The hazards of oversimplification

The Simple life in it's  complexity
The Simple life in it’s complexity

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if everyone lived simply, spoke freely ( not from fear, I mean) and thought highly of high matters. The idea of a perfectly simple solution to everything, including the silver bullet to cure cancer, stems from the fact that taking the time to look into the details is not easy. People would much rather just read the bottom-line. Right from the 30 seconds in the elevator with the CEO of the company ( yes, how indeed will you impress the CEO who has an attention span of 30 s, that also, only because he is trapped), to the client worship ideals that I believe, excuse my simplicity in this region, all business administrative personnel are taught till the point they really don’t want to learn anything else. After all, saying something, well, okay, even if you aim at being half as good as Benedict Cumberbatch, for 30 s is an achievable target. Most people can do it, if they wanted to. At any rate, whether or not the CEO is impressed is not discussed, you only have to impress the Professor, or usually, just your classmates.

I open with Business because after all, that is what runs the economy and that in turn governs the development of science, if not scientific thought. Additionally, no one will actually want the details of why a silver bullet is not coming along any time soon, for cancer. Not ever, actually.

Today I want to write about the duplicity of a simple life. How, similar to the very idea that reading the Bible is enough to know everything about “daily” life – amended from the previous incarnation of being enough to know everything about everything, is the kind of simple stuff that halts progress, incites blind faith and hides the truth and more importantly, the will and the wonder to go looking for it. This is the way that the CEO ( totally unimpressed by the 30 sec analysis, but finding a truly blind follower in Mr. Tie) pretends to take to Mr. Tie and gives him a promotion and a raise. It is because no one can form a dynasty, be it a religious one or a financial one, without blind followers. The simple minded followers who want nothing else but praise and reward and will do anything to maintain such clear, simple goals.

No doubt there is evolutionary gain in complying, to remain within boundaries of rules, laws, man- woman marriages ( because otherwise people will soon marry their sheep, apparently), supporting the “democrats” no matter what their real policies are, hating the communists without knowing what it even means and ad infinitum.

The thing about simple statements sans any details is that they can be twisted very easily to make room for adjustments and implications. Give a broad statement like, the world is going to end one day. Or even better, say something simple like that and then go through some complex cosmological calculations and introduce quantum physics with inbuilt clauses of fragmentation of human morality and increase in sin.  Then anyone, who provides a solution, no matter how much of it is really out there, will be a prophet and will soon have their conglomeration that is ready to jump off a cliff at his calling.

Isn’t it simple to label Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden as traitors and see ‘justice’ prevail by jailing them or worse. It is too complicated to actually go through all the data that was collected by them, proving that under the veil of national security, for one country, all citizens of the world are mere lab rats. Not only that, the national security of that country is also not that sound, after all, the data was stolen, even though it really was not valuable: has not really been used to prevent any act of terror, in the years of its collection. It is quite simple to just take the word of elected officials on how unelected, permanent employees, of clandestine organizations like the NSA only mean the best for the country and its people. After all, why wouldn’t they. Weren’t they taught the same things in school? To comply to rules of law and to serve whoever is paying you?

However, in most every case (except in the case of Snowden, although his cheating was not for personal gain anyway) the ones who cheat, are always the ones who have a higher chance of winning the prize. The prize in this case being power over personal secrets, over all independent thought and conversations, over everyone and anyone. And true, all of us are good law abiding citizens so how does it matter if Big brother’s minions overhear us, once in a while. Except, isn’t it liberty and freedom, that the ancestors of every culture today, fought to keep? Then to make it simple for everyone, the powers that be made rules, to secure their power ( till they lived). It just turns out that such rules have far reaching repercussions, not always very moral.

The act of conforming to rules, perhaps the reward of being called patriotic, or a ‘good’ person is so high and wired deep in the primitive brain regions like the amygdala, since early childhood and early human societies – so to speak- that we would do anything to keep coming back for the reward. Even when someone actually does something blatantly more moral, honest and altruistic. We still take cover under rules of law and the complete unwillingness to actually look into the details. Like the detailed history of what happens to people who are whistle blowers. Even when they are witness to history being made and don’t actually have to go and read a tome.

It is more moral and patriotic to actually protect the government than the people the government was in fact designed and built to protect. Now, if you wanted to say that cancer can be caused increased activity of genes that cause cell proliferation, needed to heal the body from injury or for an active immune system or from random chance that a cells telomeres shortened and the genes that were supposed to cause its death were not activated and it just kept dividing. People would be lost. Give us the bottomline. Well, here it is: God wanted you to have cancer. He gives pain to only those who can take it and he has a plan for you. That is easier to read and understand.

Be true to yourself: that is also a simple statement. But as Snowden, Aaron Swartz and others have found out. That is one simple statement that is the devil to carry out.Who determines what is true? Is there a simple rule to that as well? Ha ha.. As Oscar Wilde said:

The truth is rarely pure and never simple‘. ( Importance of being Earnest, 1895)

So, I entreat people to actually read more from Glen Greenwald and find out about Laura Poitras. People, belonging to the elite class that not only try to see through the simple things, but actually make the truth available for whoever is willing to hear. They belong to the same category as Seymour Hersh ( famous for My Lai Massacre) where again, it was simpler to support anti-communism than real people facing atrocious, dehumanizing treatment.

I know it is hard to decide who to condone and who to call a terrorist. Like, the people who regularly bomb cities and places of worship have no doubt of their “high” moral principles and it is very simple to them, however us, the spectators should not expect that everything in this world will be easy to understand. The only thing to do, is to go beyond simplistic definitions. Other than really simple questions “Is it right to kill civilians or even military personnel of various countries, to satisfy any  imperialistic, oil- hungry, religious, racist, greedy or controlling ideals of any  country’s corporations ( or what was in the past one king’s or church’s need for glory and power)?”  No. It is not right. To kill anyone. It was wrong when Hitler did it, wrong in Honduras, wrong in Iraq and wrong in the Philippines, Wrong in Salem and Wrong in Serbia. Simple. There just isn’t any right cause for war in this day and age when we know the consequences, the plight of women in regions undergoing civil war, the plight of orphans and when we accept that everyone should be  equal. It is not simply carrying out the whims of a race that is superior. Everyone has the right to be treated as human. What is not as simple, is to understand the cause of wars in these regions and prevent it. For that, we need complex understanding of human cultures.

In science, physical concepts are simple. It is the explanation that is complex. Additionally, science is not just about description of a natural phenomenon, it is also about predicting what that means, what we can hope to find once we have a reasonable mechanism of the phenomenon: unearthing mysteries, then solving them. As a simple example, while making the first published periodic table, Mendeleev left many blanks, which he knew would be filled up as more elements were discovered. Likewise for the more complex quarks and leptons which make up the neutrons, protons and electrons- once thought indestructible, until someone predicted the existence of quarks and then technological advances made it possible to find them.

Basically, nothing is simple if you want it to also mean convenient. Whereas, if you want the beauty of simplicity- that is in looking for the truth. Which is only simple in concept. But a ‘simple’ (and convenient) life relegates way too much power to others, who as we all know, cannot be implicitly trusted.


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