2020 - Not 1920

How is finding a solution different from doing justice?

Forging and achieving and achievable solution starts with acceptance. And then it requires some quality thinking.

When we look at the ways people focus on punishment (revenge, blame, etc.) and fail to pay attention to what’s next – we can see the stages of grief in action, minus the acceptance. That never comes.

In many ways, it is as if we were collectively stuck in the first four stages of grief – refusing to move on to acceptance because that’s a ladies’ thing. We show aggression, we are in denial, we refuse to accept that the bad thing took place even if it cannot be undone, we are dedicating all our energy, attention and money to revenge and punishment – and refuse to ever move on to acceptance and a solution. We pretend that there can be no solution other than making the bad thing undone, and if that cannot be achieved, why even bother.

Meanwhile the survivors fall into poverty, depression, their sense of security is gone forever – and we don’t even try to rectify that. It would mean that we accepted the new reality.

It is also a political problem.

Making bad things un-happen is never an option. Especially as time passes. But accepting them is unacceptable – what are we? women?

So we are left with aggression directed at various things, at each other, at people who hold different opinions about the bad things in question. We remain in stubborn denial – only ever moving on to forget, if at all. We are so focused in seeking justice (revenge, denial, reversal, punishment) that we are afraid to ever stop doing it.

It is a miracle our world is not going to the dogs in the meantime. It is because there are silent crowds out there picking up the remains and trying to restart life in the new reality. But we don’t like them. We don’t pay attention to them. It’s not masculine enough so we take it as granted and unknowingly build our system on their unrecognized work of recovery. We prefer to believe that they will always do that, that they are somehow compelled to do that, that they will never stop doing that, that they can’t walk away from their recovery activities.

The wrongdoer cannot be expected to rectify a crime more than an abuser can be expected to turn around and give his victims therapy. Punishment and solution are vastly different things and require very different pathways in the brain, very different institutions. We are either doing one or the other, it cannot be done at the same time or by the same institutions.

Analyzing what went wrong is important, but it is not the same (mental and institutional) process as finding a solution. Everyone is quick to argue that finding the problem, assigning blame and meting out punishment are important – and yet they are not a straightforward way to finding a solution. That requires a different mindset – and it is something we tend to forget once the blame is assigned.

When we are seeking solutions the who and the how are closely linked.

And so is the what.

The solution is sometimes related to the problem – but it requires a different thinking habit so caution is advised. Just think about the tree in our example. It did cause the broken leg – and yet it won’t play any role in healing it. And the same stands for situations where a human is to blame. Once we assigned blame – we must not disperse because we haven’t even started on the solution. And the perpetrator will very likely not play a role in it.

People get to bogged down in blame-seeking and punishment, and when that’s done they lose interest in the matter, even though the most important task is yet to come:

Namely accepting the new situation, identifying what is wrong with it, what is wanted instead and whether it is even an available option. And once the goal is set and it is achievable, the question of who can achieve it follows. And only when we know who is to do it can we suggest the how.

The reason is simple: I have vastly different tools at my disposal to get something done than, say, Kendall Jenner. Her social media following is vastly greater than mine, so her strategy would be built on that. A millionaire might throw money at the problem, an engineer might find an engineering solution, and a social worker would get down to use his empathy to achieve the same goal.

And most importantly – we might disagree on what the goal should be. What the new reality should look like. Especially in collective issues (like politics) when some people will always get bogged down in the punishment and complaint phase, others will oscillate between punishment, blame and solution – while the perpetrators may even pose as the ones leading the quest for revenge. In the end we tend to move from one bad thing to the next – and it’s a miracle we haven’t collapsed yet for the lack of political attention given to solutions.

We could do better trying to look at the unsung people who keep cleaning up and making life continue – despite the best efforts of politicians. People who accept the reality and try to live in it, even when politicians refuse to accept the new reality. Those unsung people are the most important part of our society – not the loud and self-serving punishers and revengists. And they can get enough and walk away from it one day. And when that happens, when the unsung, despised pillars of living stop providing unacknowledged, often despised work to pick up the ruins and making lemonade with it – we will be shocked and confused and won’t understand why our angry stomping for revenge and punishment is no longer “working”.

It is because it never did. Life worked despite our revengism and punishing instinct – not because of it. So every time a politician is posturing as a savior – but all he does is punish, revenge and point blame – know that he is piggybacking on the unseen work of social workers, healthcare workers, entrepreneurs and educators, who try to make life work despite politics, while politicians are merely stomping and scapegoating and lashing out with righteous new rules to punish. And stoke their voters to thirst for more of it.

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