Television networks from time to time pursue a strategy of “counter-programming” whereby they concede the Nielsen ratings battle to a competitor, but air something completely opposite, hoping to attract at least a sliver of the audience. For example, a network might show the tearjerker An Affair To Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr opposite the Super Bowl.
So this Thanksgiving instead of the obligatory column detailing all my thankful things, I invite you to participate in my Escaping the Slough of Despond Contest. The Slough of Despond is a deep bog in John Bunyan’s allegorical Pilgrim’s Progress. It is where “many fears and doubts and discouraging apprehensions, all of them together, and settle in the place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.”
For the record, I, like most of us, have some things for which I am thankful: my kids and grandkids live in the area, good health, fat-free Half and Half and Netflix. But those are micro. I’m searching for big global things to be thankful about. I can’t come up with any. There are lots of bad trends and developments. I need only list them and you will know them: global warming, loose nukes, jihad, polarized government, widening affluence gap, diminishing resources, growing populations, economic instability, African starvation — the list goes on and on.
Even worse there is no reason to think any of this will get better. Some of the problems probably can’t be solved, but most them won’t be solved because our evolutionary DNA makes the species focus on the present and not the future. Just as our distant ancestors were focused on the next kill or the next cave, we focus on the next election or the next quarterly earnings report, making long-term problem-solving problematic.
So we’re doomed — unless you participate in the Escaping the Slough of Despond Contest. I know there must be lots of optimists and technology believers out there who can identify some big macro trends that will pull me out of the Slough of Despond and set me on the Road to Happiness. I need your help.
Now I do appreciate that you might not want to help me for free. So whoever can come up with the best good trend or likely future development will get a prize. I will make a donation, in your name, of $50 to the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry. Won’t someone please help a poor soul escape the Slough of Despond?
I almost forgot, Happy Thanksgiving.