Complex issues require local and global thinking

0
43

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

We live in a complex society. We

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

We live in a complex society. We
constantly face conflicts between social values and individual choices.  We want a clean, enjoyable environment but resent restrictions on the use of our property imposed by governments trying to protect the environment. We want medical and financial aid if our house and personal property are damaged by fire, but we do not want municipal officials entering our home to see if we have a working smoke detector. We form citizens groups to protest government regulations and we support politicians who promise to “get the government off the backs of the
citizens”.  And yet, when we are faced with undesirable or difficult situations, we demand government action.
So, we have the following situation. Interest groups – environmental,
anti-smoking, unemployed, etc. – demand laws to protect their areas of concern. The
government responds with broad, general laws that are designed to cover all cases and be equally binding on all citizens regardless of their special situation. Those who feel they are unjustly harmed by these laws react by forming citizens groups and supporting extremist politicians.  Each side proposes simple solutions to complex problems. Each side – and often there are more than two – insist on the righteousness of their case and refuse to consider
alternatives or compromises. The result is a lot of heat, little light, and much frustration with our current social structures.
A real solution must start with a more careful consideration of the actual
complexity of the issues that also recognizes the multiple facets of the social values and choices relevant to the situation. This can best be done at a local or community level rather than at the global level of central decision making. However, the decision makers must have a global outlook and education. Those making decisions – hopefully the entire community – must be able to place their special needs and opportunities in a larger context that respects the rights and legitimate concerns of other communities and affected parties.
This need for a larger context becomes the most difficult aspect of dealing with complex problems because those other communities and affected parties must also include future generations and respect for past generations. 
Humans have evolved to solve immediate, clearly present dangers. Looking
forward requires more effort, more attention to detail, and a more careful examination of long-term effects. Humans, as with most creatures, tend to take the most immediate solution available, which is not always the best solution. So the first requirement of any solution is that it can be modified or replaced when necessary. Secondly, decisions must be based on
fact-driven research. Humans are capable of rational thought at great levels;
solutions to complex problems must derive from this ability.