Sunday, 25 October 2009

The partial solution

There are many problems in this world. Some of them do not really bother me, while some do, in varying degrees. If I am worried enough about something, I have tried to be part of voluntary groups that are specifically trying to solve these problems. For example, TidyCity is one such group which was formed about half a year back to spread awareness against littering, and to spread civic sense in general. We have been involved in activities like voluntarily cleaning up public spaces, conducting awareness sessions, conducting surveys, etc.

One question though that I often get from people, even very close friends and family, is how do you think this so and so group or activity will produce any positive change - I'm sure anyone involving in voluntary activities would have faced these questions from people around them. We for example get questions like, what effect do you think cleaning up the museum campus on one Sunday will have? What use is it talking to a handful of people about the ill effects of burning plastic?

Tough (not impossible) questions to answer, but I always felt there ought to be a very generic answer. What follows is the generic answer:


Given a problem, social or otherwise, there are some fundamental questions you have to ask yourself.

1. Does this problem bother you enough so that you want to do something about it?


If your answer is (B), then you can live with the problem, you can ignore it. If you have answered (A), then it follows that you have to do something about it, there are two questions here -

2. Do I have a complete solution to offer?

3. Is there a partial solution which I can offer my support to

(The partial solution here is partial because it doesn't solve the problem completely. A solution that introduces another set of problems doesn't qualify as a partial solution for the purpose of this discussion)

If you look are most social problems, you may end up answering (B) for #2 and (A) for #3.
i.e. There may not always be a perfect solution, but there are almost always a few partial solutions.

Now, coming to the point. If you answered (A) to question #1, and (B) to question #2, and (A) for question #3, i.e. if there is a problem that really bothers you, and all you have are partial solutions, then the best option is to strive to find the perfect solution, while at the same time, committing yourself to the partial solutions that are available.

If you do not agree, then probably you have not been totally honest in answering question #1:).


The Minking Than said...

Absolutely. Something is always better than nothing. So go for the best 'something' while looking for the perfect solution, which might just be a sum-of all the 'something's

Cris said...

Very well said. This is why we need you in TidyCity - always the logical man :-)