Age of Unenlightenment.

August 10, 2015

Ever wonder why the human race remains incapable of solving its major dilemmas?
Hunger. Addiction. War. Pestilence. Racism. Tyranny. Xenophobia.
It's not as if these are recent problems. Most have plagued us since the beginning. Our Neolithic brethren could be violent, hungry and xenophobic. And still, today, we remain tethered to the same ills.
Why?
A couple years ago, The Cincinnati Enquirer ran an article I wrote. The piece discussed the idea that our debt issues threaten to saddle our children, and theirs, with a lifetime of difficult financial circumstances. I essentially wrote that our politicians are doing the exact opposite of "paying it forward."
Following the article's publication, the comments posted on The Enquirer's web site, as well as those that arrived via email, were indicative of why our politicians are not inclined to directly contend with today's problems. We have very little understanding as to where the causes of our problems begin, and the effects of those causes take over.
"Two wars and tax cuts are responsible for our problems..."
"We are witnessing the largest wealth disparity the world has ever known..."
"We have to spend more to escape these horrible economic circumstances..."
"I'll bet you think that big corporations bear none of the blame, right?"
Each of those has some validity. Yet none are entirely true. Read between the lines and one finds only talking points. Messages that convince the electorate to accept the inescapability of our dilemmas. None having much, if anything, to do with real, underlying problems.
We are obsessed with effects. With results. Yet blind to cause and condition.
Dr. David Hawkins, director of The Institute for Advanced Theoretical Research, wrote a book entitled, Power vs. Force. Therein, Hawkins provides some insight into this very human dynamic:
"Society constantly expends its efforts to correct effects instead of causes, which is one reason why the development of human consciousness proceeds so slowly."
Hawkins explains that man's lack of self awareness is his biggest detriment. We are stuck with a seemingly permanent lack of knowledge concerning ourselves. Accordingly, we rarely transcend cause and effect in such a way that we identify the definitive answers to our problems. To do so, we would have to identify and treat the very conditions that led to cause and effect.
Hawkins teaches that we are almost incapable of true self evaluation. Of realistic self appraisal. Therefore, many societal choices are made as the result of "expediency, statistical fallacy, sentiment, political or media pressure, and personal prejudice and vested interest. Crucial decisions affecting the lives of everyone on the planet are made under conditions that virtually guarantee failure."
Problems with obesity? Get lap-band surgery!
Problems with drug addiction? Go to jail!
Problems with poverty? Re-elect a politician who did nothing last term!
Meanwhile, politicians run talking points on a loop until you can recite them in your sleep. No concern for the probability of achieving anything.
Politicians realize that many people do not fully grasp the issues. The average Joe has four hours per night, squeezed in between work and sleep, with which to spend with family. White papers and The Wall Street Journal are not priorities. So, politicians - grasping this general lack of  understanding regarding the data and big picture - simply tell people what they want to hear. Though it means little, translates to less, and results in nothing.
So, our problems worsen. Even as technology improves. And the quality of life continues to improve around the world in spite of ourselves. Every year we feed, clothe and provide medical treatment to wider numbers.
Still, politicians focus on the effects instead of conditions. Attacking many of the true vestiges of human progress. Because we permit them to do so. Reward them with return trips to Washington. Post-political careers as lobbyists.
Why can't we stop focusing on effects and begin treating causes? Begin identifying the conditions that ail us? That hold us back. Make us poorer. More desperate. More divisive.
Next November, we will face the same cadre of empty talking points that we're provided year after year. Democrats and Republicans, realizing their firmly established political duopoly, will attempt to divide us along party lines using the same insolvable, headline-grabbing issues they've trotted out since the 1940s. Should a viable third-party candidate appear, they'll align their vast resources to tar and feather her. Much like they did Ross Perot in 1992. Even as he was the only candidate touting any original ideas.
One day, perhaps we'll begin to select candidates for their ideas. Commit to looking for a granular bit of original thinking and the seeming wherewithal to deliver it. Instead of simply accepting whomever the two major parties hold out as their inevitable frontrunner. Someone, standing against the tide of our D.C. duopoly, proposing big picture solutions, instead of worn-burlap talking points tested on multiple focus groups.
When you see political ads that attack a candidate's checkered past? Turn away. Subliminal, political fallacy masquerading as substance. We all make mistakes. This makes us human. Who would desire anyone less to lead us? And yet, we've been conditioned to recoil from anyone appearing to harbor prior faults. From anyone not seeming to fit our political blueprint for a life of service. Even when that blueprint has never amounted to any real solutions, uplifted constituents or enlightened prescriptions.
Hawkins once said, "The advance of truth doesn't necessarily bring tranquil waters. In fact, it can disturb things for a while. You now have a new paradigm, and inherent in it is the downfall of the old."
When we finally adopt a paradigm fixated on treating society's root problems instead of painting over its superficial effects, we will witness a cacophony of howling denigrations, as those who have fed off the previous era's lack of progress fight tooth and nail for its return. But, if society remains committed to its enhancement, those fighting its progress will eventually wither. Leaving open the path to progress for those strong enough to commit.
Treating effects instead of conditions is like pouring water into the throat of a drowning man. Perpetuates the conditions from which we're suffering. Leaves us no more enlightened than yesterday. Or hundreds of years ago.
We must solve the causes of our problems. And stop treating effects. This will adversely impact many of today's political power structures. And they will strain against it. Election cycle after election cycle. But, only then will we begin to see real progress. Not towards the uplifting of individuals. But towards the betterment of mankind.

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