We are in the age of the ‘fixer,’ – I have a problem, someone fix it for me. From wanting a coffee, to the lawn not growing fast enough, people now expect quick and simple solutions to quick and simple problems, and that’s fair enough – there’s no point in over complicating things that don’t need to be.

But just like mould on cheese, and Donald Trump’s popularity, this phenomenon has taken on a life of it’s own. Now, we expect simple solutions to complex problems, which of course is the equivalent of wanting all your groceries in one bag, but not wanting that bag to be heavy.
In politics, we expect to be handed a list of simple solutions, and those solutions don’t need to have any detail at all, simply words that hint at an easy fix – repair the economy, improve education, make health care cheaper, get things moving.
This bizarre attitude has even found its way into complex social issues, such as the wealth gap between rich and poor and how to combat terrorism.
With regards to terrorism, all we want now is a head to be chopped off – tell me who us at fault so that we can hate them and send someone to kill them. Immigrants you say? We’ll stop immigration, problem solved. Anyone who presents statistics and generalised implications is overcomplicating things. “Red Tape!” we all scream. “Down with the bureaucrats!”
The wealth gap, possibly one of the most challenging social issues in modern history, often involving generations of sacrifice, benchmarked against modern financial issues and social inequality, just needs to be fixed – after all, it’s not fair.
The problem is, information is now easily accessible and generally dumbed down for the internet. As a result, we have very smart people saying very stupid things that can be easily misconstrued and translated from generalised comment to extremist doctrine.
A historical example of this lies in the tragic case of Friedrich Nietzsche, the author, and philosopher whose teachings were one of the cornerstones of Nazi party doctrine in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s. The National Socialists cherry-picked certain comments made by Nietzsche and used him as one of the legitimisers of their racist ideologies. Nietzsche as a polarising, yet respected figure was important to the Third Reich, because Hitler something other politicians seem to be learning now – simplicity, combined authority equals a powerful narrative.
The current issues in the United States, including a Republican candidate who has yet to demonstrate any real knowledge with regards to policy, or even of the boundaries of Presidential power, can be related to an entire country’s obsession with simplification. Many pundits, including the left-wing author Michael Moore, are now saying a Trump Presidency is all but assured. Part of the reason for this, is what many see as his greatest weakness – he doesn’t say anything of substance, but rather plays a series of emotional cards and then leaves the table. In other words, simplicity with political authority.
Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have attempted to point out this shortfall, but it ends up sounding like the bureaucrats defending paperwork, or the invisible “system”, protecting itself from “outsiders.”
Simplification should be treated with the same disdain as extreme fundamentalism – because it is the same. It takes issues which require analysis, forethought, and consideration, and seemingly solves them with a copy and paste ethos. It also creates invisible enemies that we hate, but can’t name. The rich, the establishment, terrorists, the right wing and the left wing are all terms used to demonise a perceived group of people that must surely huddle in a dark room once a fortnight for tea and evil.
The issue is, identifying people by a single characteristic is the definition of bigotry, an oversimplification of a person – which enables us to know exactly who to dislike, regardless of any saving graces. In other words, “You may be a Nobel Prize winning physicist, but you’re an immigrant first.” Again, an ethos adopted by a certain Austrian in Germany during the 1930’s.
Simplification is usually combatted with complexity, but this ends up sounding like a parent telling a child that they can’t do something, and when asked replying, “Because I said so.”
In order to overcome false simplification, the ideal tool is specific implication. For example, rather than combating Trump’s Mexican Wall, with the economic relationship the US has with Mexico, the cost of the wall, or how the nature of the geography between the US and Mexico makes building a complete wall all but impossible, a far better argument would be –
“It will cost $30billion,which Mexico won’t pay because they don’t have to, and they can’t afford it, and it will be added to the national debt, resulting in a tax hike of around $10 per month for you.”
The argument moves on to whether the tax is worth it – but the conversation regarding the wall is over, a tax conversation is far less interesting – but far more relevant.
Powerful, specific and meaningful implications can destroy simplification where it stands. But simplification is seductive, take for example, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim.”
Good point, not true – but it sounds great.
Less than 10% of terrorist attacks over the last 5 years have been committed by Muslims. In Europe, it’s even lower, which boggles the mind when you consider the media coverage, and herein lies the rub – simplification sells. It appeals to our need to know who the monster under the bed is, who ruined the economy and why electricity is so expensive. We all want to see and be able to fight the bad guys, but often there simply isn’t one.
When we oversimplify we create a bad guy, in our lack of knowledge we give power to groups and people who are doing nothing more than pitching rhetoric. We make ourselves stupid by expressing opinions that we don’t completely understand, because we haven’t taken the time to learn, and we strive for consistency, by never changing our mind, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”