Indecision. A word which by definition means the lack or absence of a decision, or the act of making a choice. Not the lack of a choice itself, though. Lack of choices might be considered an absence of opportunities, or a choice which isn’t realistic or reachable. Indecision is then more simply defined as absence of action. In a word, inaction. The inability or refusal to pick a side and instead stand aside. Refusal to choose. But, to choose what? Is it sometimes better to not choose than to do so? Is it ever better to stand in the middle while the fight rages on around us? Does it depend on the choices we must lock down before we refuse to walk through one door or the other? This article is a little dive into two recent events which have demonstrated that indecision can sometimes be a dangerous and cowardly path toward its very definition. A path to idleness. A path to waiting and seeing. A path to nowhere.
January 6th of this year. And just when we thought things were feeling more peaceful. Dare I say, saner? A pretty big day for our nation even before a gigantic dose of crazy hit the fan. Who is responsible for this, anyway? And what’s with the QAnon thing? Ugh, let’s not go all up in there. Those topics have been beaten like the poor dead animal skin that one guy wore into the Capitol. So, let’s move on.
The historical ramifications of this event have not shaken out yet, and I won’t speculate here on what those might be. What I want to focus on is the lack of action from lots of humans. Which way to point fingers, which side didn’t do what, who should or shouldn’t go to prison… not my focus. I want to bring attention to the lack of action itself, on many fronts. Should we be scared of indecision? As history, recent history and crime shows galore have taught us about some of the elements which swirled together right before us, we did know some of what to expect from these elements which brought forth the January 6th confrontation. Didn’t we?
Elements such as mob mentality. A pandemic. Narcissism. Political unrest. A deeply divided nation. Fear of change. Fear of police. Police corruption. Far-anything groups, organizations or factions which veer steeply off any generally accepted code of behavior. Cults, even. With what we have already learned from these distinct and separate elements, we can then extrapolate logical next steps to form a clear idea of what the escalation of these elements will most likely look like when they come together. Can’t we?
It did not take a crystal ball to see what was coming as events unfolded on the 6th of January. And yet, lots of people with the power to act, simply did not. They just stood in the stagnant bubble of indecision. And for some, it was not just right then, but in the weeks and months leading up to that day. The term ‘frozen in fear’ comes to mind, as it was a terrifying day for most Americans, let alone the persons who were there and directly involved. So, that, no doubt, is a piece of the indecision. But what about others, and what about the time they had well before the 6th of January? What about persons who simply refused to do the next right thing, over and over? What about that kind of indecision?
I can’t pretend to know what people may have been thinking when faced with, or being the source of, the direct threat of violence on such hallowed ground as the nation’s beating heart of democracy. But we all agree that honor be bestowed upon those who took swift action to protect lives. Shouldn’t we?
When faced with the direct threat of loss of life, how can it be that some people can still refuse to do anything? Is it that they simply cannot move from the sheer terror of making a wrong choice? If faced with the literal life-and-death choice, could you stand idly by? Maybe it is that I am writing this piece to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon itself, as much as for the intellectual points of debate. I really do want to confirm whether lack of action is ever the best answer.
Let’s take another recent example of indecision. Most people have now heard of ERCOT, which stands for the Energy Reliability Council of Texas. Yes, really, and you can stop laughing now. This week, five board members resigned. None of them lived in the state of Texas. Should we assume that because they are not residents, they couldn’t possibly understand what we just experienced? Well, yes, and it’s not an assumption. The fact is, they don’t live here. More importantly, why would any organization with the word Texas in its name have five board members as non-residents, or one? I think it’s a question a lot of us will want answered in the coming weeks. Again, that’s a debate for another day.
ERCOT was made aware ten years ago that our infrastructure was not equipped to take on the effects of another catastrophic winter weather event. Almost exactly ten years ago, in 2011, Texas, as well as many other parts of the country, experienced a huge winter storm event that caused widespread blackouts. Rolling blackouts which were supposed to cover all Texans at different times instead left some areas well-covered while others went without electricity for extended periods of time.
After the 2011 event, ERCOT officials were made aware of the actions needed to winterize the electricity grids so that this type of failure would not happen again. These calls to action from the Public Utility Commission were not really calls to action, but suggestions, officially called recommendations. Recommendations which do not require any action past acknowledgement of receipt. These recommendations were not mandates, which would have required ERCOT to produce a timetable of actionable items and pass follow-up progress checks from the PUC, leading to a final deadline and updated grids. But since recommendations weren’t mandates, and didn’t really have to be done, nobody did them. There’s the indecision. Nobody did anything.
Currently, you can log onto just about any news outlet from down here in the Great State of Texas, and you’ll learn that during the 2021 weather event, Texans fared far worse than in 2011. Pipes blew everywhere, roads were impassible, and everything shut down. There was no food on the shelves, no water anywhere, no fast food, no gas, no way to cook, no fresh milk for the babies, no lights, no heat, and nowhere to go. For five straight days, we had nothing but cold. It was our Katrina.
People froze to death in their own homes.
Indecision. The lack of action by some people which led to a catastrophic failure. People died because other people were simply undecided as to how to act. Life became unsustainable because some people said to themselves, “Yeah, but…we don’t have to.”
ERCOT blames the weather, and if it were 1888, I could go along with that. But in 2021, we know weeks in advance what weather patterns will predictably bring, and this event was no different. From as early as the beginning of February, Texans were made aware of what was coming. Two weeks is certainly an unrealistic allotment of time in which to winterize the entire electricity grid of Texas serving almost 28 million folks here. But you know, ten years isn’t.
Indecision is in and of itself not considered a malevolent or criminalistic word to most people. It’s more of a blasé word that gives us the feeling of relaxed unconcern. Inattention. A shrug of a word. Yeah, no, I don’t know. Maybe later. Whatever. Meh.
Is it though? Is indecision really the benign word we underrate it as? In my one-voice-of-seven-billion opinion, indecision is a cunning, ugly, slick con-artist of a word. An underhanded word that muffles the screams of those in urgent need. A word that smacks of deceit and omission. Heard sometimes in conjunction with phrases such as “Someone else can do it,” “Not my job,” “That was not looked into,” “Mistakes were made,” “Not sure,” “I don’t recall,” and “Who cares?” To me, indecision denotes a lack of other more important traits, like logic, ethics, empathy, sometimes even humanity.
“To be or not to be…” is not only a question, but a decision. Everyone gets to make, or not make, their own choices. Geddy Lee from Rush sang, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Decision-making is an action, and making decisions is difficult when ethics are full of grey areas, financial barriers, and blind foresight. Also, arguably, not making a decision is just another type of action, a non-action, or anti-action. I don’t know about you, but for me, indecision doesn’t sound like a sound choice.