Often in life, we focus on what's directly in front of us without taking into account the larger picture. There's too often more importance placed on treating the symptom of a problem than on creating a solution for the symptom's cause. Over time, these patches become standard, routine, policy.
I think that the previous paragraph could easily apply to a number of areas in society. Drugs and addiction, crime, poverty, homelessness, injury, disease, etc.
I recently re-watched Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and one line stood out to me. "Criminals are like weeds; pull one up, another grows in its place. This is about the future of the world."
As you may have noticed, the writing has slowed down. I've had plenty of thoughts (and much outrage) that never quite make it to the page. Either I can't seem to articulate them and coax them onto the page, or there is just so much going on that I can't seem to do it in a timely manner. This line though, brought together a number of threads.
While it was directly about crime, I think this quote can be broadened out pretty easily to the other topics above (and more). If we only focus our energies on addressing the symptoms (the weeds) we'll never make any meaningful progress. We can continue to throw countless sums of money at a problem, but unless we understand the cause of the problem and address it directly, the problem will continue to exist.
The U.S. continues to wage its 'war on drugs' and to what end? There are millions of lives negatively affected (a massive understatement) with little-to-no impact on the prevalence of drugs.
We mistreat and incarcerate drug addicts without considering what caused the addiction, which contributes to the creation of more addicts.
We address the criminal without analyzing what drove them to commit their crimes.
We stigmatize those who are in poverty or are homeless, we mistreat them, we further penalize them. We create feel-good policies to address the symptom without digging deeper for the reasons. Don't get me wrong, assistance programs do help people, but until the root causes are addressed, they are simply bandages.
The American Way™ is apparently the easy-way-out. We value the quick-fix rather than the proper solution. We're looking for the easy money, the quick weight-loss diet, the pill which solves our problems.
The proper solution is difficult. It requires study, introspection, problem solving and ethical consideration, and discussion with different people. It requires people to agree on facts, to be open-minded to alternative ideas, to share a common goal. It requires that when a solution to a problem is in sight that we have the strength to stand up for what is right so that we can see it through.
People living in poverty are not doing so by their choice; many are working as much as they can and are still unable to escape. An addict seeks, from their addiction, a feeling of happiness, joy, or simply a lack of misery, that they are unable to find elsewhere.
I believe that the lack of equal opportunity, resources, and treatment are a major factor in creating poverty, addictive drug use, and crime. If people have adequate resources to survive (food, shelter, health-care, education), then those rates would plummet. See my Basic Income post for more info there.
The reason we should try to address the issue is simply because it is the right thing to do. It is morally right to ensure that all people have the resources they need to survive and have the opportunity to flourish.
If you don't think the moral argument is enough, then how about economics? All the money spent combating crime, drug addiction, and emergency room visits could be better spent in preventing the need to address them (when the costs would be lower).
I've digressed a bit but the fact remains, until the root cause of a problem is addressed, our solutions will be perpetually plucking weed after weed. What we need are real solutions: This is about the future of the world.