Very often people who don’t like your ideas, or maybe fear that you are right, will try to pull this trick on you. They will try to place you in “the prison of two ideas.”
They set up an issue as having only two positions -- you’re either for or against “X” -- and then place you on the side that sounds most evil.
For example, a person might say:
-- You’re either for climate change legislation, or you want the planet to die
-- You’re either for ObamaCare, or you want babies and sick people to die
-- You’re either for peace, or you want war
-- You’re either for amnesty, or you’re xenophobic
It’s painful and predictable. Verging on parody. But sometimes we do the same to our adversaries, too.
-- Either you’re for the death penalty or you coddle criminals
-- Either you’re pro-gun, or a leftwing socialist gun grabber
-- Either you fear God, or are a godless pinko
The right does this sort of thing less often, but maybe it’s because we’ve had less practice.
But we also allow ourselves to become inmates in our own two-idea prison -- by appointing “an idea warden.”
This takes the shape of a political leader whose ideas become reflexively accepted as our ideas. Through a subtle submission to authoritarian allure, we end up settling on the side of an argument because he or she holds that side, too.
It’s political team sport stuff.
And so if he decides that X is bad, you agree. If he believes we need less of Y, you do, too. But if he changes his mind, realizing that X is good, and Y is a necessity, then you change with him as well.
This “idea warden” gives you the freedom to ignore any alternative ideas because you’ve put all your eggs in his basket -- whether that basket be trade, immigration or taxes.
The interesting discovery, with President Donald Trump, is because his positions change, he happily demolishes the prison of two ideas, while still being a prison warden for so many others. It’s brilliant, but troubling.
So, I’m thinking, Instead of agreeing with Donald Trump, we should be copying him. As he divorces himself from the prison of two ideas, we should too.
President Trump, through his actions on trade, China, Syria, Russia, and ObamaCare - reveals that between two opposing ideas there’s an endless number of options. Literally -- the positions one can hold are infinite.
Trump’s view of things has more choices than the order of cards in a typical deck. I really believe this. In a deck, there are 52 cards -- which means the total possible combinations would be (yes, I read this on a blog): 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000.
That’s more than the number of people (in billions) on every planet if there were a billion planets in 200 billion solar systems and so on (don’t ask me to verify this -- it’s from Reddit).
Ponder this crazy, fantastic number. Because it frees you from sticking to two sides. It reminds you that you can think of anything.
How can you free yourself and think differently about things?
Consider one side, and work toward a compatible alternative that solves whatever accusation might be lobbed at you.
Take immigration. Are you xenophobic for wanting a wall?
No, you can be for enforced, enhanced border protection, while welcoming grateful refugees and hard-working immigrants. You can be for that wall, and that giant beautiful door. You see: Trump used a simple sentence to destroy the prison of two ideas. People remember the wall, but he also offered the door.
Climate change: So, are you accepting the “consensus,” or do you want the planet to die, you anti-science heathen?
Your answer destroys that two idea prison: You remain open to that idea that there has been gradual warming over time -- and that humans might contribute to it (which is where the consensus claim tentatively rests) -- and will even worry that it could be a problem.
However, the solutions prescribed by the most vocal and spot-lit climate activists are extreme and unreliable. The climate models and predictions have been notoriously inaccurate (comically so), and the claims too variable.
Last, the money one demands to fight this threat might actually do harm by steering funds away from efforts that might actually save millions of lives right now (in terms of promoting and pursuing clean air, water, fuel, etc). Describe yourself as a “luke-warmer.”
Health care: Your angry liberal friend might say, “you’re either for ObamaCare or you want people to die on the streets.” (I wish I were creating a straw man argument here, but this is an actual refrain.)
To destroy this two idea prison, offer the simplest solution: We want everyone to be healthy, and to be able to afford health care when really bad stuff happens. So it’s not about birth control pills (which even college kids can afford).
The most practical answer is that we, the consumer, pay for the small stuff, and insurance covers the rest. Suddenly catastrophic insurance becomes hugely affordable. Take a page from car insurance (which, by the way, isn’t “car care,” it’s car insurance). There’s variability in coverage and cost, based on individual needs and types. There is also competition (compare the number of car insurance ads to the number of health insurance ads during your favorite cable news show). Competition, in every arena, puts the customer first (in this case: the patient).
The most important arena where the two idea prison must be destroyed: National security.
If you wish to fight terror with every weapon at your disposal -- well, then you must be Islamophobic. That’s the new prison of two ideas: worrying about terror means you’re a bigot.
To shatter this prison, one must only point out the reality of the current age: technology married to terror means our defenses merit a different mindset. We aren’t fighting traditional wars any more. We now must consider that a drone carrying a toxic substance, tested in one country -- can now be unleashed here in this country by a satellite jihadists, over a parade or a stadium -- killing tens of thousands, or more. And that satellite jihadist may be an American citizen! So how is that racist? Or bigoted?
The simpler point: You can be against invading countries, but you can recognize threats far away, that intend to come here.
So, in sum: The prison of two ideas is less your choice than it is one made by political adversaries to beat you at debate.
Once you break out of it, the possibilities for winning become endless.