If you travel back in time, and happen to know how to cure an otherwise fatal illness that has afflicted several people in the town you’re in.
You visit the first patient – a young boy – medicine in hand; a priest walks in, and starts chanting.
The villagers present don’t want your help – they’re convinced the priest should do his job. You know the outcome will be death, unless the antidote is delivered.
You have several options:
- Yield to the priest, and let the young boy die
- Try a daring move and deliver the medicine – saving the boy’s life
Though (2) is a moral high ground, it may be the wrong choice.
This may also sound like a trolley problem – utilitarians and deontologists may agree that (2) is the right behavior, at least naively.
Though the outcome will likely be that you will be sent to prison: the interpretation would likely be that the priest’s prayers cured the boy.
So perhaps letting the priest finish and letting the boy die is the only option – it may raise sufficient desperation to let you try your approach on the remaining patients.
Perhaps this simplistic situation carries over to our time. For example, if you work at a company, and they do not heed your experience – perhaps the only available path forward is to let them make their mistakes, and arrive at wisdom you may already have.
Your warnings ahead of time will fall on deaf ears, and the hindsight of error may not expose you in a good light – especially if a desperation threshold is not reached the way it was in the life-or-death example. They’ll learn from their mistakes, and eventually grow – but the value you could have brought in guidance is rendered obsolete.
Perhaps sometimes the best choice is to walk away – find a like-minded group of peers, or a group willing to accept leadership of experience.