The art of making complicated things simple

Researchers have analyzed some 380,000 speeches of politicians in ten European countries over the 1946-2017 period and have concluded that the language of the left-oriented politicians is considerably more complicated that that of their colleagues more to the right of the political spectrum. From reading my daily newspaper and watching several news broadcasts every day, I tend to agree. President Trump is probably at present the clearest example. His messages are very direct and easy to understand. He offers simple solutions for complex problems. Is there a global warming of the earth? No way, just think of the recent sub-zero temperatures in a major part of the US. Does America face an immigration crisis? No, just give me enough money to build a wall on our border with Mexico and we will stop the drug smugglers and criminals from entering our country. Whether or not you agree with the president he is easy to understand. In the Netherlands people like Geert Wilders have a similar approach. Having fewer Moroccan immigrants would be a major step towards solving the crime problem in the big cities. Abandoning the Euro and going back to the guilder would be a financial bonus for every Dutch citizen. Stop all aid to developing countries. That is a major saving and, after all, all the money just disappears in the pockets of the corrupt African leaders.

Politicians who want to tell a more nuanced story—and they are often found more towards the left of the political spectrum—tend to face a major challenge in getting their message across. Climate change, and all the issues related to it, is a complex topic and the influx of refugees likewise has numerous difficult aspects. Creating a more just society is not simply a matter of lowering taxes for some and raising them for others. Cutting the sales tax would be a very popular measure, but the funding for education and security must come from somewhere. To explain such things requires more than a few populist slogans, which fail to impress the people who are looking for solid arguments.

We see something similar in the church. What I am going to say may be a bit too general, but I believe there is at least a kernel of truth in it. Many “conservative” voices in the church find it quite easy to express their opinion in rather straightforward language. We must take the Bible as it is and adopt the “plain reading” approach. The six days of creation are six literal days of 24 hours. If the Bible tells us that Daniel lived and worked in the sixth century BC, that is what it is. If the Bible calls homosexuality an “abomination” nothing else needs to be said. The Roman Catholic Church manifests all the characteristics of the “little horn” and of the “beast from the sea” that we meet in the Revelation. Therefore, no further discussion is needed. Etcetera.

For those who are a bit more “liberal” in their thinking it is often more difficult to explain their thinking. They try to show that things are often considerably more complicated than they appear to be at first sight, and they offer alternatives to traditional positions that, they believe, should also be considered. And at times they simply have no answers, for the simple reason that we are finite human beings who cannot know everything.

When push comes to shove, it would seem to me that left-wing politicians and “liberal” Christians may have to make a much greater effort in explaining difficult issues in a simple (note, I am not saying “simplistic) manner. At times, one meets or hears people who have mastered that art, but my wife frequently tells me that I continue to use too much theological jargon and difficult terms.  Indeed, it presents a major challenge, but what good is a well thought-through message if it cannot be communicated in a transparent and easy to understand manner? In this regard there is still a lot of room for improvement for many “progressive” politicians as well for many “progressive” Seventh-day Adventist.

2 thoughts on “The art of making complicated things simple

  1. Andrija

    Leave the left to generate ideas and right/conservatives to implement these ideas. It’s a win-win situation!

    Reply
  2. OupaPaul

    I agree with your observation (in general) of the difference between the communication styles of left and right-leaning people. I have seen this for a long time and it continues to amaze me how some people could so glibly make the most astounding statements.

    I think the beginning of the solution to this style of communication lies in an awareness of the phenomenon. And I suppose each one of us must look at our own communication and see and ask ourselves how we could make it, either more simple and direct, or expand on it to make it more comprehensive and useful

    Perhaps this little note illustrates my leaning to the ‘left’ ! Haha!

    Reply

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