Everything happens within a context – if you remove information from its context it becomes meaningless, even dangerous.

Context - without it there is no understanding

The seat of government in Pretoria South Africa needs to be firmly grounded in the context of what is happening on the streets. Credit: Silvana Dos Reis Marques

The faster information becomes, the slower we must be when making decisions. “Fast information” comes with no context and is useless unless it is reunited with its supporting information.

The world is exceedingly complex – everything leans on everything else. All actions have reactions that travel off in every direction upsetting other areas unexpectedly. In recent years the USA, UK and NATO forces have aggressively meddled in the affairs of the Middle East and North Africa. The sweetness of short term gains have turned to gall as entire regions (the context) have become unexpectedly destabilized causing untold misery and unwanted knock-on effects. These effects cannot be undone and the world is now forever changed.

Closer to home the same can be said when considering our families, careers and businesses. Trite short term gains based on over-simplified information can violently swing from positive to negative and we are forced to dance to an ugly tune not of our own making. Working from within the system, and working with what you have (the context), is better than working from the outside; working from the outside requires brute-force which leaves behind an inheritance of resentment which like a boomerang will return to haunt us down the line.

We must not be flat footed and indecisive however; this is not a reason to maintain a status quo that we have outgrown. Action must have its roots in the bigger picture, the context, because it is the context that will determine the final outcome, not the action itself.

Example: My atheist friends point out that the Bible appears to support slavery. Why did God not outlaw slavery as one of the Ten Commandments? Fair comment taken in a 21st century context – but this was 3000BC. The context was different. There was no centralized government, no social services and no universal human rights. Blessed was the family that could come under the house (protection) of a powerful man; they would enjoy a sheltered, resourceful and prosperous future under his wing. Could the slave have been beaten? Very possibly, but this was no American law series on TV.  Justice was metered out within its context – and it worked in a rough and ready kind of way. (Comment: Under Hebrew law a slave could take his freedom after 7 years but many chose to become “bond slaves” i.e. a slave for life, a decision they took of their own free will because it was a good one based on the context of the time.)

With every action, it is the context that determine the outcome, not the action itself