In “The Art of Being Human”, Michael Wesch (Professor at Kansas State University) writes that “It is not easy to see our assumptions” because “Our most basic assumptions are embedded in the basic elements of our everyday lives.” Not making efforts to become aware of our assumptions, we often fail to “consider alternatives,” and become unable “to imagine our way into another person’s perspective.”
In the 1980s, the rock band Van Halen had a munchies clause in their concert contracts. One of the items in this clause was about multi-coloured chocolate candies: ““M&M’s (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)”.”
One might assume (the words of Atul Gawande, the surgeon and writer, in “The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right”) that this is an “example of the insane demands of power-mad celebrities.” If we did assume so, we would be wrong.
Atul goes on: “As Roth,” one of the bands lead-singers, “explained in his memoir, Crazy from the Heat, “Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function.” So just as a little test, buried somewhere in the middle of the rider, would be article 126, the no-brown-M&M’s clause. “When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl,” he wrote, “well, we’d line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error….Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.””
Atul points out: “These weren’t trifles….The mistakes could be life-threatening. In Colorado, the band found the local promoters had failed to read the weight requirements and the staging would have fallen through the arena floor.”
The actor Alan Alda, in a warm and wise address, to the 1980 graduating class (which included his daughter) of Connecticut College, suggests that we would do well to “Scrub….off” our assumptions “every once in a while or the light won’t come in.”