Most people I know, myself included, are frequently looking for easy, simple solutions. From daydreams of get rich quick schemes and lottery wins, to once again clicking on a link to a headline that promises to tell that “one weird trick” to do something hard, we do it. We desperately want things to be simple.
And yet, there are some problems that we continue to insist are horribly complex and complicated and the solutions will be also complex and complicated, and hard won, but they actually have simple answers.
For example: Homelessness. There are people who are homeless. Some of them are homeless because of something they did, and some of them are homeless because of something outside their control. And once someone is homeless, the process to get them un-homeless is arduous. Shelters and programs, counselling, government money and charity solutions… not to mention things like police and sanitation and health system impacts of people with nowhere to go. They don’t have money because they probably don’t have a job. It’s hard to get a job when you don’t have an address or phone, but you can’t get those things without a job to earn money. It all seems like a messy pile of issues and people want to help but they don’t know where to start.
The solution is really simple though – give them homes. Giving a person a home immediately makes them un-homeless. And as long as that home is given unconditionally, it solves the problem. They are no longer homeless. Instead, they are now jobless, or an addict, or a collection of other issues, issues that people who weren’t homeless also have but manage. Now that they have a permanent address, and maybe a cell phone with internet access, getting a job now becomes possible. Once they have a job, they’ll have money for things – like food, or moving to a better home. Once they have a place to live, it gives them the stability to be able to address medical issues, perhaps get therapy, address addiction.
But we don’t give them homes, because when you try you get clobbered with questions of who will pay for it and why should some people get free homes when other people have to work for theirs. You’ll get into what quality of home to provide – some people won’t want you giving them much more than a prison cell, because they can’t get past the idea that a person should be punished for needed help. (Note: this right here is a HUGE problem. This is how you get people upset that those on food assistance programs aren’t eating gruel. If they are getting free food it shouldn’t be “good” food, it should be garbage, or it should be planned healthy meals with no joy. Lots of people are downright cruel toward people in need.) You get bogged down in a lot of details that do need to get addressed, but most of the people asking those questions are trying to make the problem go away – not solve it, just vanish from their site, hopefully without it costing them anything.
Which leads us to an adage that people enjoy repeating, that “money can’t buy happiness” which often is mutated into “money can’t solve problems” (“mo’ money, mo’ problems”). But in a society and system that is very capitalist, yes it can. The root of many problems is lack of money, so giving them money (or providing them they thing they lack the money for) will literally solve the problem. Too many people don’t like money as a solution. Despite being so capitalist, the idea that money can solve problems and buy happiness offends them. “Problems can’t be that simple to solve!” they tell themselves. And so they seek out non-money solutions for problems that are best solved with money, and it becomes painfully obvious why those problems don’t get solved.