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The Forum > Article Comments > Chocolate chip, caramel, honey nougat or vanilla? > Comments

Chocolate chip, caramel, honey nougat or vanilla? : Comments

By Tanveer Ahmed, published 25/7/2006

We demand choice, but increasingly are paralysed when faced with it.

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The first article posted today starts with this sentence: "We live in a world where...more than 20,000 people die each day because of extreme poverty."

And the last article ends with this: "Give me the choice between chocolate chip, caramel, honey nougat and ten different types of vanilla any day."

What would the poor make of Tanveer Ahmed's "plethora of choices...so limitless" that... "we are prisoners of our hard-won freedoms"? What would the unemployed make of Dr Ahmed's suggestion that we are wracked with guilt because we may have made about our choice of work? And what would those who can't afford even public transport - even where it exists - make of his assertion that "Cheap [sic] travel lets us explore other realities and lets us dream of an alternative self"?

Would they be comforted by Dr Ahmed's conclusion that these feelings of doubt about whether we've made the right choice are just "a necessary by-product of free will and the capacity to shape our lives"?

Are we to conclude that the poor, the chronically sick and the long-term unemployed are really better off under Dr Ahmed's prescription because, at least, they are not riddled with guilt about their choice of ice-cream?
Posted by FrankGol, Tuesday, 25 July 2006 11:44:07 AM
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It's an old saying, but apt: all things in moderation.

Choice is no different - we have much more than we need when it comes to something like supermarket products, which is an unavoidable by product of capitalism and affluent times.

Ultimately when times get tougher and the economy is in a state of decline, many of these choices will dry up. There's only so much room for competition, and people with reduced income probably aren't going to pay more for pretty packaging.

That being said, that doesn't necesarily mean we will slip into some kind of communist totalitarian regime. Just a few less products and thinner wallets.
Posted by TurnRightThenLeft, Tuesday, 25 July 2006 1:47:19 PM
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The first day we arrived in Australia I went into a supermarket with one of my sons for some milk. I will always remember the two of us standing there, handfast and in awe at an entire wall of different milks. We must have stood there for ten minutes or more simply reading labels and, in the end, were too overwhelmed and walked out sans milk.

In most countries I have lived there were very few choices: skim or full cream milk; brown or white bread; red or green apples. I spent two weeks wandering supermarkets and "learning" the products on offer here - to this day there are some whose sheer redundancy amazes me and others whose use I still haven't worked out.

One thing I learned from this proliferation of choices however was that they all carry with them a price which transcends the monetary. Sure, over here as a sole parent I can choose not to cook at all and get take out; I can decide on an instant meal and empty it from a packet; I can grab something from a freezer bin and nuke it or simpoly wield a can opener. But at the same time I am choosing to fill us with preservatives, chemicals, empty calories, fats ...and some truly suss meat sources. So I forego the colourful, convenient choices and stay out of supermarkets anyway.

The true irony in all this however is that when we were a reasonably affluent middle-class family with plenty of spare cash the choices weren't available: now that we are a broken family on the bones of our collective arses we are surrounded by a plethora of choices which we can't afford.

So, either way - in the midst of plenty or with little or no alternatives available - the matter of choice is completely moot: irrespective of circumstances, choice is not universal.
Posted by Romany, Tuesday, 25 July 2006 3:29:18 PM
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There are always choices, many trivial, some with far-reaching consequences. Our state of mind when choosing is far more important than the range of choices. At times of my life when Iíve been most clear-sighted (particularly as a Dhamma-bum in the 70s), the path ahead has been obvious, little need for choice. At other times, the best choice can be so unclear as to be paralysing (no, Iím not thinking of ice-cream flavours here). So the important thing is how to maintain a balanced, equanimous mind, free of craving and aversion. Sort that out and the plethora of choices is not an issue.
Posted by Faustino, Tuesday, 25 July 2006 5:22:13 PM
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