Eight of the members of my family had gathered together. People across three generations. We needed to decide where to go for dinner and what kind of cuisine we were going to dig into.
Some wanted Chinese, some North Indian, a few wanted South Indian stuff. How do you decide? One choice is to go to multi-cuisine restaurants and everyone eats what they want. But that day we did not want to go for a multi-cuisine and were looking for a speciality restaurant. As often happens when a few people gather and a decision needs to be taken we took the grand old democratic route people raised hands and everyone went with the majority decision.
Tyranny of the majority
But is democracy always the best route for decision making especially amongst close friends, family or any other small group? Democracy and going with the majority view have its place. But in many family situations, it may not be the best route. Imagine the situation that I outlined in my family coming up often. Every Time we go by a democratic way, then a few people will always feel let out as the majority will have the same tastes more or less. Maybe one whole generation who has a different choice will always get the short stick. Their ideas may never be explored by the rest of the group members.
What would be the alternative way of making a choice? At least in small groups, it may be more just if everyone gets a chance to make a decision. Normally on birthdays, the birthday person gets the choice of where we will go out to eat. Nobody has any quarrel with it because it is a special day for one person and everyone acknowledges that. In families often these ticklish issues of imposition of majority decision will leave a few people sore. Where shall we go for vacation this holiday? Do we go for an English film or a Regional language film? Do we drive down to the place or take public transport like train, bus or flight? Two invitations on the same day, do we go to R’s wedding or K’s wedding? Do we go to the maternal grandmother’s place or the paternal grandmother’s place for summer?
Chance to expand our experience
Given all things equal, is democracy a good way to decide such family questions? Or should each member get a turn to decide on such matters? Or should the head of the family decide and everyone just acquiesces to it? While democracy is not the best way to decide even in large groups we put up with it because any other way is too cumbersome to implement. But should we dispense with democracy in small close groups and make decisions which include everyone’s choice? By going with a different family member’s choice each time perhaps we get a chance to explore things not in our comfort zone and thus expand our experiences