Features — 24 August 2012 — by Janus

Great minds

A great mind has to have the capacity to simplify things. What things? The things it understands fully. The following three narratives explain what I mean.

Columbus and the egg

I will recount again the story of Columbus and the egg. After his New World discoveries and the fame he began to enjoy as a result, his fellow mariners became jealous and, they started to spread the word that anybody who sailed due west from Europe would eventually encounter the islands and, then, the main of North America.

Columbus decided to teach them a lesson. He told them he could make an egg stand on an end, and they couldn’t. He was challenged and it was agreed to settle the argument by a wager on a certain day. On the appointed day, they wanted Columbus to go first but, he refused, saying that if he succeeded, everyone would know how to do it. They all tried and failed, as expected, because, an egg in its normal state will always topple over when set on an end. Then, Columbus took the egg and gently tapped the larger end on a table till small cracks appeared, which was enough to change the shape of that end from round to flattish, and the egg stood without toppling over. The other mariners objected, saying that anybody could do the same but, Columbus said, “Of course, anybody can do it, now that I have showed you how.

E = MC2

When Albert Einstein discovered and proposed his theory of relativity, it was the greatest scientific achievement of the age. He had gone further in his thinking of the abstruse concepts of time and space than anyone before him. But, to do so, he would have had to simplify these concepts in his own mind and be able to record the process for himself then, be able to communicate it to others. I think that at different stages in his work, he must have been engaged in the exercise of simplification.

The Gordian Knot

Finally, my favorite, the story of the Gordian Knot. The knot was so tightly woven, so cunningly devised that there was no loose end. It was also made of a very strong material and, altogether, it was supposed to be impossible to loose. This proved to be a fact, for everyone who tried to loose it, failed. The knot got its name from the King Gordos, who either made it himself or commissioned its making.

I forgot to mention that the knot was quite large, about four feet in diameter. It remained on a dais in the public square of the main city for many long years, until a soldier came along and sliced it in two with his sword. Simple. Anyone could have done it, if he had the ability to simplify.

My thesis is that all problems, however complex, including social problems, can be solved, if you have the ability to simplify them.

National Service Corps

What if there was a law that every male citizen had to have an occupation by the age of 18 years. And, what if the law also said that every male citizen without an occupation, did not have a secondary school certificate, was not attending an educational institution, and was unemployed, would be drafted into the National Service Corps to serve for two years. What if the law also said that the onus to acquire an occupational skill lay on the individual himself and his parents. This is not a scheme. Just the bare bones of an idea put forward to see if anyone thinks it ought to be considered as one measure, that could help us to achieve a desirable objective.

Politics

Politics is about people coming together to make decisions about their future. I like this definition about politics. It means that the people are in charge.

Politics pervades all spheres of human endeavor. It is involved in everything, including religion. You can’t escape politics. Why would you want to, when politics is the stuff of which our lives are made?

There is a religious denomination which has made it clear that it has strong positions on political issues and is prepared to use its influence to persuade its members to take stands on these issues. Its influence will spread. It has an advantage over other religious denominations, which have not been so forthright.

To be a politician is a noble profession. Most of all, it is a call to serve your fellow citizens in a position of trust. Elective office is for persons of integrity, trustworthiness and commitment. And, yet, so many of our citizens have a low regard for the profession.

Some of our citizens have this opinion about politicians: All politicians are selfish, greedy and corrupt. Unthinkable. Absurd. Definitely not all politicians are selfish, greedy and corrupt. How about this statement: Some politicians are selfish, greedy and corrupt. Too vague. What is meant by some? Two? Ten percent? Twenty-five percent? Fifty? We are left nowhere. This statement is absolutely true: Too many politicians are selfish, greedy and corrupt. We would like everyone, especially our political leaders, to be less selfish and greedy but, our better judgment tells us, it might be too much to hope for. Corruption is a different matter. We shouldn’t have to tolerate it. About corrupt politicians? How much is too many? One is too many.

Many countries have mechanisms in place to discourage corrupt practices, such as, the office of the Ombudsman, the Integrity Commission and House and Senatorial oversight Committees, etc., etc. In Mexico, the President announced that anyone who has knowledge of corrupt practices by public officials or public servants should report it to the proper authority for investigation. In other countries, corrupt politician go to jail.

I thought it had been decided to put an end to corrupt practices by public officials.

A corrupt politician is worse than a murderer.

A corrupt politician cannot be your friend, even if you benefit personally from his activities.

A corrupt politician is an enemy of the people because one corrupt politician, in high office, can destroy a nation.

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