Why government leaders can’t understand complex issues

Don Hall on the Transition Sarasota website posted an excerpt from a financial discussion by Richard Heinberg in which Richard discussed how society was up against inescapable environmental limits that will require massive social adjustments.  After reading Heinberg’s article, I responded to Don explaining how my A2, A3 theory explains the problem of getting political leaders to listen to system analyses related to the environmental and social problems in the world.  I didn’t use A2, A3 nomenclature because I don’t think anyone on the site knows about these terms yet.  Here is what I said.

Don.  Thanks for posting this. You’re right. It’s a little long. But it’s a good summary of the economic problems with good suggestions. AND, some issues can’t be addressed in just a few sound bites. Heinberg’s conclusions could be summarized.  But without explanation, they’d just look like random opinions. I joined the Transition effort to bring a brand new set of observations, developed through 40 years of study, into the discussion. And like Heinberg, I need to preface them with a version of his statement, which closed your post, that I couldn’t possibly improve on (modification in Caps), “In short, I am suggesting an Alternative Diagnosis. This explanation for the SOCIAL crisis is not for the faint of heart because, if correct, it implies that the patient is far sicker than even the most pessimistic SOCIOLOGISTS are telling us. But if it is correct, then by ignoring it we risk even greater peril.”

After discussing the economics, Heinberg offers some solutions: “no easy fix…not curable… require that we .. adapt and make the best of our new situation”  etc. All of these suggestions rely on a basic assumption, “thought-leaders in society, especially the President, must begin breaking the news—in understandable and measured ways—that growth isn’t returning and that the world has entered a new and unprecedented economic phase…”  This is where I have to jump in with my Alternative Diagnosis. And, following his warning, “THE FOLLOWING MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL VIEWERS.”

I believe that some humans just do not have a mental ability to emotionally accept explanations of principles based on information presented to them.

This is a summary statement that I develop at great length in my recently published books. First let me clarify a few terms.  By ‘mental ability’ I do not mean what is typically call IQ. The ‘trait’ I am taking about can apply to the full range of the IQ scale, though it tends to occur more at lower IQ. The ‘trait’ is more closely related to isolated limitations we find frequently in society: color blindness, inability to read maps, inability to carry a tune etc. It can also be similar to more extreme limitations such as: phobias, traumatic distress syndrome, socially induced depression, or bi-polar disorder.  The point of these examples is to stress that, for people with this trait, presenting them with explanations, theories, models, data etc. to get them to change their view of something, is not effective. Using phobia as a specific example, we can provide a person afraid of flying with all the information in the world that air travel is, in fact, the SAFEST form of travel; but when the plane takes off, they become filled with panic and react as if they are in a life threatening situation. I sat next to such a passenger once. It was not just, “I’m very nervous about this.”  It was a full physiological response. She broke into pouring sweat. She started to shake. She started to yell that she was burning up.  She pulled off her clothes down to her underwear and then broke down crying.

Second, I want to strongly stress that I am making NO judgmental statement here. I did not BLAME this woman for being uncaring about other passengers, or putting on an act to gain attention. This was a fully subconscious and uncontrollable behavior.

That said, what if our political leaders, for some reason, had an inability to look inside themselves to question their thought processes for flaws? What if they were unable to comprehend more than just minimal complexity?  And what if the process we use to select and elect them actually sorts out people who have this ‘trait’ in the extreme?  Then what happens to Heinberg’s solutions?  The adage, ‘falls on deaf ears’ comes to mind.  What I’m saying, is that this adage could actually apply in the extreme. And if the entire halls of government were filled with such people, because of the process we use to select them, then it is US who need to ask, ‘why do we keep beating our heads against the same wall’? Do we have some of this ‘trait’ in ourselves as well? Is working through ‘DEMOCRACY’, at least the version we have created, which we think is the only way democracy can work, just another form of not being able to hear?

Fully explaining this model is a long discussion. Anyone interested can get started on my website – A3society.org. I will bring elements of this view into discussions on this site where I think they can provide positive support. Let me summarize some conclusions for the posted material and my comments so far.  I think the Transition model is already responding to the world’s social problems the way my points suggest is needed. What I hope to add is an in-depth explanation of the psychology involved, plus a very new formulation of democracy that can get around massive obstacles that have crept into world society.

Respectfully,

Bruce Nappi

About Nanook

I am the "REAL" Nanook. I wrote the book LIARS! It presents the philosophy behind most of the posts on this blog. Look for information about it at http://A3society.org
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