All things being equal, the simplest answer is usually the correct one.
I try to live a simple life.
Minimal clutter. Minimal stuff. No debt. No credit card. It’s a good life. Uncomplicated.
It strikes me, time and again, difficult problems very often require simple changes to be resolved.
Let me give you three examples.
An I.T. Problem
I had a complex website problem last week with one of the WordPress sites I manage. The problem was that all of the Google ads were suddenly Disapproved after running for a long time. The reason given? Destination URL Not Working.
On the surface, everything looked fine. The pages were loading fast enough and appeared nicely on my desktop computers and my phone.
‘Destination not working’ seemed like a mistake. The destination URL was working just fine. Deeper investigations in Search Console (GSC) indicated that it was a crawl issue with the Googlebot smartphone.
First, I rolled back the website to the last date that Google had crawled it.
Tried the ads again. Still not working. Google couldn’t crawl the site.
Next, I deactivated the usual plugin suspects. Super Cache, the last gallery plugin I installed, etc, etc. Still no joy.
Could it be Wordfence, the security plugin? Reluctant to deactivate a security plugin, I searched online for any such conflicts and found a statement from Wordfence that Google crawlers are allowed in by default. Okay. Not Wordfence.
Was it a Google algorithm change? Is the site too slow? No and no.
Was the code a mess to Google? It was built using Advanced Custom Fields. Was it not futureproof now that Google uses mobile-first indexing?
Eventually, I hired a web developer. We did a share screen Zoom video call and combed through the code. He was baffled. For an hour. The two of us looked at all the pages and the screenshots from the live tests and got nowhere. The website viewport, everything had been built properly.
Eventually. I made a comment that I had once crashed a doctor’s website because of Wordfence premium. As a last resort, we deactivated it.
Guess what happened?
Suddenly all the problems disappeared in Search Console. After clearing the cache, a few ads were approved. I felt like an idiot. A very happy idiot.
A pandora’s box of code, display and crawl issues all was solved by deactivating one plugin. It took one second.
A Medical Problem
By some weird quirk of nature, I have multiple sclerosis. No need to pity me, I am fine. I mean it, completely fine.
I was diagnosed in 2003 after a few years of believing my symptoms were psychosomatic or would just go away. They never went away. They got worse and worse. At times I could barely see. I had trouble walking and required a cane. I lost smell, taste, and felt like I was wearing a corset that was way too tight.
MS works like this. The body thinks it is under threat and produces an inflammatory response to attack the threat. This is normal central nervous system (CNS) behaviour. The difference with MS is that there is no threat. The CNS attacks myelin, believing it to be a virus or a threat.
Myelin is the fatty tissue that protects our nerve cell axons and helps increase the rate of transmission of our electrical impulses. It is a bit like the insulation that is wrapped around electrical cords. When the myelin is besieged with inflammation, it cinders the wrapping around the cord and impacts the transmission of the signal. Hence, MS symptoms feel like strange sensations and affect walking, vision, etc.
For a few years, I tried to understand why. How does a fit and healthy person —with a family full of fit and healthy people —get this?
My instinct was that my body thought it I had a virus. My MS was simply a case of profound miscommunication. Something was making my body think it had a virus and so my central nervous system was attacking itself.
In 2010 I discovered the book Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis by Dr. George Jelinek. He is a man who has MS and whose mother also had MS. Using his skills and knowledge, he went back through the medical and scientific literature and studies going back decades to find answers. One of the strong correlations he found along the way was with cow’s milk.
Yep. Such a simple thing.
Successful marketing campaigns have almost completely brainwashed the western population into believing that cow’s milk is good for you. Nothing could be further from the case. It is not natural to drink the secretions of another mammal.
When I removed cow’s milk from my diet, my symptoms faded away and have never come back. Except after Easter once when I indulged in a *lot* of milk chocolate easter eggs and suffered a physical backlash.
People consider a lifetime of disability and medications that have a long list of horrible side effects as par for the course. It’s not.
One small change, the problem largely disappears. If you have MS, my friend, I am giving you a hug right now. I know how bad it is. You’re not alone. Don’t despair. Paracelsus said the answers are there in nature. The job of science is to discover what they are. Sometimes the answer is that there is something you shouldn't do, not something you should.
“It was the book of nature which I studied, not the scribblers, for each scribbler writes down the rubbish he has found in his head.” Paracelsus.
A Global Pandemic
Third example. SARS-CoV-2.
Now we have a coronavirus spreading around the world.
In terms of responding and dealing with this disaster, the countries that have been decisive and effective are winning. They are largely those countries in the east who have had experience with SARS, MERS, H1N1 (swine flu), ebola, bird flu, and other zoonotic illnesses in their human populations.
Their governments have plans and take charge. Why?
Because their governments have a mandate that, first and foremost, the role of government is to make rules and laws that protect people.
In the west, it seems, we make rules and laws to protect the rich.
Where do you think I’m going with this?
Covid-19 is an opportunity, as is climate change, to move to a better system of society and governance where people actually matter. Economics was founded in these principles. Economics is supposed to serve people.
The combined activities of highly-skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers on national health, educations, infrastructure projects — in exchange for a universal liveable wage — would be massive.
Perhaps Governments should provide employment in national-building activities for those who have lost jobs. Activities that use their skills, interests, and capacities. In Australia, the contribution made by the combined activities of highly-skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers would be immense.
Perhaps a Keynesian shift away from neo-liberalism toward something where government shoulders more responsibility for things that are essential to people.
In other words: rather than selling off the national treasures, perhaps we should push for government-owned essential services, like welfare, health, post, banking, education, and transport.
In Australia that would be using some people could help build an effective internet network of cable to the home. It could be designing and building online educational systems.
Don’t get bogged down in the fear, hype, and complexity. The good news is that the solutions are simple. Hygiene. Time away from others. Not going out shopping so much. Living more simply.
I think the current pandemic could bring people a deeper awareness. You really are much happier when you have less.