Good morning Rebels, and welcome back to my life.
So we all know I’m a big fan of the vlogbrothers, and one thing the vlogbrothers talk about a lot is complexity.
Complexity is—surprise surprise—a complex subject, but John Green best sums up his argument with a statement that’s almost a catch phrase by this point: Truth resists simplicity.
To understand other people and the factors that shape our society, we must take into account the many circumstances that led us to where we are.
This can be a healthy attitude to have, especially in academics, and can certainly instill an empathy for other people.
But I find myself worrying that this is too academic—and perhaps, ultimately, too privileged.
And I only say privileged because by their own admission, it sometimes stops the vlogbrothers from speaking out about societal problems because they’re too invested in the topic.
Thinking complexly is useful for studying things, especially after the fact as in history—but I think we sometimes spend too much time studying problems and too little time doing anything about them.
And I think that in certain contexts, simplicity can be a powerful tool for solving problems by isolating a key factor that will help.
If someone comes into the emergency room with a sliced artery, you can study what led to the bleeding artery, or you can, you know, sew up the artery and save their life. And our society has many bleeding arteries that need to be sewn up.
There will of course be many aspects to any big, societal problem, and perhaps in trying to solve one of those aspects you might choose the wrong one.
But if you only ever STUDY the problem, it will never be SOLVED.
Here’s an example I think about a lot: around the world, millions of people die every single year due to a lack of proper healthcare, and I’m not talking about American healthcare where everything just costs a ton.
I’m talking about countries where ten percent of women still die in childbirth, where ebola can kill tens of thousands of people or more every month.
And there is one major problem common to a lot of these places: a lack of clean water. Without that resource, dehydration and lack of sterilization contribute to the deaths of many, many people.
So with a simple goal: provide clean water to as many people in developing countries as possible—you can create an organization like water.org.
The solutions for each area will be diverse, and a lot of complex problem-solving happens on the ground, but it all starts with a simple objective: give people access to clean water.
With human rights violations, we can go on and on studying the factors that contribute to slavery, or genocide, or racism.
That means that while African-Americans form only 12% of our population, they form 33% of our police victims.
Now I’ll follow that up with a caveat that this IS a best estimate, because the police have failed to comply with an order from the Department of Justice years ago to track and compile information on police killings.
But that data is enough to go on if we want to formulate a solution—and the solution may be complex, but the BIG FAT PROBLEM is simple to understand.
So should we fail to speak out about this issue because we haven’t thought about it complexly enough, or should we sew up the bleeding artery?
A hundred and fifty years ago, some people in this country recognized that slavery was a problem. A war was fought, a law was passed, and slavery was mostly ended in America.
The solution was imperfectly carried out and cost many lives. And there have been many problems since, big problems that we have not handled well.
But ending slavery was the right thing to do—a simple answer for a simple problem. It didn’t make the world perfect, but it did make it better.
Solutions will rarely be simple. But sometimes there are big problems, that are simple to understand, and it seems more effective to me to just confront it.
Thank you for watching, Rebels, and I will see you tomorrow. Maybe. Byyye.