’? The video clips circulating show one is probably comatose from smoking something intoxicating, another does not know her place and the last is in competition with Stella Nyanzi for ‘queen of vulgarity’. Choosing one, instead of the other can only be termed as ‘adverse selection’. If you must make a choice, how do you cast the die with such limited information?
Alternatively, this could be a master stroke from the chief of political chicanery himself! By choosing Buchaman, Kusasira, and Full Figure as counter weights to ‘the president of the ghetto’, you arrive at a situation where there is an adequate supply of buffoonery. The stock market crash of 2008 in the US was caused by securitisation of junk bonds (making them tradeable as small units). In this case too, there has been a ‘commoditisation of idiocy’. All of a sudden, you have a stage full of clowns, which on observation, leaves you with no doubt as to whom you should vote for in 2021!
Too much choice also leads to ‘paralysis conflict’. When you have this kind of crowd to choose from, those who study these things argue that you are likely to suffer from ‘choice complexity, task difficulty, and preference uncertainty’. Does that not make you dizzy? How do you choose any of these ‘clowns’?
People tend to resist making decisions when there are so many choices and this leads to paralysis by avoiding making the decision at all. Is there any wonder that fewer and fewer voters are turning up at the polling stations? You begin to get a sense that it is not worth your time voting!
Because you have been ‘spoilt for choice’, and have been, agonizing over our trio, you must be suffering from ‘decision fatigue’. Making any number of decisions (even with mundane things like what to wear and what to eat) wears out your brain and saps the mental power that you could be using for more pressing matters. Your pool of decision-making energy is limited and your willpower depletes with each new decision you make. You are, therefore, more likely to either act impulsively or do nothing. ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’.
Prof Sejjaaka is country team leader at Mat Abacus Business School.