Five simple words. Five words that can say so much. Say so much, convey so much feeling, describe so much angst, and yet couldn’t be any more clear.
These words were uttered by my 6-year-old nephew one afternoon when he, his siblings and my children were playing ‘Marco Polo’ in our backyard pool. He was the youngest of all of them and was frustrated that one of them was not playing according to the rules. His brother was cheating. But rather than complain, whine and bleat about the situation, he provided the most sage advice. When you cheat, you lose.
Now, I’m not suggesting he was the first to come up with this phrase. A quick Google search will dispell this. Nor am I suggesting that he is some Freudian child prodigy either (although our family does wonder sometimes…). I am suggesting, though, that it is the logic, the clarity and the fundamental simplicity that young minds can bring to situations that often lead us adults (the decision makers) grasping for straws.
In my working life, I have seen it every day, the drafting of legislation, policy and procedure that seeks to obfuscate simplicity in such new and eventful ways (almost at times it would seem with potentially sinister or class divisional intent) to explain things that simple, logic phrases already do. Our language is full of ‘sayings’. Sayings that have stood the test of time because they never lose relevance and are always logical, fundamental and unequivocal. Just like my nephew’s quote, when you cheat, you lose.
So I ask, why legislators, policy makers, managers, supervisors (and adults in general), etc., seek to complicate things instead of opting for the logical and unequivocal. Too often we provide our children (and ourselves) with excuses like – ‘it’s complicated’ or ‘it’s just not as easy as that’ or ‘there are more things to it’ or ‘I wish it were that easy’, and the list can and does go on. Could it be the case, that our obfuscation and mire of adverbs and adjectives is seeking to cheat those of us who can’t understand, can’t decipher the riddle that doesn’t have to be? Could we, through our own complications, be cheating ourselves and our community to the extent where we ultimately lose, where we are breaking down the trust that we have in each other simply because we cannot accept our own foibles?
For example, why use the term ‘quantitative easing’ when it just means ‘print more money’. Why is the offence of Wilful/Reckless Damage, not enough? Why must legislators provisions for ‘graffiti offences’? Ultimately, it is still wilful damage if someone writes on someone else’s wall without the owner’s permission without further definition. For as the Roman historian Tacitus so succinctly put it, …in a state where corruption abounds, laws must be very numerous.
Which is why my greatest fear, is the Orwellian road upon which we now as a society seem to be traversing. This lack of trust, this cheating and losing, this legislative and political spin that is now so prevalent amongst our leaders (as Tacitus has also remarked) can only mean one thing. The alternative facts with which we are being presented, like graffiti being wilful damage with another name, is just like opposing numbers at inauguration ceremonies, arguments over housing affordability and growing gap between rich and poor. We are complicating things too much. We are cheating, too much. And we are going to lose, way too much.
We need to trust ourselves in this dystopian game of Marco Polo, trust our feelings, because, when you are ‘it’ in this game, your eyes must be closed (that’s the rules) and the only way to win is to be the best at feeling your way. And when we feel our way, we have to keep things simple.