What's wrong with America? Well, for starters, a unilateral focus on the problem, particularly, the problems of other people.
There is a philosophical technique that got a philosopher killed 2400 years ago, (by the name of Socrates), and it's named after him. (Socrates, but pronounced Sew-crates, also became the best/only cat I've ever owned, but that's another blog-post) The Socratic method rephrases responses as questions, until the person responding is confused by their own answers, and the person asking the questions has illuminated the fact that the responder doesn’t really have a clue. If you’ve ever had a conversation with a Socratic-minded friend, you are aware that only self-restraint has kept a lot more people from getting punched, (literally, not just Socratically). Socrates claimed to be the wisest, in that he was aware of his ignorance, while everyone else thought they actually knew stuff, but didn’t.
Socrates was pure in his words, and The Apology, as recorded by Plato, is an incredible dialogue of what I have come to regard as a fact. We all think we know more than we know. To many, this comes as an invitation to become curious and humble; to others, it becomes a need to camouflage and decoy our short-comings. (I personally coexist comfortably with myself, straddling the fence of ignoramus curiosity.)
Fast forward to 2016, and this Socratic method of inquiry, while valid to uncover incorrect assumptions, is what we're bashing each other over the head with. We're looking for ways people are wrong and stupid. We then Twitter about it. It isn’t a search for the capital T truth of a situation; its a search to win, and to be right. Watching the current election and reading the responses by both sides, I feel like I'm watching P-Wee football with a bunch of ex-high school jocks and cheerleaders who take every call in their kid's game personally.
See what I did there? I can't even describe the current situation from a strengths standpoint. It's in my DNA now, to describe things by the problem. Or is it? What would it take for me, my friends, 'Merica, world, to start problems off by a discussion of resources instead of deficits?
The fact is, without a problem, there is no solution. An exception is marketing and sales, which at times have created certain problems a new product will be the solution for, but that's an exception, not a rule. Think Thigh-master. Generally speaking, you need a problem before a solution comes up. You and your wife are having relationship issues. Problem. See a counselor. Solution. ISIS. Problem. Bomb them. Solution. There is a balance and relationship between problem and solution, and it's a dance. Culturally, the societies that adapt with the most resilience are successful. Think Hebrews, think Japanese, think Scottish. The societies that identify real problems and implement solutions with the least amount of bitching (my definition of resilience), are successful.
So, problems have to be identified to be solved. I think we are in a great identification crisis. Not identity crisis- identification crisis. What exactly is the problem? We are in a different day and age. Everyone knows something is wrong. Well, are things actually wrong? Or are things just changing? Our values seem to have changed. It's okay to post 3 pictures a day, of photos you've taken, of yourself, on public sites where everyone else is also taking pictures they've taken, of themselves.
20 years ago, that would have been prohibitively egocentric- even for the high-school jocks and cheerleaders. (No offense to the high-school jocks and cheerleaders, I’m just jealous I couldn’t be you or date you). But now, selfies are celebrated. That is a MASSIVE cultural shift. Albert Einstein was criticized in the scientific community for seeking celebrity. Now, we’re
to seek it.
We've always loved ourselves. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" has a fundamental tenet of "ask other people about themselves, and they will think you're the most interesting person they've ever met." Narcissism has always run deep in the human race. But there were different things that held it in check. Namely, my mother. Your parents. The church. Generally, moral influences. Where are those forces? They are working full-time- and they aren't adapting fast enough either. Again, problems. Solutions? Build up the family. This can't be done through government programs, but that's a whole other series of blog-posts…..
Article after article talks about the problem, until all we can do is shake our heads in dismay at the comprehensive ineptitude of everyone but ourselves. But have you ever tried to be a part of the solution? THAT, is HARD. Its easier to talk about the problem, to poke at it like kids poke at a dead frog with a stick- (as adults we conduct studies instead)- which is the same process of poking but with verbal sticks. We conduct studies about the studies and by the time the studies are complete they’re obsolete. So, lets poke the dead frog anew with a new study.
But what ‘Merica needs, is more people who are willing to jump in. People that are willing to make mistakes and keep moving forward. Who aren’t so scared of the critics that they’re paralyzed into oblivion and irrelevancy. This is the great day of the critic- who has a large, anonymous platform, and tons of minion friends to back up every ignorant comment with a thumbs up click.
BUT, since there is such a lack of them, it is also the great day of the hero, of the leader.
Which will you be?