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16 November 2015 @ 03:41 pm
Killing Baby Hitler, Climate Change and Wanting Simple Solutions to Complex Problems  
Inspired by a serious interviewer asking a Republican candidate if he would go back in time to kill baby Hitler. Let's set aside the morality of killing someone for something he hasn't technically done yet from everyone's perspective but yours, and whether or not he inevitably will lead to the death of millions. Let's also generalize to the general 'leader of horrible movement of history' case.

(I mean, I guess I can go for a fictional example, like stopping the assassination of Senator Kelly at the hands of Mystique, but the thing about fiction is that you can make a complex problem have a simple solution.)

Okay, so Hitler for whatever reason does not become involved with the Nazi Party, thus he can't take leadership of that, then of Germany, then lead the way to WWII and the Holocaust. But you still have a Germany that suffered an economic downturn after losing WWI, followed by the Great Depression. You still have fascism rising in Italy and fascist movements in Europe. You still have an imperialist Japan in the Pacific, which is an part of WWII that is loosely connected to the European theater via alliances.

The argument then becomes 'why bother acting on one man when we have social problems that are bigger than that?' Which is the normal pragmatic argument against messing with time travel. Someone in the discussion over on Slactivist mentioned that doing something is better than throwing up your hands and doing nothing and alluded to climate change...

... except with climate change, if we try something and it either doesn't do what we think it does or has side effects, we can stop and evaluate. Most time travel stories involve you doing one thing, then skipping merrily ahead to the future without having to live through the years. If you want to make the world a better place, you can't just do one grand gesture and expect things to sort itself out.

Which comes back to American politics. A quote from Obama today was "...we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution." I don't always think that Obama does the right thing, and heavens know that what Obama wants doesn't always happen thanks to the US political system. But it's a good motto to live by. Sometimes the things that work aren't the flashy, simple-sounding actions, but a lot of things that don't boil down to a soundbyte and require dealing with the fact that things are complicated.