We often deal with problems in the wrong way. We don’t treat the problem at it’s root, but rather we its their symptoms. Even though we may have the right intentions, we waste our efforts and energy by treating the symptoms not the actual cause/root of the problem.
I came up with a little metaphor to show you what I mean by this exactly.
Suppose you have a headache, what do you do? Most people take an Aspirin. Awesome, a few minutes later your headache is gone. Problem solved, right? Not really. Maybe for the next couple of hours your headache is gone, but it will be back sooner or later.
If you really want to get rid of those headaches for good, you need to change tactics. Taking Aspirins is obviously not solving the problem, because those headaches keep coming back. There must be something else going on . Maybe you are working too much and you need an extra day off. Maybe your neck is tense (like in my case) and you need a relaxing massage. Or maybe you just need glasses .
You see the headache was never the real problem. The headache was a symptom of the problem.
If we look at it on a bigger scale the same applies. How we deal with major world problems is in many instances completely wrong. The same symptoms show up over and over again throughout our history. Isn’t the definition of stupidity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time? Let’s be smart about it.
What we think the problem is: Stock market meltdowns, mortgage crises, country-bail outs, bank-bail outs, etc. They are not. By bailing out a country – like Greece by the EU – you may temporarily help them out, but in the long run you are not: The same thing will happen again, another bail-out will be needed. Even more, by bailing out a country by printing more money, you only enforce the fundamental problem. This way you devalue the Euro, accelerating inflation and perpetuating the problem.
What the real problem is: The problem is not Greece that needs money (for what ever reason). The real problem is the economic system of which it is part. A system that is based on a fiat currency has the inherent quality that it will devalue itself over time. This has happened time and time again throughout history. You know this was one of the causes for the collapse of the Roman Empire?
A proper solution: The most effective solution would be to change the entire economic system. Changing from a system that is based on continuous accelerated growth – which is against all laws of nature – to a system of organic growth and sustainability. Yes, this is a radical way to go about it and it will require a complete 180 degree turn in perspective for most of us, but it is necessary if we truly want change to happen.
2. War & Peace
What we think the problem is: The other. “If only they would not do this and think like us, then there would be peace”. We blame other countries, people, ethnic groups and religious groups etc. for being in the wrong. We are hurt by something the other country did or said and now we want revenge. Once we have had our revenge, we think, everything will be fine.
What the real problem is: Us, our ego’s and fear. By taking your revenge and by bombing your enemy your are only fuelling the other’s hatred towards you. You have had your revenge (hooray), but now the enemy is mad again, wanting their revenge. And the problem continues. We are afraid of what will happen when we don’t strike back. Even when we strike back, when we had our revenge, that hate is still present in us. On a major scale we behave like little children, we don’t know how to deal with our ego’s being hurt.
A proper solution: Forgiveness and understanding. See that we are all equal. Rise above the situation and swallow your pride by forgiving your enemy. Understand the perspective of the other. Place yourself in the shoes of the other and you will see that their hatred has the same root cause as your own. You will see that they are no different and just as afraid as you are. On a personal scale this means you might have to absorb one or two blows and turn the other cheek. On a bigger scale this will sound scary: you might have to accept an invasion or take an blow to your economy.
I don’t know if those fears really would come true. Maybe for a short while, but if so, in the long run it is worth it: you have taken away the fuel for more war and ended vicious circle.
3. Third World Aid
What we think the problem is: Poverty, famine and disease. We spend millions of dollars on aid for third-world countries. We hope that by sending money, food, clothes and medicines that we will change the lives of millions of people living in terrible conditions. However much I like the altruism, this strategy does not work. Most (a rough 90%) of the money & resources end up in the wrong hands and do not serve its purpose. Certain forms of AIDS-prevention only help spreading it. Free mosquito nets to prevent malaria are being used for fishing. There are tons of other examples shown in more detail and with more scientific background in Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. By giving the way we do now, many third-world are now relying on us and often expecting our help.
What the real problem is: The fundamental problem is there is no point in helping some-one who does not want to be helped. It is virtually useless to offer help when the other does not acknowledge there is a problem in the first place. How often have you offered an incredible solution to a friend, but he just did not digest what you had to say? Yes, it is like hitting your head against a brick wall. Until there is acknowledgement of a problem and help is wanted, we have no business in sticking our nose in other people’s affairs.
The problem can be split up in two parts:
One: Our incessant need to help. Really that is our own issue, forcing our will and views upon others is quite arrogant.
Two: There is no acknowledgement of the problem for the ones “needing” help.
A proper solution: Finding a proper solution here is not that simple. Remember the saying “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime”? That definitely applies to aid. The solution to truly help those in need is to teach them how to fish. Right now most communities in need don’t want to learn to fish or at least not the way we want them to fish. The challenge lies in understanding the motivation of those people we want to help and helping them see there is a way to solve poverty, famine and disease.
It requires a fundamental shift in our approach to providing aid. It means we have to let go of our own need to help and to apply our views onto others. Lead by example, instead of forcing your views and opinions onto others. It means stepping away from our individual needs and seeing the bigger picture of what needs to be done.
The Bigger Picture
Though the problems discussed here are on a major scale, the real change starts on a small scale: it starts with you.
What we think the problem is: Something external – ie. the other, money, greed, hate and any selfish attributes. We do not see ourselves as part of the problem, but it is always something else or someone else. We believe that when the external changes, the problem disappears.
What the real problem is: Identification with our ego. We see ourselves as separate from the world. We put our own needs above that of others, because we think we are more important than them, while in reality we are all connected. Motivation by fear makes us behave selfishly. This asserts itself in many different ways from rushing into a busy train to secure yourself a seat to bombing another country to “protect” your own.
A proper solution: Practice compassion.
True love knows no boundaries. Literally, there are no boundaries, they are a construction of the mind. When you realise that, you see that we are all connected. By hurting another, you hurt yourself. When you realise who you truly are and, as importantly, what you are not. You see that by loving the other, you love yourself (and vice versa). That is when you rise above it all and leave your ego out of the picture. Then you see through the futility of money, fighting, power, proving you are right, status etc. Then you realise love is all there is and that the happiness of your neighbour is your own happiness. It all starts with you. In Gandhi’s words: Be the change you want to see.
When you live in the now, you see that everything is perfect just the way it is. Problems do not exist when you are truly present and inspired by love.
You have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life an awesome adventure.