Just this past week, someone I used to work with was arrested for being involved in meth production. He was always a bit emotionally unstable. A very nice guy, but hardly had his life together. He did graduate from college and used to be married with a kid, and so at one time his life must’ve been somewhat together. But when I knew him, he wasn’t even able to keep up with his childcare payments and he wasn’t all that healthy. He was addicted to sugar like a hummingbird. He surely was diabetic and probably untreated. He’d buzz with energy and then totally crash. More of an issue was his psychological instability. What caused what or where it all began? I certainly don’t know. The problems of his life were complex and multi-faceted.
A little while before this, there was another incident in town with someone’s life going severely downhill. A banker was being investigated for stealing from the bank he worked for. He was released on bail, and on Easter killed his family and them himself. He was an upstanding member of his community from a very respectable family that was established in the community. He had gone to church with his family that morning and his family had visited him that day at home. No one, apparently, suspected a thing. In particular, the judge who released him didn’t suspect him.
These two guys were from opposite spectrums of society, but society wasn’t able to help either of them.
The guy I worked with obviously had problems. It was obvious to everyone(probably including himself) that he’d eventually mess up his life. He had been on a slow descent for many many years. But who was able or willing to intervene. And is he any more likely to find help in prison? Is he just a lost cause, a casualty of the greater good? If so, whose good? Certainly, not his.
The other guy must also have had problems for years, but he hid his problems well because he played the game well. Smiling face, business suit, family, church, etc. By societies standards, he was a ‘good’ man. A problem isn’t a problem as long as you can hide it well. Personal issues shouldn’t be publicly aired. Anyways, nobody wants to hear your problems. Just be responsible, do your job, pay your bills. Success equals happiness; happiness equals success.
There is a sweet scene from A Scanner Darkly that comes to mind:
“You know, Fred,” one of the doctors says, “if you keep your sense of humor like you do, you just might make it after all.”
“Make it”, says Bob Arctor. “Make what? The team? The girl? Make good? Make due? Make out? Make sense? Make money? Make time? Define your terms.”
Who cares about the personal problems of such people as these two guys I speak of? Well, we all care when they become public problems. But weren’t they always everyone’s problems? Aren’t we always responsible to and for eachother? Doesn’t everything we do effect everyone around us? Is there even any such entity as a ‘personal problem’?
Society is like the doctors who test Bob Arctor. They’re just watching until its too late to help him which so happens to coincide with it being too late for him to be useful for their purposes any more. We tend not to care about other people’s problems until they become a problem to us. It saddens me. Despite all our power and freeedom, despite all of our knowledge and technology, it seems there is little we can do…. or worse that we’re collectively willing to do.
Is each of us forever alone in our suffering?