Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Always Have a Choice

Today I've gained a new pet peeve. Twice today I heard the expression I/You don't have a choice. In both cases it was simply not true and I immediately identified other choices.

First someone made a poorly thought out and rashly arrived at decision. I listed other choices but their response was basically, "I don't want to know what the other choices are." My second conversation was more balanced where one option had obvious strengths over the other.

Either way it simply was not accurate to say there wasn't a choice. 'I don't have a choice' can mean 'I really don't like the other options,' or 'I've already decided' or many different things but it never actually means there is no other choice.

I'm reminded of the famous 1984 election debate between Brian Mulroney and John Turner. Wikipedia describes the debate as follows:

Turner had planned to attack Mulroney over the patronage machine that the latter had allegedly set up in anticipation of victory. He launched what appeared to be the start of a blistering attack on Mulroney by comparing his patronage machine to that of the old Union Nationale in Quebec. However, Mulroney successfully turned the tables by pointing to the recent raft of Liberal patronage appointments. He demanded that Turner apologize to the country for making "these horrible appointments."

Turner replied that he "had no option" except to let the appointments stand.

Mulroney famously responded: “You had an option, sir. You could have said, 'I am not going to do it. This is wrong for Canada, and I am not going to ask Canadians to pay the price.' You had an option, sir — to say 'no' — and you chose to say 'yes' to the old attitudes and the old stories of the Liberal Party. That sir, if I may say respectfully, that is not good enough for Canadians.”

Turner froze, and could only repeat, "I had no option."

Mulroney called Turner's admission "an avowal of failure" and "a confession of non-leadership." He told Turner, "You had an option, sir. You could have done better." The exchange led most of the papers the next day, with most of them paraphrasing Mulroney's counterattack as "You had an option, sir — you could have said 'no.'"

The result of course was that Brian Mulroney formed the biggest majority government in Canadian History. It's worth remembering there's always a choice.

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