wholepeace

Just Do Something, Anything — except solve the problem.

In No Particular Path on February 27, 2022 at 10:28 am

The climate crisis is worsening, so we debate whether to pass a carbon tax or just keep recycling.  Should we go with wind power, solar, or thermal?  Maybe we should go back to building big dams.  Nah, let’s just call fossil fuels like natural gas “transitional,” and discuss the possibilities of “clean coal.”

Overt racism and misogyny are reenergized.  Let’s make a mixed-race woman Vice-President.  We’ll appoint an African American woman to the Supreme Court.  Nah, how about we just stop our kids from reading or talking about these things.  Also, let’s make sure they don’t see any of it on television.

Our LGBTQ+ youth are committing suicide at an alarming rate.  Let’s set up a hotline.  Or we could just make being trans illegal.

The country’s wealth gap is widening and the middle class is disappearing.  Let’s raise the minimum wage inadequately, let’s increase taxes tentatively on the super wealthy.  Or let’s just promote exciting stories about billionaires doing exciting things with their obscene wealth; like trying to end a disease somewhere or grow food somewhere else.  Or something really exciting, like building their own space ships and making even more money charging other super-rich people millions of dollars for space-tourism adventures.

Pick a problem. Any problem.  Now slip it back into the deck.  And is this your card?  The one that says, “All right.  Let’s . . . do . . . well . . . something.  Surely there’s a law we can pass, someone we can give an honor to, or a day or a week or a month we can spend talking about good stuff peripherally related to it.  Is there someone we can bomb?”  Or is it this one, with the picture of the ostrich looking for a hole to put its head in?  And the holes are labelled things like “ban it,” “oppress it,” “deny its existence,” and “call it socialist.”

We are most certainly a more polarized citizenry than I can remember our being in my lifetime.  Far too many of us are living at the extremes, and the things we want to do, believe we need to do, defy compromise.  But the fundamental problem isn’t our divided society, it’s something we all seem to agree on, though we may not realize it.

We prefer actions over solutions.

Solutions are hard.  Actions are easy.  Solutions can be expensive.  Actions can be cheap.  Solutions take time and patience.  Actions are quick and we can say we did something right away.  Solutions require all, or nearly all, of us to be part of them.  Actions can be done by those few people we elect to do those things so we don’t have to worry about them, or by those who want to do them.

So, we eschew solutions to our problems in favor of an action here, an action there; like taking one lick every few years at a lollipop, thinking we’ll eventually get to the special treat in the center.  Or our kids will.   Or their kids.  As long as we, and they, can keep licking.

And we think it’s a virtue.  Compromise and patience are always good things.  Better to do something than nothing.  And there is some truth in that.  Each extreme sees their actions as doing something good.  And the things we may do aren’t necessarily bad things to do.  Some of them make a real positive difference in people’s lives.  Maybe other people’s lives, or maybe just our own.  But they make a difference.

Allow me to interject here, that I am a progressive, and I have some very strong opinions about which actions are doing good and which are causing unconscionable harm.  I have debated these things elsewhere, and will continue to do so.  For the moment, though, I want to focus specifically on solutions versus actions.

Within the political divisions currently playing out, the differences in our actions have, themselves, become destructive, even deadly.  Now, more than ever, we need a larger plan.  We need to be working more comprehensively on solutions, not just chipping away at our problems on one side and trying to bury them on the other.

I have said before that there are no isolated incidents.  There are no problems that exist without context.  Like our natural world, our personal, social, economic, and political realities are an ecological system in which everything is connected.  The wealth gap, for example, is not simply a problem of our capitalist economic system.  It exists within a context of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, sexual and gender bias, religious intolerance and self-righteousness, white male privilege, and the destructive exploitation of the natural environment.  That isn’t even close to an exhaustive list.

And the effects are reciprocal.  Racism isn’t a separate problem that can be solved separately.  The climate crisis cannot be resolved in isolation from the economic imbalances or racial prejudices.  You see abortion as a problem?  You cannot ignore poverty, ignorance, racism, or misogyny.

This is what has been behind ideas such as the Green New Deal.  This is what we can learn from critical race theory (the real thing, not the bastardized versions being promoted on the right).  This is why we need science and the arts and history and philosophy, all of these, as part of the discussion.

We do need to prioritize, to triage, of course.  We do need to see that this will take time.  But we need to start seeing everything we do as part of a larger plan, a comprehensive solution that looks beyond the current actions and imagines a better world.  And our actions need to be larger, bolder.  We need persistence as well as patience.  We need courage to tackle the hard work, commitment to spend the necessary resources, the wisdom to see that the solutions will never be just about us, about what we will gain individually or group by group.  Patience isn’t license to procrastinate, it’s being willing to take the time to do it right.  Compromise, properly employed, isn’t about finding some imaginary middle between two extremes, it’s about being willing to see that there can be no solution that will not require something of us that we do not yet want to give.

It is way past time to stop taking actions, and start finding solutions.

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