Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Self Delusion

Now that the Indian team has won the World Cup, there will be a spate of articles trying to analyze the victory. But before getting into that, we need to savor the victory, don't we? The whole nation is into a self-congratulatory mode, exulting wildly at the win. The players are being wined, dined, feted, hoisted, hosted, and generally smothered with attention. Every word that they utter is noted down for posterity. The fact that posterity lasts for a very short while in the modern age is something that we should not think too much about.


I have nothing against the victory. I think the players have done a great job and we need to be proud of them. But stepping back a little bit, there seems to be a little bit of perspective required somewhere.


All articles and interviews aim to get some insight into what got the team where they are today. What is the secret of their success?  And this is where it becomes very interesting. From whatever I am able to gather, the secrets of success as divulged by various members of the winning team are: Sachin Tendulkar, hard work, Guru Dera Wala Baba, Sachin Tendulkar, commitment and focus, dedication, planned and targeted preparation, Sachin Tendulkar, an excellent coach, hunger for victory, discipline, Sachin Tendulkar…


If the stock market goes up by 700 points today, the newspaper headlines say that it is due to a stable situation in the US, less than expected bad news from Japan's nuclear disaster, positive outlook for the Indian economy, stable government at the Centre, etc. If on the other hand the market goes down by 700 points, the newspaper headlines will say that it is due to worsening inflationary outlook, bad news from Japan's nuclear disaster, price of oil, situation in Libya, increase in commodity prices, etc. Depending on what is the event that happens, the right set of reasons is chosen.


The analysis of the cricket team's victory also seems something like that. We know that victory requires one part each of hard work, commitment and focus, dedication, preparation, coaching, hunger, discipline, and five parts of Sachin Tendulkar. Why did we need to play the entire tournament to know that? And how come these conclusions are being touted as great insights?


No one bothers to ask why it is that the other teams lost when they too had all the above, perhaps more than one part each in some cases. (Actually, I know the answer to that one – they didn't have Sachin Tendulkar!). Or why we got knocked out at the league phase the last time around, when we had all the above ingredients in equal measure?


Not just in cricket or the stock markets, but in every area of life, we tend to justify our views and biases, based on analysis carried out on hindsight. Only those things are allowed to insert themselves into reckoning that fit in with our preconceived notion of the world. The results from the analysis in turn bolsters our conviction in our own arguments. Everyone thinks alike and there is immense pressure, both overt and subtle, to agree to what is the obvious truth. The more we analyze in this fashion, the more we are convinced that we are right, and the more self righteous we become. Cricket and stock markets are just examples; the malaise is spread much wider.


And we happily wallow in self delusion. It's not a bad way to be. At least we are happy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more Dinesh !