We know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We often fail to follow this simple geometrical instruction. Why? It is because of the possible temptations that direct us to routes that are not straight. Niccolo Machiavelli said, "Men are so simple and so ready to obey present necessities, that one who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived." Our desires are always greater than our necessities, and we are so eager to fulfill our desires that we forget whether we are following a line or a curve. Economic compulsions are one of the reasons that lead us to the wrong paths. We come across situations where there is a possibility of making bad money. Many of us can't resist such temptations. We like to put in the least effort to achieve the maximum. There is nothing wrong if one follows the law of least effort. It gels well with the concept of following a straight line. In the majority of cases, we get cheated because we want to follow shortcuts. We are willing partners of the cheats. Situational contingencies often lead us to behave inconsistently. John Galsworthy said, "Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem." Many crooked guru mantras are floating in the market to lead us to follow not-so-straight paths. Robert H Thouless lists a few: Use emotionally toned words and gestures (often seen in TV reality shows) to get undue attention, emphasize the trivial and ignore the important to let down an opponent, contradict and misrepresent an opponent's position by diverting his attention to irrelevant issues, point out the logical correctness of the form of an argument whose premises contain doubtful or untrue statements of fact, use of pseudo-technical jargon to confidently present false credentials, use questions to draw out damaging admissions (mostly used by legal practitioners), angering an opponent deliberately so that he argues badly, and so on. Creating controversy is another kind of crooked thinking. Arthur Schopenhauer's strategies include: claim victory despite the defeat, interrupt, break, divert the dispute, meet the opponent with a counter-argument as bad as his, make him exaggerate his statement, appeal to authority rather than reason, and so on. Misconceptions about ourselves and the world surrounding us lead us to the wrong paths. It is not possible to teach a crab to walk straight. So either beware of the crabs and if that is not possible, learn the ways of the crabs. One should know the rules of the game. If you know the rules, it doesn't mean you should apply them at the first opportunity. If you know the rules, others will not find it easy to try them on you. It is also handy to remember that straight-line solutions are not possible for problems that are larger than logic.

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© 2017 by Dr Purnendu Ghosh