Thursday, August 25, 2016
The Summer edition of Lapham's Quarterly arrived a few months ago. The focus this time is Luck. As a log time advocate for the understanding of how important and determinant is the Birth Lottery, I was expecting an enjoyable few months of reading. While I can't say I am disappointed so far, I also can't say it is one of my favorite editions. Yes, there is a multitude of essays and stories demonstrating the link between failure and luck, and success and luck. Perhaps because the concept was already instilled in me, this particular assemblage has not set off bells in my head, or made me say AHA, as has happened while reading other Laphams.
Until I came to a short essay towards the end of the edition. This particular person's quotes were from a book published in 2008. He begins by commenting on the phrase, "Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness", a comment with which he agrees, then furthers by suggesting that those who complain about others' luck aren't working themselves into luck. "If you want to be lucky, prepare for something big", he says.
Further, he comments on those who vent their frustrations and anxieties. How there is a trend of thought that says that venting ones problems is healthier than keeping them inside. Unfortunately, he states, this is only true to a point. Complaining without doing anything about it can be detrimental to one's physical and mental well being. With the advent of blogging and other forms of social media, he continues, "people are spending way too much time harping on negative themes. The emphasis is out of balance, and the negative focus doesn't help the situation."
He goes on further to say, "Don't dwell so much on a problem that you've exhausted yourself before you can even entertain a solution. It just doesn't make sense."
And finally, "It takes brainpower and energy to think positively and creatively - and to see creatively and positively. Going negative is the easy way, the lazy way. Use your brainpower to focus on positives and solutions, and your own mind-set will help create your own luck."
Some good stuff there. I like the part about exhausting yourself in worry to the point where you have no energy left to address a problem. We seem to be a nation of worriers if one is to believe all the stats about our usage of anti-depressants. Also, I especially like the part about going negative being the easy way, the lazy way. It reminds me of all those people who look for simple answers to complicated problems, who prefer the offerings of simple answers, black and white answers, and/or a deflection of a solution via blaming others, particularly a segment of the population that is not like oneself. When complex problems require complex solutions, the lazy approach is to offer simple answers steeped in prejudice.
So, who is this font of wisdom? None other than Donald Trump, from his book Trump Never Give Up, 2008.
Is the Donald Trump running for president a different person that the one quoted in 2008, or has he used the prep work of the GOP's platform of racism, anti-government ranting, and fear of those with different cultures, then multiplied it with the obsession over President Obama's nation of birth. Is he lucky to be the GOP nominee, or just more prepared to take advantage of the mind set of a certain population of Americans, especially white, male Americans?
What seems really strange, is that Hillary Clinton has also created her own luck to be in a position to be the first woman President. Of course, she took the establishment path. She has held political positions, first lady by default, but then state senator and secretary of state through hard work and personal ambition. She knows all the players, knows how the system works, and spent the last decade preparing herself for the opportunity, despite the unexpected setback in 2008 when America chose the first Black President rather than the first Woman.
How ironic, the establishment candidate, a woman, vs the outsider, a white male, who in reality is not really an outsider as evidenced by his own words of how he donated to all politicians, GOP as well as Democrat, knowing they would take his calls and ease his path when he needed it.
Of course, one of these paths will win the day in November, while one will come up short. If we are to believe Trump's words, it is nice to think that the electorate will recognize the lazy way, the negative focused way, the way of division, isolation and prejudice, and vote for the person who puts forward words of cooperation, community, and creativity towards finding solutions for our problems.
As it appears that Trump is sticking with the path that garnered him the GOP nomination, let's hope that Clinton is that candidate, that she can cobble together a big enough coalition of those who can look past her use of the establishment way (a path no different from one walked by many white male presidents before her), and reject the prepared way that Trump has walked, no ran down so effortlessly.