I came across a thought from Dr. Robert Anthony who enjoys a reputation as a relentless optimist, prompting an acquaintance to offer wryly, 'he's never been to Norwich.' That would be funny if it were not also true.
I've adopted the good Doctor's idea as my own mainly in the dog days of summer I can use all the help I can get and because the last time I had an original idea, it died of loneliness. "Most people would rather be certain they're miserable than risk being happy."
Seriously. Who does that sound like-anyone we know? Having arrived here almost twenty-one years ago with my family (that was all the kicking and screaming you heard coming from Lincoln Avenue; eventually they all went lame and hoarse. You thought that might have been a pony ride joke? Not even a whisper of one), I believe I've been here long enough to consider myself from Norwich but I'm still not used to the cheery cheerfulness with which we expect things to fail.
The poets say "it's always darkest before dawn" and too often it seems to me our clocks are stuck at a minute before daybreak. To make matters worse, assuming that's possible, not only are too many of us unhappy we seem to begrudge others any happiness as well. As if the state of happiness were something so finite and so rationed that every time I smiled or laughed, you lost an opportunity to do the same.
What we have is a system that dictates for me to look good, you need to look bad (at whatever you do or whomever you are). Everything that is perceived as successful is because of my efforts and failures are despite my attempts. Each of us is quick to claim the credit but even faster to parcel out blame. But the problems of any city are bigger than any one person or one group of persons.
Instead of concentrating on creating a definition of our city's economic and political challenges and opportunities (the indefinite article is deliberate in that phrase) we have little tribes, some larger than others but all working in an intellectual and cooperative vacuum, who each claim to have devised the solution that must be accepted and implemented immediately.
That's when the waiting game begins-the waiting to see an idea fail; not 'if' it will fail, but 'when.' We can then search for the guilty, reward those who were not involved in the attempted and now discredited solution and become enthused for the next Flavor of the Month proposal that comes along. We may secretly believe it, too, will fail completely, but no one wants to say that aloud and not be a team player.
We value false comity over genuine collaboration. What's needed is a team vision and a process to produce results for the benefit of everyone rather than at the expense of some. Government that's done for the populace and not something done to them. Then we'll start to see happiness.