On a whole range of issues — from racism to anti-Semitism to gun violence to global warming — there is a strange and quite frankly dangerous tendency among certain people to think that solutions are the answer to our problems. And sure, maybe in a place like California or Massachusetts, solutions might fly as solutions to problems. But for the rest of the country? I don’t think so.
I’m just a regular guy, so when someone comes up to me and says, “Let’s solve a terrible problem,” I can’t help but think, Woah, let’s pump the brakes, buddy. After all, are we even sure there’s a problem even though there is one? This whole “problem” business kind of sounds like a conspiracy, honestly, and I only believe in conspiracies if they reinforce what I already assumed without evidence.
There are so many difficulties with solutions. First of all, they require people to explain things to other people, and people don’t like to be talked down to. They prefer to be taken advantage of.
Second, there is a risk that solutions might work for people I don’t understand. And then what? What about me? Solutions are supposed to work exceptionally well for people like me and not so well for other people. That way, I can get so accustomed to the solution that I begin to assume it was always there, and then I quickly forget who proposed the solution and vote against that person. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.
Solutions are like eating food when you’re hungry. Sure, they “work,” but at what cost?
Some people spend their whole lives trying to correctly describe problems so that people with power can address those problems with solutions, but what those people forget is that there isn’t an appetite for solutions in this country. There is an appetite for group consolidation through the creation of us-vs.-them narratives. People tend to assume narratives create empathy, but honestly what I’ve found is that narratives are just as likely to encourage antagonism. Anyway, what I was trying to get at is that there is one category of solutions that people want: ones that misdiagnose the problem.
Call me crazy, but where I live the goal is not to come up with solutions; the goal is to reframe the problem so that it seems like it’s a specific group’s fault who I can then blame and become enraged by.
The town where I live is struggling to figure out how to grow in a way that is both economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable, the basic solution of which is to create denser neighborhoods near the downtown core and near public transit hubs. But see, there’s that word again. Solution. Solutions, in this case, tend to make people very, very mad, and we all need to unite behind the data, I mean behind anger at something that hasn’t even happened yet.
Or let’s take the example of gun violence. This is a thorny, thorny issue — so thorny, in fact, that solutions are incredibly obvious. We need to be especially wary of obvious solutions, because these are the ones that are most likely going to lead to measurable progress. And who wants that, besides people who don’t want to get killed? On this issue, in particular, solutions need to be replaced by macho a-historical nonsensical slogans.
Some believe that people experiencing homelessness should be given shelter. I believe they should be given a strong talking to, especially if they are children.
There are a lot of ways to define patriotism, but I think patriotism has something to do with love for a country that has profoundly lost its way. And when your ship has lost its way, you need to do your part by ripping apart the sails and throwing your compass into the sea.
I sometimes think about what sort of way of life we are leaving for the next generation, and I can’t help but be proud of the fact that when solutions were staring us in the face, we put on a sleep mask and said, “Not today.”
I dream of a United States that, instead of thinking of solutions to problems, instead implements terrible policies that create bigger problems and then sources those problems to people who are not “us,” narrowly defined.
Imagine there is a wolf in your house. Yes, on the one hand, a solution to that problem would be to get the wolf out of your house. But wouldn’t a better response be to ignore the wolf and let it rule your domestic life?