How often does this happen to you at work? You’re trying to find a solution to a problem and you dismiss a possible solution early because there’s no way it would work, the idea’s just too crazy. And then later you get burned for it when you find out it might, or definitely, would have worked, and you have somebody, maybe your boss, asking you later “Well did you at least TRY it?” You look down at your feet sheepishly, rethinking your decision to not even try it, because, at the very least, you could at least say you did.
This is one of those crazy ideas that is certain to never work, but hardly anybody tries. Saying “Please.”
Now I know that hopefully all of us have said this word countless times in our lives. Even though you can apply the forthcoming ideas to a personal level, I’m going to talk more about conflicts between cultures and nations rather than incidents between individuals. Because I am wondering, as crazy as it may sound, when thinking of many wars and conflicts in our past, how many could have been avoided if one party had simply said “Please?” How many lives could have been spared; how much blood could we have not spilled? Of course there have been many instances of peace negotiations, I am not talking about that. I am, quite literally, talking about saying “Please.”
Now, I assure you, I have not been experimenting with any illicit substances. I think we could file this idea under "Hey it's so crazy it just might work!" So, please, stay with me.
The first thing I thought of was the Revolutionary War here in the States. A local radio DJ was on the subject and jokingly said maybe the Declaration of Independence should have been sent with fruit pies. That had me thinking. Well, what if they had? Or, better yet, what if they had handled the situation in a completely different manner?
What if the Founding Fathers had sent a letter to King George III outlining all the reasons that the divorce between the Colonies and Mother England would be mutually beneficial, focusing more on the reasons it would be good for England? After all, the American Colonies were pretty much a money pit for England. George was taking a bath, as it were, with the whole thing, which was the reason for all the taxations that ticked the Colonists off to no end. And maybe this letter could have talked about how we’d always give England a sweet deal when it came to trade between the nations and promised to help England out in its struggles against France, particularly in the New World. Instead of in essence saying “Screw you, Georgie” and flipping the bird, maybe appealing to his sensible side (assuming he had one somewhere) instead of bitch-slapping his ego, would have saved many lives on both sides. And then, literally using the phrase “May we please have Independence,” would have put the letter over the top. And sure, maybe even the fruit pies, too.
”That would have NEVER worked, you’re INSANE!” yelled Thomas Jefferson.
”Well, did you TRY it, Tommy?” I asked.
”Well… uh… well you see…”
”Well, DID you?”
”Uhh, no, no we did not.”
”Then how do you know it wouldn’t have worked?!”
”Um, well, erm, I guess we don’t.”
Yes, I honestly think such a course of action had perhaps a chance of working. Even it hadn’t, what would it have hurt to try?
”OK Arty, I always thought you were a fry short of a Happy Meal before, but this does it, you’ve completely fallen off your rocker! Where’s the hell is that downvote button?!”
No, WAIT! Just hear me out a little longer.
The same things that cause conflicts between individuals also cause War or smaller conflicts between nations. Hurt Pride and/or Ego. Somebody wants something that somebody else has. Your spouse accidentally deletes the newest episode of Smallville from the TiVo before you see it. Well, OK, scratch that last one. But the point is, excluding conflicts that are about religion in some way – which are rarely if ever resolved – we’ve seen saying our pleases and thank-yous often resolve disputes between individuals. I’ve seen it work at my son’s preschool. If it can work on such a micro scale, why can’t it work on a macro scale? We teach our children to say “please” and “thank you.” Are we so hypocritical that we aren’t doing it ourselves, not even trying it, no matter how crazy it may sound? Even if we’re certain it won’t work, at the very least, it probably will not hurt to try.
There are certain situations where could hurt to try, actually. I am not recommending “Will you please not shoot me mugger?” or “Would you please not invade me today?” or “Hey would you guys please not fly commercial jetliners into our buildings?” Let’s exclude situations of imminent danger with an enemy that obviously cannot be reasoned with, where taking the time out to say “please” will delay a protective preemptive or counter strike, in addition to making you look weak.
But I do think that “I see that you have lots of iron ore but are lacking in potatoes, which we have an abundance of, would you please like to trade?” or “May we please have that tiny piece of land over there that you’re not using, we would very much like to have it in our borders?” or “May we please have independence? We really think it’d be better for both of us.” all have the potential, more or less, of actually working.
Think about it. How many times in our lives have we all said “Well if you had just ASKED/asked NICELY I would have actually given it to you/let you borrow it/done it for you!” Yes, lest you still have some doubt as to my seriousness, I honestly think saying “please” more often could have saved scores of lives. Possibly billions. Maybe millions. Likely thousands. At least hundreds. Isn’t that worth trying?
Now I’m not some hippie pacifist. I’m just trying to be practical. Not only could lives have been spared but a staggering amount of resources could have been saved for better uses rather than spent on needless wars. And trillions – or maybe quadrillions – of dollars (or pounds or euros or Caesars or whatever) in property damage could have been avoided if somebody somewhere along the line had used the “p” word.
All right, if I haven’t convinced you yet, perhaps I never will. I am either dead on here, or maybe I do actually have one foot in the door of the local mental institution. But if I have at least some of you out there saying “Hmmm, you know what…” or maybe even subscribing to my newsletter, then maybe I’ve accomplished something. As for the rest of you, could you consider this idea as not totally insane?