Symptoms or causes

Winter was at its peak and people exchanged diverse germs like good neighbors so everyone would have interesting biological strains to bring to office meetings, communal doorknobs, and bathroom fixtures.

I overheard a father telling his young son about the limits of medicine:

“You see, all cold medicine does is treat the symptoms. It can help reduce a stuffy nose or slow a runny nose, but doesn’t address the cause.”

symptoms_or_causesHis explanation didn’t take the next step to indict modern society for the same sleight of hand, but perhaps the seed was planted. Maybe one day the child would realize that our proposed solutions are just efforts to superficially hide problems and mask their consequences. It might stem from popular political ideology, mental laziness, psychological denial, or some other defective reasoning.

Its advocates think that keeping negative truth from being visible will make people believe that all is healthy and settled, and everyone will get along without a desire to find solutions, though unchecked problems remain. No plausible theory is proposed, just a well intentioned papering over the fractures to avoid exposing what lurks beyond.

If a problem appears, is it really a solution to merely address perception of that problem? Can it even be considered solved until its cause has become prevented or at least significantly diminished as a result of comprehensive understanding and direct action?

Addressing causes after they have occurred in an attempt to erase their appearance does not retroactively pull back their emergence, or arrest their pattern and circumstances of emerging. If a street has its litter cleaned once, that is a good first step for repairing damage incurred, but the problem of litter remains open until one finds a way to stop littering from occurring (not more laws or increased severity, but reviving a relationship with society and land, or demanding better people take the place of failures doing the best they can.)

If society is not thorough, we end up with lies and fraud as our standard method for problem solving. That might sound good and fool someone who doesn’t know any better, but is a crazy non-answer of avoidance living between superstition and crazy religious ritual, and is sure to fail because it isn’t concerned with causation or reason.

To have a functional society, we need to avoid making a virtue out of proposed answers that fail to address actual causes.

9 Comments

  1. crow says:

    Bell curve. Sine wave. Ballistic trajectory.
    Everything has its period of ascendancy. It goes up.
    Reaching a point of balance, it hovers, weightless, momentarily.
    And then the long decline sets in.
    Entropy takes over.
    As with everything, there is its paradoxical inverse.
    The same process takes place in reverse.
    Endlessly.

    Breath in, breath out.

    1. Civilizations form when people can distinguish cause from symptoms. Thus they build great things, where others would merely occupy them. Once that inertia passes, decline is inevitable, and all that can be done is to rebuild while holding the mess at bay until the useful idiots self-destruct and can be replaced by people with souls.

  2. Symptoms and origins, causes and effects. No one seems to think this way anymore.

    1. Wayne Earl says:

      Also, no rights without responsibility, and only violence or the threat of violence to hold them.

      As the son of a career military man, from a family that has served in every generation prior to my own, this lesson was so obvious that it was never directly taught – as a cub scout on my first train trip to West Berlin, translating graffitti from the Wall into English was a pretty good indicator of why my dad would disappear for a few weeks a couple times a year.

  3. unkempt says:

    A big issue, I think, is a lack of appreciation for history. People love science and statistics, right? History is the laboratory of civilization and we can see the results of certain societal paradigms, and we can see what worked well and what didn’t. Its okay for things to change over time, but its a proven bad idea to run away from what worked in the past.

    1. It’s not only that people do not appreciate history, it’s that they are actively biased against any time frame larger than their own attention spans.

      1. unkempt says:

        Sadly accurate. I see so many people who can’t even connect the dots in their own lives, what use lamenting that they can’t connect the dots across the ages? Its too bad no amount of instruction or brute force can fix such ingrained defects.

  4. Eric says:

    I was watching the news yesterday about how Hilary Clinton is stepping down as Secretary of State. Of course, she needs the time and space to prepare for her 2016 presidential bid. Then I got to thinking about Marco Rubio’s posturing on the whole immigration issue, and of course he is ready to take on the mantle of the darling of the Republican party. Not that this is anything new, but what hit me with a deep sense of clarity is how much politics has become a game where people are willing to give away and promise whatever it takes for them to achieve their own self-centered agenda. It often gets cloaked in posturing that it is all for the greater good, but mostly it appears as pondering to whatever constituencies can get a person elected, and in the end getting elected these days seems more of an ego trip than a true desire to serve. I cannot see how this will end well, as we pander to the short-term vision of the masses. I still hold belief that we are going to be an overcrowded balkanized nation. But we got to stroke a lot of egos on out way down didn’t we? And doesn’t Hollywood often do the same? Who care about long-term viability if I can appease myself from life’s existential realities. I mean, once I am gone what do I care?

    Really, in a way, are we not just creating a massive falsehood so that those that can manipulate it can feel a sense of ease and calm in an otherwise stormy reality? Of course, I think that ease and calm may only be short lived, but then again those with the cash can insulate themselves, and those without the IQ or foresight to see past tomorrow can live in la-la ignorance. I don’t have the answers, but I wish we’d deal more with reality and speak a bit more truth in the country and world. Instead it seems like escapism and distractions, and they are coming from those, individuals and institutions, that we were brought up to believe we could trust. And by institutions, I am talking about more than political institutions, but also things like the traditional media outlets that seem to pander to pop culture escapism and popular “memes” that don’t bide well for long term outcomes. It seems like we have created a circus show out of reality sometimes.

    1. Eric says:

      One additional thought, but it is kind of like a dysfunctional family where family members are willing to take others down with them as long as it softens their on fall. In the case of out current politics and culture, it isn’t always that those who benefit are on their way down so much, but they don’t mind elevating their own self at the expense of others. Basically there is a whole lot of selfishness going on.

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