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David Swanson

David Swanson is a longtime peace and justice activist and author of 'War Is a Lie'

September 28th, 2011 11:43 PM

The Danger of Simplicity

I sat down during a lengthy protest occupation to play a game of chess, but my friend was better than I am. So, halfway through the match, I said to him, "What's your one move?"

He didn't know what I meant. "What's your one winning move," I said, "and which piece are you going to use? Get all the other pieces off the board. If you can't win with one piece in one move, you'll never win!"
My voice was getting louder as I said this.

He was looking at me like I was a little bit nuts. "Sure I will," he said very slowly as if I were an idiot, "and you won't even see it coming."

I tried to reason with him. It was for his own good. "What's your one simple move? What's your one simple move? What's your one simple move?" I was practically screaming, but he still didn't understand, so I did the only thing I could. I jumped on the chess board with both feet. If he couldn't be simple, I could at least stop him from being complicated!

Ahem.

The problem in this story, of course, is that chess isn't simple. But compared to fixing the mess our nation and our world are in, it's child's play. Yet, we are constantly bombarded with demands for the "one simple move" to fix everything in our politics. How insane is that? And the "news" media tell us what's happening in a manner that could not possibly report coherently the complexity of a single chess game yet attempts to inform us about the entire world.

Now, I have no quarrel with short pithy posters and sound bytes. I'm not proposing that we mumble doctoral theses into television cameras. But we need to bear in mind that the medium is the moron. The people on the receiving end of television chatter are not as stupid as television itself. There is such a thing as diminishing returns in the arms race of dumbness through which we dumb everything down until we reach the ultimate perfection of pure political messaging and grunt a single syllable.

We've taken the reasonable idea of a simple unifying cause that requires little explanation. We've combined it with the self-flagellation of progressive framers and messagers who imagine they aren't getting on the tee-vee because evolution deniers are wittier and pithier, rather than because of who owns the networks. We've stirred in a dash of Egypt envy: "Mubarak Out" said it all in two words; where are our two words? Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo.

https://occupywallst.org came up with this response to the "What is your one simple demand" demand:

On September 21st, 2011, Troy Davis, an innocent man, was murdered by the state of Georgia. Troy Davis was one of the 99 percent.
Ending capital punishment is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, the richest 400 Americans owned more wealth than half of the country's population.
Ending wealth inequality is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, four of our members were arrested on baseless charges.
Ending police intimidation is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, we determined that Yahoo lied about occupywallst.org being in spam filters.
Ending corporate censorship is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly eighty percent of Americans thought the country was on the wrong track.
Ending the modern gilded age is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly 15% of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing.
Ending political corruption is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of Americans did not have work.
Ending joblessness is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of America lived in poverty.
Ending poverty is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, roughly fifty million Americans were without health insurance.
Ending health-profiteering is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, America had military bases in around one hundred and thirty out of one hundred and sixty-five countries.
Ending American imperialism is our one demand.
On September 21st, 2011, America was at war with the world.
Ending war is our one demand.

http://occupytogether.org is spreading occupations across the country, sans the One Simple Demand. How can this be? What is motivating these people? Are they all part of some cult of complexity and obscurantism? How can the imbeciles I imagine everyone but myself to be ever hope to catch on?

http://october2011.org is taking the movement to Washington, D.C., beginning on October 6th, and this crowd apparently wants seven things! and probably more! This is on the website:

Tax the rich and corporations.
End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending.
Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security and improved Medicare for all
End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests.
Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation.
Protect worker rights including collective bargaining, create jobs and raise wages.
Get money out of politics.

Whoa! Way. Too. Many. Words. The ideal sentence is a single word. And you cannot build a political campaign around more than a single sentence. This is getting completely out of hand.

http://rebuildthedream.com has pretty much the same agenda, but they put it into Ten (10) points, if you can believe it:

I. Invest in America's Infrastructure
II. Create 21st Century Energy Jobs
III. Invest in Public Education
IV. Offer Medicare for All
V. Make Work Pay
VI. Secure Social Security
VII. Return to Fairer Tax Rates
VIII. End the Wars and Invest at Home
IX. Tax Wall Street Speculation
X. Strengthen Democracy

What do they want us to do, stop and think about it, for godsake? Who has the time? I mean, I do, of course. It's way shorter and simpler than the directions for my blueray player. But, what about everybody else? What about all the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing cretins we all know everybody except ourselves to be? How will we ever get power into their hands, where it belongs, unless we can persuade them to want it in under four seconds, the dumbasses?

Plus, there's just a lot more entertaining bickering when the people who swear election funding is the root of all evil have to go up against the global-warming-is-more-important-than-anything-else gang, especially if a few members of the only-fixing-the-media-matters tribe butt in. If these people all get together and group their causes under a broader heading like "People Power" or "End Empire" or "Human Needs Over Corporate Greed," or just plain "Occupy," well there just might be too many of them working together at that point, if you know what I mean. A few of them in a park is OK. They take off their clothes and sing songs. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. But when they start talking about being 99 percent of the country, and when they start including just about everybody who stops by, well that just doesn't seem like responsible behavior. I don't see how this can end well.

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