The Bright Side

Article by Terry O’Neill, former city alderperson and GSR reporter.

Homer’s famous saying (not the Greek author of the Iliad and the Odyssey), but Homer Simpson of the Simpsons, reveals insight through humor in these words: “alcohol, the cause of, and the solution of, all of life’s problems.” Although the statement is false, and alcohol is neither the cause of, nor the solution to any of life’s problems, there is an underlying foundation of truth, in that the foundation ties the cause of the problem to the solution of the problem as being one and the same.

“People,” not alcohol or things, are the cause of all problems because things don’t have problems. Only living beings with can have problems. Problems occur when, and only when, one’s wants do not agree with what’s available in reality. To solve a problem one needs to go to the definitional cause. In a democracy, the foundation is the public and the public’s wants are the problem. We have only ourselves to question about our problems, not the government or the governmental officials. We are right here at the foundation of our problems and discord, and if there are to be solutions, then we have to be a part of those solutions.

The solutions should be obvious, but are not. The problem isn’t the people themselves, because the vast majority are decent moral people with limited wants that are not extravagant. However, we do acquire and hold things close, while tending not to want to fund acquisitions not so close by. Humans build bubble communities of similarity in which they are insulated, and isolated from other bubble communities. The more remote and separate the bubbles become, the more remote are the concerns, thoughts, and caring for those in another bubble. We then become more finely segregated by age, status, affluence and education. And that separation is exactly what has happened across the land. We are so segregated that we don’t see or comprehend the problems that other groups face. Today we are segregated into developments for seniors, young adults, wealthy and poor. These ‘bubbles’ divide the nation. The melting pot of America has been divided into segments. Radio, TV, the internet, entertainment and politics selectively target specific groups with different information, further isolating and separating the thoughts of the various segments of society. It has been divide and conquer, where each group now feels that it is being taken advantage of, or is being neglected. At the same time, we continue to selectively isolate ourselves by avoiding contact with other groups, thus inadvertently perpetuating the problem. We live among our own kind and tend to keep others away. As a result, we do not see or understand the problems that others face.

We talk with our friends, but we rarely speak to others outside of our circle of friends. To a large extent we have overcome segregation by race, creed, nationality, sex and orientation, but at the same time it has been replaced with separation by age, status, wealth and education. The family unit which united generations in one area (grandparents, parents, children & grandchildren) is virtually gone. We are now divided by age, with each age group having its own music, thoughts, wants, and space, with little communication outside their own bubble. To succeed we need to do the difficult ground work that no one else can do for us. That hard work is to slowly re-lay the foundation by convincing one person at a time, starting with ourselves, to step outside of our bubble.

Smile, and be nice to everyone. Nothing does more to unite or brighten a person’s day than a friendly smile or a friendly wave. This small gesture bridges the gap between our solitary, isolated life and the life in another bubble. Say “hi” to a stranger, smile, and they will quite possibly no longer be a stranger. Treat other people as you want to be treated, if you were that person, and you will feel empathy for them and may well make a new friend.

Smile, it is Free

Cartoon Terry O'Neill Lake Geneva

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