Learning Lessons – largely BS

‘The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing’ [John Powell]

Over the years I have resided in the UK (18+), the phrase ‘lessons are to be learned’ is etched on my mind. I have lost track of the number of times I have heard it. And, it has been quite some time ago that I became irritated and pissed off with the phrase, especially when rolling off the tongues of bureaucrats and politicians. Do some of us ever learn from our mistakes?

For this phrase has become both an excuse to cover up the immediacy of people’s pain and to quickly give false assurances that whatever is the matter that elicits such a phrase will never happen again. We, especially those who are at the receiving end, know that with ‘lessons will be learned’ a few public things will happen. The quangos will be deployed into action – the news media will be crawling all over the place – there will be an inquiry in which millions will be spent – some regulation will be put in place which will continue to benefit the privilege – and then it will be business as usual. Why? Because the poor, the marginalised, the working class, the newcomers, the minorities of all sorts (within and between nations) continue to be fodder to swell the wealth of the privileged rich and few. I am still to be convinced that the scandalous rich minority and all those who benefit from systemic evil do care.

Here is the bottom line: when someone or any system cares about you, they/it will make an effort, not an excuse. And that would happen before a disaster. It would in fact pre-empt one. It is the case, as recent research has shown, that we are better at learning after doing something right rather than after doing something wrong. Scientists have shown that the brain learns more after a success than a failure. The point for us is this: there is a myth around learning from our mistakes. Such a myth is a mistake. Humans are better at learning after doing something right rather than after doing something wrong. This is not to say that we may learn what not to do again. The question, though, is this: is it the case that we know what we should do next after our mistakes? With the same knowledge, the evidence suggests that while some things may be put in place, we still repeat the same mistakes. This is the conclusion of another recent research from UCL’s department of psychology. No wonder Benjamin Franklin who was no brain scientist could have rightly concluded that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So, perhaps, our focus should be on being good learners and following good practices from elsewhere rather than waiting for a disaster to happen, as some knew and protested about but were never listened to. “Lessons will be learned”? I think that phrase should be banned and any group of people or those in authority who deploy it after the loss of so many lives should be held responsible for a crime against fellow human beings

jagessar © June 2017


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