Episode 41 – Why Talking Politics is the Solution to Everything

In this episode I will discuss why we should talk about politics.

Many societies frown on talking about politics, religion or sex. This is very convenient for the people in power. The less people understand about how politics or religion works, the easier it is to manipulate them, and control their lives.

In the past few episodes I have talked about innovation and how to become innovative. I am currently reading a book titled, “Imagine: How Creativity Works”. This well-written work is based on cutting edge research into what makes us creative. Some of what it says is common sense, but not everything makes immediate sense.

This book talks about Pixar, the very creative studio that has produced some of the most innovative animated movies of all time. We often admire Disney for their wonderful creations, and yet, Pixar opposed the normal production techniques used by Disney. Instead of allowing Disney’s corporate culture to dominate, Pixar went its own way.

In Hollywood, each feature film gets its own production company. The crew works together for a movie, and then goes its own way. Pixar was entirely different. They wanted to keep their creative team together for all the movies that they made. It is quite likely that Pixar would not have been as successful as they were if not for the technique that they used.

The reason that Pixar was so successful was that they encouraged a lot of interaction between their employees. If they had created a production company, the expertise of everyone within the company would have been lost as people were compartmentalized. It was like erecting a wall between various teams, which stifles creativity. This segmented approach to many problems not only does nothing to resolve problems, it can exacerbate them. This is because you create an us-versus-them tribal system.

The solution that Pixar produced was to allow people from a diverse set of fields to collaborate with one another. When you mix the perspective of a wide variety of people, you introduce ideas that don’t seem to combine well. Yet, together, they can spark the most unexpected solutions to many problems.

This was the genius introduced by Steve Jobs. He threw out the old Hollywood predictability and introduced uncertainty. It was that uncertainty that produced unexpected results. Good ideas are very rare even in Hollywood. When one does appear and seems successful, everyone leaps aboard the bus, producing what amounts to mirror image productions. The faces and places may change, but the underlying plot is the same.

Instead of a building with walls and cubicles, Jobs created a single space within a warehouse. At its center was an atrium. That center was the heartbeat of the entire production company. In that space, Jobs put all the common areas of the company. Things like the cafeteria, the bathrooms, and the coffee shop. People had to walk from the far reaches of the building to get to the restroom, or go to lunch. The net result was that people met and mingled and exchanged ideas.

It also meant that everyone in the company had a passing acquaintance with everyone else. When a challenge occurred during production, people knew who to approach to help resolve the problem. With a wide circle of acquaintances and friends, innovative approaches came more easily.

So, how does this relate to politics? I have given a lot of thought to how we can solve the partisan approach to politics in the U.S. The current approach does not work, and creates nothing but animosity between people. People form ideological camps that become increasingly conservative in their outlook. I use the term conservative deliberately. People hew to Conservatism, Liberalism or Libertarianism, but they have become rigid in their approach to any problem. Each camp sees the solutions only in their way, without consideration of other approaches.

Innovations of any sort often come about by applying existing solutions to new problems. Applying a computer science solution to a cartoonists problem, or challenging computer scientists to produce a solution to a graphics idea can work. Sometimes ideas emerge from neither camp, but from a wildcard introduced to the mix, an engineer, an accountant, or even someone without any expertise whatsoever.

So many of our most brilliant ideas have come from people on the margins of a field of expertise, someone new to the field. With politics, conservatives build their edifice on a fixed set of ideas, or ideals. Liberals do the same. As do libertarians, socialists, and any combination. Our entire ideology relies on certain things being true. As a result, we withdraw into our philosophical castles and pull up the drawbridge. This effectively refuses access to anyone not of a similar mind.

That is where society begins to splinter, leading to civil strife and ultimately dissolution of the state. Where members of Congress used to meet members of the opposing party socially, today ideology keeps them apart. Democrats and Republicans do not mix. This makes it extremely difficult to resolve complex social issues. When there is no contact between ideological camps, ideas become sterile and petrified. It is like people taking the same path through the woods; it causes erosion and little else.

Debate and constructive confrontation are the ways in which we solve problems. This is why it is so important that we find ways to make society far more diverse than it is. Hidebound systems of segregation like apartheid, or slavery, or caste systems undermine society’s natural creativity. The great philosophical breakthroughs of Ancient Greece, or the Reformation, or the bursts of creativity that came from the French revolution happened for good reasons.

When people from drastically different backgrounds meet on an equal footing like universities, ideas naturally flourish. Any center of education should encourage the free exchange of ideas, or they become conservative institutions. Ideas that run counter to accepted benchmarks should be encouraged, not censored. Socrates encouraged the idea that we should question everything. He encouraged civil debate in what we know as the Socratic Method. Start out with a question and answer that question. That brings other questions, so find answers to those. In this way society evolves.

The reasons for this are clear. If the various sides to a dilemma in society are forced to acknowledge that their idea alone will not solve a dispute, they must collaborate to come up with something new. We must change our mindset and embrace the idea that we need to find solutions rather than just become dogmatic about our ideas. Ideas are never fixed. They are malleable. Ideas evolve according to circumstance, and we need to evolve our thinking.

Imagine if we amended the Constitution of the United States in this way; “Congress must deliberate to solve societies problems, not maintain their own power or opinions.” Would our society be better off? For instance, imagine if Congress were given this problem, “You must find a way to resolve Climate Change, while limiting costs to taxpayers and still allowing for progress.” Instead of arguing about the fact of Climate Change, we could find ways to improve the future.

This is why I believe that talking politics can solve everything. Imagine if the poor mixed with the wealthy and tried to solve poverty. Imagine if abortion opponents and those in favor of choice went on a picnic and talked to each other about their experiences and how to make things better. Imagine if victims of gun violence were to have dinner with members of the NRA and each could talk about their fears instead of demanding their rights.

People solve intractable problems when they are thrown together and use the power of their creative minds. There are infinite possible solutions to any problem that we face as communities, societies, nations or species. When we get together to tackle difficult questions, we can produce innovative approaches. It takes a willingness to look at questions from many sides, combine solutions, extend them, change their shape, to solve them.

I believe that we should discuss politics and religion and sexuality and everything else about the human condition. We should discuss ideas in schools and universities and businesses and backyard barbeques. We should open our minds to the possibilities that are all around us.

Humans are infinitely capable of making a better world. We are just as capable of destroying our societies, or our homes. It is our choice.

I encourage you to continue to enhance your life with the Power of Three and search for the best possible life to live.

Until next time, go well my friends.

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