Having taken electives in psychology and philosophy in college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read Lois Holzman’s book. While I try to read as many book club selections as possible, I was going to rationalize passing on this one. My current political activism was consuming much of my time. My wife sometimes says too much of my time. I didn’t need another book to read right now.
Would such a book dredge up painful memories? Isn’t philosophy best left to the period of youthful discovery and self-identification? Didn’t I decide a long time ago what is real and what strategy to employ in order to best adapt to that reality?
Since the selection was announced, I continued seeing notices about the book and the upcoming conference call. The book’s title The Overweight Brain (and more importantly its subtitle) How our obsession with knowing keeps us from getting smart enough to make a better world continued to intrigue me. I bought the book and plunged in.
Although I became an activist for political reform late in life, why we don’t have a “better world” is a question that requires a better answer than the one l landed on so many years ago. Whether due to religious instruction in my formative years, or the result of that period of youthful discovery, I came to believe (and still do) that greed is the cause of a less-better world. If I am “right” and that is “in fact” the cause, isn’t an individual adaptive strategy based in greed?
The answer for me was yes. When I consider the obvious disparities in our society, an attitude of I’ve got mine – you get yours appears to be increasingly prevalent. While the attitude may grow organically from individual life experiences, I fear it is being reinforced by a political ideology which seeks to prevent as many others as possible from “getting theirs”.
We frame conversations with either/or. We speak either/or and we think either/or. We operate as if words mean “this” and that “this” means “NOT that.” Either/or is one of the pictures that hold us captive, and it lies in our language.”P. 49
Haves vs have-nots. Public school vs private school. Intervention vs isolation. Fossil fuels vs renewable energy. Deficit spending vs balanced budgets. Tax vs spend. The list is long, but doesn’t it come down to Democrat vs Republican?
A political duopoly dominates our electoral process, and it presents complex problems as simple either/or choices. While the duopoly has been successful in maintaining its stranglehold on the electoral process, it has simultaneously caused great harm to our governing process and, consequently, to our society at large.
The cure according to Wittgenstein:
What I do is suggest, or even invent, other ways of looking at it. I suggest possibilities of which you had not previously thought. You thought that there was one possibility, or only two at most. But I made you think of others. Furthermore, I made you see that it was absurd to expect the concept to conform to those narrow possibilities. Thus, your mental cramp is relieved, and you are free to look around the field of use of the expression and to describe the different kinds of uses of it.”P. 50
As an activist, I attempt to educate people who I interact with about the flaws inherent in our two-party system. I promote what I consider needed change, and I remain open to new ideas. As I continue my life’s journey, and remain committed to a better world, I know others are asking why we can’t have that better world and are working toward that end. I hope this book helped them along the way.
Steve Hough is a lifelong independent and became an activist for political reform after retiring as an accountant. He is the director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries.
Politics for the People
Conference Call With Author
Dr. Lois Holzman
Sunday, December 8th
Call in number: 605-313-5156
The Overweight Brain
How our obsession with knowing keeps us from getting smart enough to make a better world