Thursday, March 24, 2011

Easy Answers

We all look for easy answers in life, but rarely find them.

Easy Answers.  Our politicians promise them.  People selling you stuff on the TeeVee claim they have them.  But in reality, they don't exist.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to monitor your calorie intake, exercise more, and this takes a lot of time, energy, determination and hard work.  That's the complicated and unpopular answer no one wants to hear.

What you wanted to hear is that I have a pill to sell you that will cause you to look like a Greek God (or Goddess) without any effort on your part.

Sorry, such a pill does not exist, and never will.

In fiances, the same is true - creating wealth means spending less than you make, paying off debts, and exerting financial discipline.  It can take years - decades even - to get out of debt, accumulate wealth, and get your financial house in order.  Most of us spend our whole lives trying to do this.

What you wanted to hear was that there is a seminar you can attend to learn about "The Wealth System"  and if you send me $499 I can make you a ga-billionaire in no time flat.

Sorry, no such "system" exists, and it never will.

The housing market tanks, Wall Street implodes, and the economy goes bust.  People want answers!  Who did this to us?  There must be one person or a goup of people we can blame - the Wall Street Fat Cats, the Obama Administration - somebody!

And of course, the reality was, we all have some part to play in the economic downturn, whether we spend more than we made, signed specious loan agreements on houses we could not afford, or we were so irrationally exuberant about our stock portfolios our our housing values that we didn't see that such double-digit gains were not sustainable for long.

An oil drilling platform explodes in the Gulf, spilling massive amounts of oil.  We want to know who is responsible and the Justice Department is heading a criminal investigation to toss the "bad guys" in jail.  We want the name of the person who did it!

The reality is, of course, parked in your driveway.  Your demand for oil as an energy source, along with that of 330 million other Americans, plus billions more people worldwide, has meant that oil companies are drilling in all sorts of places.  Not only are accidents possible, but they are statistically inevitable.  Yes, maybe someone was negligent in that particular spill - trying to cut costs by taking wild risks.

But then again, aren't YOU the one who whines and bitches every time gas goes up 10 cents a gallon?  The idea that 330 million people could be responsible is too far-fetched for most of us.  No, it has to be the "fault" of one person or a small group of persons.  We find them, we can have a lynching party.

But life is not that simple.

Why is it we want simple answer to complex problems?  Well, the answer is not one we like to think about, as it dredges up a whole lot of Ugly that is part of our human psyche.

We all want scapegoats to blame for our troubles.  It is classic weak thinking of course.  But people want to be told that events are not "their fault" and that "but for" the actions of one or more key players, everything would be hunky-dory.

So, you can scapegoat a minority group, whether they be German Jews or Illegal Mexicans, and claim that they are the cause of all our problems, and if we only "fixed" that problem, everything would be better.

Or we can blame one person or a group of persons for our troubles, and ignore our own actions in that regard.  It makes us feel better about ourselves, so we buy into it.

The reason you are fat isn't that you eat too much and have no self-control.  No, no, you just need a fat-burner pill!

The reason why you are broke isn't that you spend all your money on Jet Skis and mall clothes.  No, no, you just need to buy "The Wealth System"!

And if neither of those ideas work, well, don't blame your own gullibility, but blame the government, a minority group, or "rich folks" for all of your difficulties.

It is sort of fun, to wallow in self-pity like that.  But it rarely is constructive.

When someone tries to sell you simple, pat solutions to complex problems, walk away, but they are probably selling lies.

And here's the irony of it all:  People spend more time and energy chasing after "simple solutions" to complex problems than they would if they just buckled down and did the "hard thing" instead.

Why is this?  Because the easy answers never work, and people end up having to do the hard thing anyway.  Only they are further handicapped by having squandered time, energy, and money on the easy answers in the interim.