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OMTWA - One More Thing to Worry About

Omtwa is both the foundation of society, and a threat to its survival. Like so many things, it is very useful - indeed necessary - in moderation, but a huge threat in overdose. It is the reason civilisation has survived for many millennia, and also the problem with democracy. It is why we sometimes have to ignore people collecting for charity, and it is how people can dedicate their lives to one cause above all else.

Everyday, everywhere, we come across problems to solve, things to do, and questions to answer - more, in fact, than is possible to deal with. In other words, we have too much to worry about. This is not my opinion, it is a common sense fact: there are 6 billion* people in the world, and each of them is going to have decisions to make, relationships to maintain, and the rest of the world to influence and be influenced by. To imagine that you, a single person, could address every single one of these problems, and help everyone out personally, is ludicrous. There therefore has to come a point after which you simply say "omtwa"*, and get on with something else.

It is often said that the world is getting smaller, that we are living in a "global village"*. I, however, see it as being the other way round: people's individual worlds are getting bigger, so that they encompass more and more of the physical world. A few hundred years ago, we are often reminded, people's village would have been their whole world; now, with huge amounts of information broadcast, printed, displayed and uploaded for our benefit, we are made aware of not only the existence, but the nature, of hundreds of other countries. This has not resulted, as some suggest, in a single, global community in any real sense (yet); it does, though, give us a lot to worry about. We are surrounded by charities asking for our help in solving a problem; adverts saying we should think carefully about a particular decision; and people, in general, asking us to do things. It is tempting to think, sometimes, that we should give careful consideration to every decision we make - but have we really got time to examine the comparitive merits of different brands of tooth floss?

In the end, if we tried to spend time worrying about everything that presented itself, we would simply go mad , since there is physically no time to do so. This is why omtwa is essential to society: without it, we could only live in groups small enough that everyone could constantly be worrying about everyone else, and helping to decide everything that happens. By my estimation, this would require groups of 1 - or possibly less - which wouldn't get us very far as a species... However, with omtwa, we can simply leave some of the decisions to other people; we can decide that certain things are Somebody Else's Problem; we can just turn to someone, and say "Yes, it's terrible, but right now it's just omtwa.". This is one of the main problems with the idea of democracy - if everyone's busy ruling the country, who will be left to actually be ruled? Who will have the time left to actually do any work?

On the other hand, society will also cease to function if everyone simply decides to "go with the flow", and decides that someonelse will do everything. So too much omtwa is bound to be a bad thing. This is how companies such as Microsoft and MacDonald's make their money: people know that it's probably not the best choice, "but - well, it's just there, isn't it? Who cares what restaurant/software I use anyway? It's just one more thing to worry about!"

So in the end, we all have to decide - do we care enough about such and such an issue to spend time and effort on it (and find, for instance, another restaurant/word processor), or is that just omtwa, and we're going to spend the time doing something more useful. Some people dedicate their whole lives to one issue, at the expense of all others; some just fit in with what society expects of them. In my opinion, we've got to go somewhere in between, and decide which issues we are going to deal with, and which to leave to someone else. Curiously, this gives us another thing to worry about...

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