Yesterday was the first 20% of a work week. I clocked out on time, and returned home in the daylight to attend to the personal side of my life. I noticed my evening hours were spent much like my daylight hours, trying to solve problems that were of someone else’s making and had grown in size over long periods of time. Only many hours after that, in the depths of slumber, did I realize the similarity between what was happening in these two different worlds. I also argued with someone about who should become the next President; this person and I happen to share the concern about my country’s massive public debt. So you could say there, too, the pattern persists. So that’s three worlds, three sets of problems, all alike.
The common theme I’m seeing is lots of people who are willing to take the responsibility of saying — “do not attack the problem from that direction there because it is not my vision that it be solved that way.” That much responsibility and no more. They are not willing to take the responsibility of saying — “it would be preferrable for you to stand over there doing nothing, compared to solving the problem in a way contrary to the way I had in mind.” But some variant of that, is exactly what comes out of their mouths. They hear of a course of remedy and they want it abandoned before it has been begun. They act like it would do some actual damage, but they can form no coherent explanation of how this would be. They counsel toward the status quo without actually counseling toward the status quo.
And so in all three cases a problem is created and allowed to snowball as no steps are taken to solve it, or the progress shown in solving it, is insufficient compared to the rate at which the problem continues to grow. In all three cases, there is a great abundance of ideas about what people should not do and a scarcity of productive ideas about what people should do. Nor has it escaped my notice that out of these vast stockpiles of ideas-about-what-not-to-do, many of those ideas — a clear majority — are centered around not a what but a who. Such-and-such a person needs to go away…or become ineffectual…be dismissed. It’s as if everyone wants to say “I have a vision of how this problem is to be solved, and my vision involves an observation after it’s solved that Person X was not part of the solution, therefore Person X should not be allowed to contribute.”
I suppose I could learn to accept that. But there’s one sticky issue: It has nothing to do with solving the problem.
Actually, there’s a second sticky issue. These people who insist the situation would be improved if certain targeted other-people become ineffective or marginalized or go away or “stop doing that” — since they’re so emphatic about this but so deficient in ideas that would have a chance at solving or mitigating the problem — reveal that they’re not interested in solving the problem.
I notice something else about these people who do not want designated/targeted other people to be doing anything. In many cases, it appears to me that they’re in a process of accumulating influence for themselves, when they already have much. Not that they possess dictatorial powers, nor are they in pursuit of any such thing. But it seems to me when you possess sufficient influence that large numbers of other people know who you are, and are inclined to respond to your recommendations, this power has to be grown or else given up. Or, that there is a perception it works this way. Embiggen the power or lose it altogether.
Now, I do not mean to say all these people made the problems in the first place. But it does seem to be generally true that the people who arrive later on to attack the problem, think more clearly about it. The late-comers work with the luxury of knowing, at least in the early stages, that they cannot be blamed. And so they investigate the causes with no incentive for covering up any meaningful facts. At the same time, they know they will be blamed if they fail to provide a constructive solution…and, in any case, are hated immediately by the people who are not newcomers. So their natural incentive is to find a solution.
You can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it, as they say. And so, it becomes rather unavoidable that one day, the “stop-doing-that” people are told to — stop doing that — by someone who actually knows what he’s talking about. And all Holy Hell breaks loose.
This is a best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is the stop-doing-that people remain in charge and no new people are brought in.
I’m seeing a list of twenty-nine big problems that aren’t getting solved (hat tip to FB friend Larry). Well, twenty-eight actually, that last one is rather silly. I cannot help but think about this, yet again. Just read through those twenty-eight. They’re all problems that have been growing for awhile, not getting solved and not getting smaller. Now ask yourself: What has anyone done in these twenty-eight problems to embrace the “can’t solve problem with the same mindset” mindset? Where’s the hairpin turn, or promise of a hairpin turn, or promise of turns that add up to a hundred eighty degrees?
I see Jon Stewart has made something of an ass out of himself. How did he do it? Two ways: He peddled some bullshit about Fox News viewers being misinformed; and, he’s the Naked Emperor now, everyone can see he’s been dishing out snarky snippets for years, hiding under the “I’m just a comedian” defense when he’s called out on his crap. So for many years now, he’s been the kind of person I’m talking about. Stewart’s “humor” seeks to marginalize certain designated, targeted people. To make them go away. And no, he doesn’t have any responsibility for making the problems better nor does he assume any…he’s just a comedian.
For generations the teachers’ unions have been telling us they need more money “put into education” and we have obliged them, as the knowledge demonstrated by our public school grads has deteriorated more and more and more. Now comes a report that says the states least accommodating to this are showing the best educational results (hat tip to FB friend Arnold). It draws on a multitude of studies to demonstrate this, and the message is clear: Yet another problem that hasn’t been solved, only exposed to cosmetic indulgences, which are supposed to look like attempts to solve.
And then there is Barack Obama. Where to begin? The man is so much more popular, personally, than any one of His policies. And how could this not be the case? How could His policies not be wretchedly unpopular? The unemployment rate is officially tracked, and the under-employment rate is not — both are known, though, and both are unacceptably high. It’s only too obvious what is causing them. But Obama’s policies are not pondered in public and don’t appear to be thought out too well in private. They just sort of pop up. “I’ve decided X.” Everything that goes wrong, we’re supposed to blame on George Bush to prove we aren’t racists. But if you’re Obama, how do you go about not looking like the problem, when you pop up with these bad policies at random times throughout the week, month, year? Like a Pez dispenser. Just because you’re a cream-coffee-color Pez dispenser, doesn’t mean you get a pass! Looking for work is not a fun experience in any situation, but it is a whole lot less fun when the jobs aren’t there and aren’t coming.
The point is: I think we have a good bearing on how these big problems are created. They don’t materialize overnight; they grow in stages. And I’m afraid all of western civilization has become rather adept at growing them, like the body of a cancer patient in the late stages is adept at growing tumors. I hope that metaphor doesn’t apply in too many ways, but at least in some ways, it fits well.
We have these people going through the motions of coming up with good ideas, when all they’re really doing is seeking influence. And they’re not seeking new influence. They’ve settled on the idea that they do have power other people do not have, and they must grow that power or else lose it. And so they come up with ideas that might look like problem-solving ideas, when in actuality they’re just ideas to consolidate and expand power. Then, they come up with ideas that might look like problem-solving ideas when they’re really blame-diverting ideas. That last one comes from an obvious necessity.
I’ve got a feeling if all the ideas carefully disguised as problem-solving ideas, were really intended to solve problems instead of to do something else, we’d all be in a lot better shape.