Thursday, May 14, 2015

Is It Worth the Risk?

I've been watching an episode of City Homicide.  Detective Wolfe (Shane Bourne) believes he knows who killed his goddaughter.  He is told, by those in charge, that all he has his circumstantial evidence and his gut-instincts.  With the help of other detectives, Wolfe breaks into the suspects home without a warrant. There they violently rummage through the suspect's belongings, trying to find a secret room.

It turns out there is a secret room. Wolfe's instincts were right.

I still have a few minutes left of the episode; so I don't know in which way Wolfe's deeds will be perceived and acknowledged. Will he be congratulated? Will his risky actions seem heroic?  Despite Wolfe being right, and saving lives, might he still get in trouble for not following the rules?

And what if he were wrong? What if they broke into the house of an innocent man? Would Wolfe have been fired? Would the media have turned him into a pariah? Would he be sued? Would the public want him crucified?

In taking risks, is it only outcome that matters?  Or in judging the risk-taker, do we need to consider the outcome that never happened?

I also saw major risk-taking on the British soap opera Coronation Street.  Tracey Barlow steals money from her own child's college-savings in order to pursue her dreams of opening up a pawn shop. She gives the money to her boyfriend Rob who is planning to be her business partner. Without consulting Tracey, he goes to a bookie shop and bets $600 on a horse. 

The owner of the bookie business is Peter Barlow, who is struggling to keep his business afloat. In order to attract customers, he offers crazy odds.  He actually can't afford to pay out what he would owe with a $600 bet; but he accepts Rob's bet anyway. Why? Because he hates Rob and wants to see him lose $600. I guess he imagines it's worth the risk.  

Rob wins. Poor Peter. He owes Rob $35,000. He doesn't have the money to pay out. He's bankrupted and humiliated.  He regrets his actions.  If only he didn't take the bet. If only he said no.  

But what if he had won? What if he not only won the bet between him and Rob; but what if his other customers lost as well?  What if his crazy odd idea worked in his favor; and his sinking business rose to happy new heights? Should he still feel ashamed for taking the risk?  Would he still get stern looks from his wife?  

And then there's Rob. He won all this money by risking his girlfriend's daughter's college fund.  Since he won, does it make it okay?  Was it worth it?  

I'm wondering what's worse...people who cause damage because they took a risk that turned out wrong; or those who stop a positive thing from happening because they didn't take action.  

I guess it depends, really.

I'm thinking of that saying about regret—that people never end up regretting what they DID do; they only regret what they didn't do.

I actually think that's bullshit. What if someone is on the fence about whether they want to go on a date with someone?  They decide not to, and later they learn the person they rejected was a rapist.  If they followed the idea of avoiding regret by saying yes to things, they might have been raped.  

On the other hand...in another story, the person could go on a date and they end up finding their soulmate.  

I guess this is why it's so hard to make decisions in life.

I'm trying to figure out what the hell I'm trying to say with this post.

Maybe it's that no matter what the outcome, we should always have some amount of consideration for what could have been the alternative.  If we win a thousand dollars by gambling a hundred; we should consider how we'd feel if we lost that hundred dollars. If we shoot an intruder in our house, and it turns out to be a serial killer; we should consider how we would have felt if it had turned out to be our child's friend sneaking in for a secret sleepover.  If we have to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills because we mistook bad gas for a heart attack, we should consider how we'd feel if it had been a heart attack, and the prompt action had saved our lives.