. . . is recognizing there is one.
Life is all about solving problems . . . from everyday banal matters (e.g., packing an umbrella for a forecasted rainy day) to life-threatening situations (e.g., submerged in a car caught up in a flash flood). In reality, if we were never confronted with challenges nor issues that vexed us, we would soon experience spectacular boredom indeed, which would eventually yield an existence devoid of happiness. Yeah, I know this is counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
Generally speaking, the more effective one is at solving problems, the more satisfaction and sense of self-worth that is thus derived. And if you deductively take this a step further and pre-suppose all problems do in fact have at least one viable solution (and often many), then conceivably, a hypothesis could be that the happiest people in the world are those who have confronted the most, the biggest and the thorniest problems. And because they chose not to give up, were able to overcome them and prevail.
But the corollary to this feeling of accomplishment is that one must recognize that a problem exists . . . a notion presented in the powerful opening scene of HBO’s “The Newsroom” (written and produced by Aaron Sorkin), the importance of which is underscored by another related corollary — to wit, problems that are not addressed early on, tend to grow in magnitude and severity, and thus impact more and more people, and become increasingly difficult to resolve — hence the saying . . .
“A stitch in time, saves nine“.
[The setting and script for this scene is presented below.]
A college sponsored symposium of political pundits, featuring the character Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels), the notoriously non-committal and supposed non-confrontational anchorman of the fictional cable news network ACN, and a professor, who moderates the discussion by pressing for an answer to a rhetorically leading question originally posed by a 20-year-old female student.
Professor: What makes America the greatest country in the world?
McAvoy: Well Lewis and Sharon said it: diversity and opportunity and freedom and freedom.
[Signs held by a woman (McKenzie played by Emily Mortimer) in the audience: “IT’S NOT . . . BUT IT CAN BE”]
Professor: I’m not letting you go back to the airport without answering the question.
McAvoy: Well, our Constitution is a masterpiece. James Madison was a genius. The Declaration of Independence is for me is the single greatest piece of American writing.
You don’t look satisfied.
Professor: One’s a set of laws and the other’s a declaration of war. I want a human moment from you.
What about the people? Why is America . . .
[Sign is again held up by McKenzie: “IT’S NOT”]
McAvoy: It’s NOT the greatest country in the world, Professor . . . that’s my answer!
Professor: You’re saying . . .
Professor: Let’s talk about . . .
McAvoy: [Turns to his Liberal colleague and addresses comments made earlier, but not included in the video clip, so this will appear to be a bit out of context] Fine – Sharon, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes – it costs air time . . . column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? . . . cause they lose. If liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so goddamn always? [Now he turns to his Conservative colleague, who had earlier attributed America’s greatness to its “freedoms”] And with a straight face, you’re gonna tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome, that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia . . . Belgium has freedom! – 207 sovereigns states in the world, and like 180 of them have freedom.
And you, sorority girl [the blond haired female student who originally posed the question] . . . just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know. And one of them is there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy; 27th in math; 22nd in science; 49th in life expectancy; 178th in infant mortality; 3rd in median household income; number four in labor force and number four in exports.
We lead the world in only three categories: (1) number of incarcerated citizens per capita; (2) number of adults who believe angels are real; and (3) defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are Allies.
Now none of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you nonetheless are without a doubt a member of the Worst . . . Generation . . . Ever!! So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! . . . Yosemite? [Reflective pause]
We sure use to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty . . . not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great big things . . . made ungodly technological advances . . . explored the universe . . . cured diseases. And we cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy.
We reached for the stars. Acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t . . . we didn’t scare so easy. Huh . . . we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed . . . by great men . . . men who were revered.
First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is NOT the greatest country in the world anymore.
[Turns to the moderating Professor again] Enough?