Singular Solutions and Complex Problems

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There is an old American Adage about placing a band-aid over a bullet hole. This stems not from any preconceived notions of America and its Wild West Heritage, but from the belief of so many, that “intentions” and “meanings” mean more than the actual results when it comes to helping people out. In essence, the placement of a simple band-aid over the bullet hole is the quintessential representation of the best of intentions allowing people to feel better about themselves while having to accomplish absolutely nothing.

 

There is another old adage about being able to save only one life … or one child or a selection of other recipients through pointless and meaningless assistance. If someone is setting out on a mission, willing to be satisfied with only helping a single individual, they are setting themselves up for failure before they ever begin, and creating limitations for themselves which they will likely never be able to overcome. Again, these are people seeking to feel better about themselves, whose intentions are good, who want to show the world how wonderful they are while never having to accomplish anything of value or meaning.

 

In one final look at “ancient” American proverbs, there is one that states: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practical application. In practical application, there are numerous “real-world variables” that create an insurmountable chasm between theory and practical application”.

 

Such is the nature of the world and the reality we live in. Reality does not care a whit about intentions, emotions or meanings.

 

Intention and Reality

 

The person crossing the street intends only to cross the street. They may be highly elated about the prospect of reaching their favorite coffee shop on the other side of the street, or they could be depressed because their wife left them, took the kids with her and ran over the dog as she left in his brand new pickup truck. Reality does not care what emotional state anyone is in or their intentions. In all likelihood, their only intention is to get across the street to their favorite coffee shop. Maybe they never saw the bus, maybe they were told the bus was there but chose not to care for whatever reason, perhaps they saw the bus and maybe even a familiar driver and thought that surely the bus would stop for them as they crossed the street in front of it. Reality does not care what these people knew or thought they knew. No matter what their intentions may have been, no matter what they may have been thinking and no matter what their emotions were, at the end of the day the reality is that when the bus strikes them, they are dead. Everything else is completely inconsequential once reality rears its ugly head and takes its toll.

 

This is exceptionally relevant as the vast majority (if not all) of the current social assistance and social welfare programs only seek to address individual symptoms without ever addressing the underlying cause(s) or the actual elimination of the problems creating and extending the impoverished conditions of the program “beneficiaries”.

 

Some examples of this can be seen with Section 8 Housing in the United States and other similar programs in other industrialized nations. These housing complexes are often isolated and segregated on “that side of town” or on “the wrong side of the tracks”. The social stigmatization of even having an address in such an area can inhibit the ability of the individual to even be considered for viable employment opportunities. The housing is often provided at little to no cost for the individual and familial recipients, generally reducing the perceived value of the properties to a virtually non-existent nature. Over the course of generations, it achieves the status of an entitlement by the mere means of existence … people are owed that housing merely because they have been born and it becomes a birthright rather than anything earned. Thus, there is no real or perceived value, and subsequently, there is no need for any concern about that property. Once it becomes worn beyond any useful means, a new housing unit will be supplied again, without any real requirements on the part of the recipient.

 

This of course does not even begin to take into account the detrimental social impact on the children who are raised in such environments, or the numerous people who have become afflicted with debilitating diseases or taken up criminal efforts as a result of their impoverished lifestyle. Whoever decided that they could just slap all of the people who have become addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling, often as a direct result of multi-generational poverty, and slap them all together in the same place, was either exceptionally naive or did not really have their best interests at heart. (We know of course, given the great benevolence of our respective governments, that such “solutions” were never undertaken for the sake of political expediency, despite the claims of the late president Lyndon Baines Johnson to the contrary.

 

When it comes to poverty, the root cause is complex and systemic in nature. Unfortunately, much like doctors seeking to cure the symptoms rather than the disease, some well-meaning person will come along and offer a band-aid solution, placing a band-aid over the bullet hole and accomplishing nothing … or nothing good anyhow. The person receiving the band-aid receives a temporary measure of support at best. In short order, the band-aid will be rendered useless and the wound will fester and grow because only one issue, and only a symptom at that, was addressed and relieved, leaving the actual root causes or disease itself, to remain and grow, virtually unchallenged and unaffected. All of the singular solutions in the world will at best, only provide a temporary relief and at worst, will serve only to exacerbate the underlying problems and the overt symptoms.

 

Furthermore, poverty is exceptionally vicious insofar as it creates an environment which allows it to grow and impact others around the impoverished individual or family, even to the extent of adversely impacting children that have not even been born yet. Lacking any financial means, many impoverished families are unable to provide adequate food for their children, much less provide them with all of the requisite tools and the cost of an education. Thus, poverty ensures that it will continue on to the next generation … and the next and the next … ad infinitum. When livestock or other perishable goods are harvested, they must be sold quickly in order to avoid costly losses, often resulting in these goods being sold at greatly discounted rates, leaving the impoverished people still lacking sufficient amounts of foods and greatly reducing their potential to earn enough to improve their median quality of life. These and other symptoms of poverty have to be addressed and resolved, but at the same time, it is necessary to avoid the creation of a dependency class and also to address the root cause in addition to relieving the symptoms.

 

Thus, it is imperative to implement a comprehensive and systemic approach in order to effectively address and relieve the symptoms of poverty and to provide viable and long-term, meaningful solutions designed at getting rid of the root causes of poverty. All of this must also be accomplished without the creation of a dependency class as has resulted from many of the programs implemented under the auspices of “social assistance” or “welfare”. Poor life choices may not necessarily be punished, but they should not be rewarded either. Current levels of social assistance provide financial incentives for a mother to bear children out of wedlock, and more bonuses for more illegitimate children. When this same mother seeks to gain an education utilizing other government assistance programs, they are often forced to pay out of their own pockets for child care and other requisite services that will cost them quite literally more than they have the potential to earn.

 

The decisions of the individual to improve their median quality of life should not only be encouraged, but rewarded wherein it is possible to do so. Thus, the person actively seeking education and/or training should receive additional assistance to provide for the support and care of their children and/or other pressing concerns while they are undergoing their education. Furthermore, these programs should be implemented with a definitive “end-game” or point at which the recipient will be expected (and receive sociological assistance) to become more self-sufficient. If someone wishes to become a professional student, that should be their prerogative, but it should not be the responsibility of society as a whole to provide them with such an opportunity. Neither should it be the burden of society to provide for multiple generations of able-bodied persons who are, by all rights, fully capable of becoming productive and contributing members of society.

 

Socialist Solutions to Social Ills

 

West Virginia used to (and may still) have a Program wherein all of the able-bodied recipients of social welfare were required to work for the State Road Department if they wished to receive a welfare check. While there were a great many jokes about the “five-handled shovel” that would allow the entire crew to rest while only having to purchase one shovel, the fact of the matter was that this program was successful in many different ways. People had every incentive to look for meaningful and gainful employment. Granted, regular … and most notably good paying jobs were very scarce, this program requiring work to draw welfare assistance, gave the recipient an added incentive to actively seek out gainful employment. Furthermore, those that did have to resort to being welfare recipients could still walk with their head held high, knowing that, although their earnings may still have been meager, at least they had earned them, and even the psychological value of such programs should never be overlooked. A great many social ills could be successfully addressed and even wholly rectified with the implementation of similar programs in other areas of life as well.

 

Single mothers with numerous children … a fairly common occurrence in West Virginia, could easily be trained how to properly care for not only their own children, but the children of other recipients of social assistance. These additional parents would then be free to pursue vocational, scholastic or technical education and training without being burdened by added costs that would otherwise prevent such opportunities from being pursued. Able-bodied people could additionally be put to work building schools, libraries, even prisons, or putting together textbooks and other educational resources in bindaries and printing presses and factories and industrial shops. Educational opportunities could be made available to all of these people, preferably based on a unique selection of trades and/or enterprises based on highly specific aptitude batteries to determine where the individual had the best chances for being successful. Minimal standards would have to be met and maintained in order to continue receiving social assistance while pursuing their education. Upon the successful graduation from these courses, the people could then be put to work for the state for a set period of time in order to further assist other impoverished people and to pay off the debts that they had incurred acquiring their education.

 

Likewise, housing should not be isolated and separated on “that side of town” or on “the wrong side of the tracks”, but integrated into “normal” society, allowing for people to interact with people who are already well-adjusted to societal settings and reducing the potential for the social stigma currently associated with living in the bad part of town. This of course, would require yet more social assistance in the form of societal “etiquette” for lack of a better term, and courses in basic budget management, basic banking, food selection and preparation and other basic life skills that many “established” and “normal” people readily take for granted. It is again, naive at best … and most likely merely foolish to believe that a family that has been impoverished for multiple generations, can just be tossed into a new home, free of any responsibility, and to believe that somehow or another they will magically transform into well-adjusted, productive and contributing members of society.

 

Complex, Sustainable, Systemic Solutions

 

When the underlying cause of any problem is complex and systemic in nature, the required effective response will always be a complex and systemic solution. However, it should also be noted that such a system must be sustainable in nature … economically, environmentally and socially … in short, “Systemically Sustainable” or it is destined to fail before it is ever put into place. The American “War on Poverty” is more than fifty years old at the time of this writing, and global programs have been put in place through Non-Governmental Organizations and charitable movements, yet to date, roughly one-half of the population of the world … over three billion people live in abject poverty. (While the UN notes less than two billion people living in “true poverty”, the published numbers are only those who earn less than two US dollars per day) The sheer volume of people living in impoverished conditions, or otherwise considered to be among the underclass citizens of the world, should remove any and all doubt about the complete failure of the current systems that have been put in place. Add to these numbers, the massive number of people who have suffered further from addiction and other socially debilitating afflictions due to the complete lack of hope and other effects of poverty and it should be easy to see that a Systemic solution is ultimately the only possible solution with any real chance for success.

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