Last week, I talked about my experiences with rising to a challenge and being creative in my blog, “Tuna Sandwiches, Tattoos and the Dreaded Stork.” It got me thinking—as I often do—about politics. 

Do nations and societies get creative in the same sense? Must they face a challenge with positivity and optimism? While it’s true that there is no psychosocial entity without individuals (governments, organizations and societies could not exist without individuals), can these concepts geared toward individuals apply to larger social structures?

It seems a logical leap. There is a sense of a collective optimism, or pessimism. That, I imagine, is what’s pollsters hope to convey with things like approval ratings and media scholars look for in their surveys of newspaper editorials. What’s the general malaise, the overall sentiment, the zeitgeist?

My sense—just based on my observations of my society—is that the current malaise is anything but positive or optimistic. I feel that the average person can’t even wrap their head around the knot of problems they and their societies face these days.

Despite my strong urge to do so, I’ll spare you the list of said problems. You probably know as well as I do. But I’ll give a couple of examples.

I’m taking a class in college this semester in which the professor has decided it will be fun for us all to get together and discuss the most controversial, hot button topics of the day. Just imagine! Most of my classmates are significantly younger than me, even by as much as a decade. The professor is quite liberal, and he has disclosed that fact, He’s assigned a book to guide our discussions that is about a stone’s throw away from the Communist Manifesto. Let’s just say I’ve become the class devil’s advocate.

Anyway, what comes out of these discussions is often sheer, soul-crushing defeatism. Democracy is hopeless, capitalism is a fraud, people are greedy and selfish and destructive. And there’s nothing anybody can do about it. The worst part: the professor agrees! This authority figure charged with molding young minds is basically indoctrinating us with his neg-head worldview. There's not much to be gained when we just say how much everything sucks.

Or look at this comment I ran across on the popular social news site, Reddit. The forum topic was: “If you could remove anything from existence, what would it be?” One answer:

“Humanity. Humans are failures of evolution. We've completely lost touch with nature and now we're defending ourselves from diseases that should have killed us. We are an infestation. I would prefer for life to continue on the planet, and with humans, that doesn't seem possible.” 

Yikes! I mean, I’m no stranger to online drama, but that one really struck me. I just wanted to give the guy a hug and say, “C’mon now buddy, we’re not so bad.”

The truth is we’re not totally bad, or evil, or some sorry lot of ne’er do well’s. Life can be difficult, with regular conflict or even continuous struggle. More than the idea that some people are good and some are not, the truth is that people without awareness find themselves tricked by charisma or self-protection into releasing their worse sides and calling it good.

Really think about it. For every news report about a murder or rape or the oppression of peoples by a heartless dictator, there are thousands of untold stories. Stories of small kindnesses, great personal triumphs, or even the day-to-day humdrum of parents going to work, paying their bills and spending a nice afternoon at the park with their kids. That’s beautiful stuff.

My classmates lament that America produces so few rags-to-riches tales. They ask: Where is the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet? My answer? Well, he’ll be here eventually, but what about the average guy who is the first in his family to graduate from college, get a decent-paying job and live everyday proud that he can comfortably provide for his family. That story happens every single day.

I get it. I do. I have these feelings of dread. I doubt the virtue of my culture, my country, and the human race. But then I just take a look around my neighborhood. There’s nothing but good, decent people. Literally.

It’s just a matter of perspective and to simply remember that goodness is not rare. I bet you’d be hard-pressed to think of even one person you know who truly and deliberately wants an unhappy life, a crime-ridden, dysfunctional society or the pain and suffering of others. There really aren’t that many out there. In fact, I would submit that evil barely even exists at all, just less good and people who have lost their way.

As for the social/political/economic problems we face, it’s going to work out some way or another. I’m optimistic. We are a species of wondrous creativity.

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