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  • Writer's pictureJoia

Today's rhaps is on ... "It's the Effect, Stupid"

Helena Almeida, Untitled, 1972

Any junior high school kid with a science project knows that going after the effect rather than the cause will get you nowhere. You have to build it so the cause is changed! Then all the effects will change, too.

In fact, if you don't go after the suspected cause, each and every single effect will need to be individually altered. That sorry venture will not win any prizes.

Given this, how did such a backward kind of reasoning become the basis of so many bad social policies? Why would governments seek to change those affected by rather than actively maintaining an imbalance?

In human terms, if you refuse to modify the cause, the people on the receiving end will need to be "altered." Or punished. Or imprisoned. Or mutilated. Or killed.

What are these policies? Going after effect rather than cause means blaming:

  • the poor instead of the wealthy

  • the mothers instead of the fathers

  • the slaves instead of the masters

  • the workers instead of the owners

  • the addicts, the ill, the disabled, the elderly instead of the...well, you get the idea.

What changes when you hold the effect responsible for the cause? Nothing.

Nada. Zip. Nichts. Rien. Ничего нет.

So...maybe it's intentional?

Yes, absolutely. Changing nothing, preserving the status quo, the coffers of wealth and oil...this is indeed the intent. The dead-end policies sound good, though, even to the people they hurt. We shall return to an idyllic past, when boys were boys and women knew their place! When the right people were in charge! When the truly deserving got rewarded and the disobedient got publically punished!

These kinds of economic and social policies heap untold pain upon the innocent, ignoring the exhausted part timers and unemployable convicts who fall through the system, the impregnated mothers who can't keep up with the workday, the hungry children who can't do their schoolwork, the dying patients who can't afford to heal.

Punish. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

Make the consequences theirs, causation be damned.

Actual change involves modifying the cause, not tampering with effects. What would it take to design policies that produce real, humane change?

The logic of abuse is to turn the arrow of causation around toward the one being hurt. In other words:

You made me do it! But for your (fill in: miniskirt, skin color, lack of property, lack of nationhood) I would not have had to (fill in: hurt, mutilate, murder, invade) you.

Therefore (say the perpetrators): We are not responsible. We are not accountable.

Thus, having evicted the tenants, or withheld a living wage, the owners escape responsibility. Having caused the pregnancy, the fathers escape accountability. The tortured slave must be punished for running away. The uppity servant, the user, the person wrongly colored, the body badly gendered—lock them up.

These are the frightening policies underlying the violence and trauma that allows predators to go free while the prey must pay:

The cause is not the cause!

It's the effect, stupid!

12 JULY 2022

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