28. On Simple Reasons
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I am starting a collection of illustrations of my credo of simple reasons:
I half-seriously formulated it at the
age of around thirty, listening to long confessions
about relationships gone wrong. Watching myself from the
inside, I saw that my personal problems seemed to
involve a lot of factors. Nevertheless, they all somehow
funneled down to a single simple reason that was
difficult to acknowledge because of shame or guilt.
With time, I came to conclusion that social life and politics had the same simplicity of deep reasons. This view has a simple reason of its own: an abundance of reasons could paralyze a complex system.
Of course, my questions may not be supported by facts, while the answers could be plain wrong.
1. Why do the Arabs dominate in the terrorist squads?
Because the Arabs suffered military defeat from Israel supported by Americans while other Muslims did not.
2. Why is Tony Blair such a firm supporter of
the American policy on terrorism?
Because England suffered bombardments of its
territory during WW2. Paris did not. Tony Blair was
born in 1953, but in England history is in the air.
Pun not intended.
3. Why do the pacifists seem to prevail among
the callers on the Public Radio talk shows?
Because the non-pacifists are at work during the day and are pacified by it. The militants who do not work have their own shows.
4. Why has the level of the US television
been steadily declining?
Because A.C.Nielsen rating company sends around thick questionnaires that require a lot of time to fill out so that no sensible viewer has enough time to do that. The rating, therefore, reflects only the taste of a small category of TV addicts.
5. Why has political correctness taken
hold of American society?
6. Why is there no peace between Jews and Palestinians in Israel?
Because there is no single continuous border between them. The settlements and disconnected territories are like oil in water: they can be prevented from separation into two distinct areas only by constant shaking. In other words, the border between the two peoples is too long for the area.
The same reason may be responsible for possible perils of globalization. In physical language, the phenomenon is ominously called surface tension. It was definitely responsible for the post-Yugoslavian turmoil.
7. Why is the level of education in many
public high schools so low?
8. Why is that liberalism, in the form of
unbalanced varieties of pacifism, primate of
equality over distinction, freedom over duty, and
minority over majority, spreads so wide in rich
Because the liberal believes that he or she
personally will profit from the benefits of the
liberalism without paying for it. See Essay
16. In poor countries, an individual
profits from belonging to the tribe or crowd and
following the leader.
9. Why is the world fragmenting into ever
smaller states on the pretext of national or
Because in any independent state, however small, there are a room for the head of state and money for his salary and staff. At the same time, in a smaller state there is a better chance for an average resident to have a friend or a relative in the government. Everybody has something to gain.
10. Tenure at universities was long ago invented and introduced to guarantee academic freedom, including freedom of opinion, dissent, and research.
I do not question tenure, but I have the answer:
Because tenure does not guarantee grants.
11. Is there a simple reason for the anti-war protests after September 11, when the war came not to the other end of the earth but to the homeland?
As Dostoevsky said, it is easy to love those far away, but it is a challenge to love your neighbor. Even this reason, however, is too complex.
The easiest love is the love of yourself. Young people are afraid of the possible change of the lifestyle, hardships of war, and military draft.
12. What could be a possible reason for educated well-to-do people like Osama bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri to give up prospects of comfortable life, engage in ultimate violence, and challenge America?
This seems to be the most dazzling problem for many Americans. Are the Arabs made of a different stuff? Are they fervent believers in God? Hardly.
Answer: The prospects of even more comfortable and glorious beyond imagination life in the future.
They could have that life as the leaders of a World Islamic Empire (actually, a kind of Commonwealth) with the center in Saudi Arabia, where the Muslim countries would preserve formal independence but be guided by the custodians of the most holy sites under the gun of their own fundamentalists. Only that game could be worth the candles.
13. Why do the political opponents unite behind President in times of external conflict?
Because it is not about competing philosophies of
14. Why cannot the sides in the Palestinian-Israeli and Pakistani-Indian conflicts come to an agreement?
Because each side expects the opponent to be smarter and learn faster than itself.
15. Why is death such an unpopular subject in America?
Because the dead do not purchase Things.
For the same reason, Paradise has little attraction. What can you buy there?
16. The US two-party system has been so impenetrable. Why?
Because even a small third party would be the most powerful one in Congress, manipulating the voting balance. To buy it would not be cheap.
17. Why are the books written by patients on illness, sanity, and recovery in such a big demand?
Because people do not trust their doctors.
18. Why does the opposition to Darwinism find such support in America, the paradise of science, technology, and higher education?
Because whatever is true—creationism or Darwinism—it seems to be about the long gone past and has nothing to do with making money today.
19. Why has the US been holding on to its membership in the United Nations in spite of an evident political and moral incompatibility with authoritarian, clerical, or just egotistic regimes in the majority of the UN members?
Because for a government it is much easier to deal, one way or another, with a powerful leader than with an unrestrained, unruly, and unpredictable democracy, whether outside or in its own country.
20. What is the simple reason for the stock market crash of 2000-2???
The virtual reality is not the same
as reality, but it has been all the public could see.
In the last ten years of the twentieth century it was
as hard to escape the virtual reality as the
commercials on network TV. It has been hard enough to
find reality, but much harder to tell one from the
other. It is incomparably easier to create the
covering-its-tracks and self-destructive virtual
reality with computers and the Internet. This reason
applies also to presidential elections.
21. What was the simplest reason for the movement against the war with Iraq?
The reason is ideology: life is good, death is bad, war is death, war is bad. To subscribe to an ideology is very simple because any ideology is a substitute for complexity and does not require any specific information as a reason to join the ranks. If seven out of ten of your friends do something, most probably, you will do too. On the contrary, a person in the position of leadership and management—which puts all the friends at a natural distance—must make a decision basing on the sense of responsibility, as well as on tons of secret, incomplete, uncertain, and contradictory information. Ideology is not supposed to go into any details—to spare the burden of thinking is the main function of ideology—and may save and kill with equal zeal.
22. Why was the war with Iraq
Because in democracy, with its
frequent elections and term limits, only those
decisions that could be implemented fast have
any chance to succeed during the term of presidency.
Otherwise, the next guy can steal the success.
In the culture of optimism, failure is never a
possibility. But if **it happens, you can drop
it off at the next guy's door.
23. What is the driving force
behind the anti-globalization movement?
The subconscious realization that
globalization will erode the Western standard of
living and freedoms. One does not need to be a
professor of physics to draw a lesson from a hot cup
of coffee cooling down in a cold room with no effect
on the room. Moreover, somebody will have to be
drafted and given a gun to fight for a hot cup of
All great ideas come not from logic but from
24. What is the secret of Noam Chomsky's
influence, however limited?
He possesses the so rare in the modern world gift
of artistic eloquence, which makes you see what is not
At least after the Roman Empire, Europe never knew the phenomenon of open frontier on its land. America never knew monarchy on its soil. With monarchy comes refinement. With the open frontier comes the sense of eternal playful youth. (Is this two simple reasons or one?)
26. Why do they hate us?
27. But why do we hate ourselves?Because by ourselves we mean personally anybody but ourselves.
28. Why do we fear death so much in America?
Not so much because we fear the loss of our life—this is unavoidable and even sugar-coated by religion—but because we lose all our possessions, contrary to the principle: the more you have the more you will add to it. This is really the end of the world
29. Why do we deny an easy death to other people?
See Simple Reason 27.
30. Why did I, an independent, voted in 2000 for Bush II, with all my democratic and liberal sympathies?
The answer is: TV. The TV screen is flat and it shows only the surface of things. Not only do we vote for actors instead of real leaders, but we forget that the script precedes the play in TV while the play runs ahead of the script in real life. There is a big consolation: only half of the voters were as stupid as I was. Sorry! Hey, but now our guys have better hair! I swear to make the same mistake again (now = 2004).
31. Regardless the previous, what could be a possible valid justification behind the decision to attack Iraq?
I am a chemist and I know that chemical technology is like a cookbook: it contains all the necessary information for making a pizza. It is absolutely of no importance whether somebody has a stale pizza in the form of the stockpile of chemical and biological weapons. If there is a technological recipe, the meal can be made from scratch. Chemical and biochemical equipment is essentially the same as pots and pans in the kitchen. Surprisingly, nobody, as far as I know, mentioned that. Not even Bush himself. So, next time, do not show a vial with white powder. Show a textbook. But the vial looks better on TV. Do not generalize it over pizza: it looks better than the cookbook.
32. Individualism is in the very foundation of American spirit. Nevertheless, millions of Americans worship pop gods, work like ants to keep up with the Johnses, and build the web of connections. Why?
Individualism is incompatible with large crowds of
people fighting for a limited resource. An individual
has no chance against the crowd, whatever the movies
claim. America started as a scarcely populated
country. Self-reliance was a necessity. Today it
is just a myth because only the resources of pollution
They are true American patriots. Without SS there will be more poor people, the USA will depend less on cheap foreign labor and outsourcing, the traditional American values will be strengthen, and America will stop rolling downhill or falling apart or both.
34. But why do the same people want to strengthen religion?
Well, it is obvious. If you make the government weaker, you need a strong hand anyway to keep the flock together.
35. Why is religion so wide spread in America?
Because it has become a technologically advanced industry. It may not be opium for the people anymore, but it is certainly like soap for the soul. This soap business is not taxed.
36. Oh, no! Not everybody has dirty soul! Why are people genuinely attracted to the places of worship?
Automobile has been dispersing and scattering people for a hundred years. The place of worship pulls them together. It has no wheels.
37. Why do we in the modern West have problem with any war? War has been considered normalcy for millennia.
It is the identification with the enemy. We are humans, they are humans. We become our own enemy.
38. But why is that the right wing has no qualms about war?
To have no qualms is the definition of the right wing. Therefore, the ultra-left wing of the left wing is the right wing.
39. In 2004 George W. Bush was one of the most vulnerable candidates on memory. Why was he elected?
Because the majority of voters cast their ballots for him. But it is a big mistake to believe that the American President is elected by the majority. In fact, the President is brought to power by the power of voters (P) which is the number of potential voters for him (V) times the turnout (T), i.e., fraction of them who actually comes to the polls : P = V × T. This is not quite simple, but still a reason.
40. Why was suicidal terrorism successful in New York?
First, very complex reasons, just so that you could see how simple the simple reason is.
The branches of intelligence did not communicate, the Congress had little supervision over the intelligence, the suicide bomber is the most perfect weapon ever, endowed with human intelligence, blah-blah-blah.
Now the simple reason. The American civilization, oriented toward maximal business freedom, enhances any business activity fueled by money. Whatever you want to do, sell pornography, play Shakespeare, build a nursing home, or blow up the White House, the system will work for you until the moment people discover it works against them. This moment comes post factum, which is rather late. Modern terrorism is a social parallel of the viral infection, in which a simple low life form uses the sophisticated biochemical apparatus of the cell to destroy it.
41. Forget the reasons! How can we protect ourselves against terrorism?
Terrorism is similar to AIDS. That the virus reproduces and multiplies itself by killing cells while the terrorist dies in the act, does not matter. This leaves us nothing by a social condom to prevent the terro-AIDS. This is why Israel is building the condom wall. All the more, democracy has always suffered some weakness of immune system. But the vitamins won't help.
Am I right or what? Left?
Because of the immense numerical advantage of the enemies.
January 11, 2007
87. Why would George W. Bush go against the predominant mood and expectation of the country and escalate the war in Iraq?
Because he hopes to be stopped by the Congress and have an excuse at the trial of history.
88. Why is the growth of income inequality in USA dangerous?
Because people disappointed in social justice tend to elect demagogues. Examples galore in space and time.
89. Why are the conservative talk shows so numerous while the liberal ones almost non-existent?
The conservative is not curious about the world because he (or she) knows what he wants and hates. The conservative is easy to be pleased by the echo of his thoughts. The liberal knows only what he hates, especially, being told what to do and what to think. He is curious about what new he could possibly like.
1. My theory belongs to a whole category of similar (but not identical) principles, the founder of which was William of Occam (or Ockham), who lived in the 14th century. His position became known as Ockham Razor:
Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily
There is also Hanlon's Razor :
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity
I have to mention also theory of simple reasons in Artificial Intelligence, but I do not know what it is.2. A good example of complex reasons:
It remains for us to explain the relation between causes and motives in the everyday case in which they exist side by side. For example, I can join the Socialist party because I judge that this party serves the interests of justice and of humanity or because I believe that it will become the principal historical force in the years which will follow my joining: these are causes. And at the same time I can have motives: a feeling of pity or charity for certain classes of the oppressed, a feeling of shame at being on the “good side of the barricade,” as Gide says, or again an inferiority complex, a desire to shock my relatives, etc. What can be meant by the statement that I have joined the Socialist party for these causes and these motives? Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, Part Four, Chapter One, I.A possible simple reason is in "etc.": I was promised a position of a salaried functionary.
A simple reason does not leave any further "why."
3. After picking Reason No.10, I got a feeling that I had read something obliquely relevant. And I found it:
There are high welfare categories as well as low ones. Some professors work hard, said the Dean. Most of them do. But a professor when he gets tenure doesn't have to do anything. A tenured professor and a welfare mother with eight kids have much in common....Everybody needs grants, tenure or not.
4. Comments on Simple Reasons 83 to 86
Two Jews came to the Rabbi and asked to solve their dispute. The Rabbi had listened to the first Jew and said: "You are right." Then he had listened to the second Jew and said "You are also right." But the Rabbi's disciple intervened: "It is impossible for both to be right!" "And you are right, too, my friend," the Rabbi said.
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