20160920

The Either-Or Dilemma: Child Negligence or a Fact of Life? (irony)

Mother: I have strawberries or blueberries for dessert. Do you want strawberries?
Child: No.
Mother: So, you don't want any then?
Child: [child gets upset] B-but y-you didn't ask if I w-wanted blueberries.

When offered strawberries or blueberries for dessert, and her child says no to strawberries, how does a mother assume her child does not want any?

Can someone tell me what's wrong with a person's cognitive faculty when she acts like this?

One answer is, the child didn't state her preference for blueberries until after she got upset.

The child is upset that her mother did not logically conclude that she wanted blueberries.

This is not expectation of the child for her mother to read her mind. Rather, it's a case of her mother conveniently forgetting that she also offered her child blueberries. The either-or dilemma is not conducive to successful upbringing because it may lead to conflict in adulthood between parent and child.


It may also cause potential conflict between adults.  Take the example of Jim and his friend John who debate the current US election:

Jim: If you are offered a choice between Clinton and Trump, would you vote for Trump?

John: No.

Jim: Then you wouldn't vote at all?

John: (patiently) I'm still voting. Which candidate is left?

Jim: (still stuck on the assumption of John not voting) ...

[At this point, an argument might ensue to pass the time before both friends make peace]

John: (finally) I'm voting for Clinton.


Taken to an absurd level, let's imagine a scenario in which a death row inmate is offered the choice between lethal injection and electrocution.

Warden: so Prisoner 124342, the judge has offered you the choice between electrocution and lethal injection. Would you prefer electrocution?

Prisoner 124342: no.

Warden: so that means you don't want to be executed?

Prisoner 124342: No, I don't want electrocution.

[There might be a moment for the warden to realize what the prisoner wants but only obtuse gentlemen conveniently forget that they offered a choice and don't make great wardens.]

Prisoner 14243: [regains composure] I want lethal injection.

When an authority figure offers the either-or dilemma to his subject, who refuses the first offer, and takes away both offers, is not "playing fair".

To excuse this behavior by saying life is sometimes unfair is to condone authoritarianism.

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