Framing the Question

It’s a well-known logic premise that the way in which the question is framed dictates the boundaries of the answer that will be achieved (okay, I just made that up, but it does stand to reason). The current (tense) discussion about ‘gun control’ and what we should do to keep weapons/large-capacity magazines out of the hands of undesirables/criminals/people with mental issues’ hands narrows the issues that can be explored, and requires that any solution deal only with the variables that have been presented. As in a Venn Diagram, we can interlace overlapping circles of concepts, but only those concepts that fall within the framework of the question we have previously elucidated. We cannot reach outside the circles (or the ‘box’) to bring in other matters that may end up having more relevance to the problem that actually needs to be solved, once we have structured such a restrictive framework.

So, instead of discussing, or even broaching, the question of ‘How do we keep our children/citizens safe?’ we instead focus on the narrow issue of restricting gun ownership. ‘How do we keep ‘x’ safe?’ opens an entire world of possibilities, some of which may actually lead to more safety, better security, even a possibility of an alternate culture, none of which come into being when the topic is no larger than ‘Let’s ban assault looking weapons’, or ‘Keep large magazines out of the hands of criminals’.

But, then, why should the question of keeping our most vulnerable citizens safe be any different than any of the other questions that currently occupy our media and politicians? The topic of educating the next generations devolves to ‘We need to pay our teachers a living wage’; raising the debt ceiling becomes ‘How can we get those pesky Republicans to make good on debts they’ve already incurred?’; and the issue of moderating spending is—‘Say what? I didn’t hear that!’

Until we decide to tackle the big picture, the ultimate issues, the basic questions that affect our lives and inform our cultural biases and preconceptions, we will be diddled and riddled with small fixes that waste time, do nothing—or worse, and fail to resolve the troubles that plague our society. I’m not saying that we ever have to address the human condition directly. I’m just noting that, if we refuse to do so, at least let’s not pretend that we are, or pretend that we are making any headway.

It’s hard to peel away the skin, and get to the root causes of why we act the way we do, express directly what we would like the future to hold, and explore the fundamental changes that we must make in order to get there. It’s much easier to find ‘them’ to blame our troubles on: gun owners/criminals/those with mental issues. Such name-calling allows us an easy out, allows us to continue on without having to attend to our basic mores. Fine, fine. But let’s not kid ourselves. The real work still awaits, even while we spend beaucoup dollars and irreclaimable amounts of time on the minutest issues that having nothing to do with the real problems that exist. 

‘Scuse me, I need to go restring my violin.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Education, Politics, Self-help

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