Thursday, 6 August 2009

Post No. 064 - My most depressing film recently seen: The Pursuit of Happyness

I've just watched one of the most depressing films I've ever seen: "The Pursuit of Happyness", starring Will Smith and his son (Will Smith, I must say, has considerably grown on me as an actor, and he deserved the award nominations he got from that; his son also did brilliantly).

It was probably meant to be a bit of "feel good" film because of:
(a) the father mostly relating to the son in a reasonable way; and
(b) the financial success at the end of the film for the one individual.

Well, sorry, there was nothing feel good about it to me - it pushed too many buttons.

To begin with, the father was an irresponsible git for getting into that state in the first place when he had a child (completely different if he had been on his own - I'll come back to that). I've been on the receiving end of jerks saying "I'll get the money I owe you - it'll be alright, just don't worry, alright? Okay?" Goddess there is NOTHING more aggravating than someone saying "It'll be alright - okay?" It is an EXTREMELY patronising thing to say - it implies my concerns are without basis, and that the speaker knows more than me.

Unfortunately, most of these jerks in my life were relatives though an ex- of mine so we had felt obligated to help them when they got into trouble. Fortunately, I have had enough good sense instilled into me by my bank manager father to not over-extend myself. Other people are not so lucky - including people who lost out through the sub-prime crisis, and earlier schemes all the way back to the South Seas Bubble a few hundred years ago. (Not all of them were jerks, however: in particular, I recall one woman [not a relative] I knew when I was living on my boat who had got into extreme difficulties through gambling problems*; she found herself with car problems just after she got a job, and I loaned her $200 to fix the car. She did that, paid me back $220**, and went on to start turning her life around. Similarly, most of this ex's family were in a similar vein of turning their lives around - some quite spectacularly, although hindered by a lack of education [not because of lack of intelligence: they didn't fit in - which is something I've also experienced])

I consider teaching children to know how to balance a budget a run a cash flow to be AS ESSENTIAL as literacy and numeracy and the other skills people say are necessary to teach at school. Don't waste effort creating an illusion that anything can be achieved by anyone: not everyone will succeed chasing such dreams, and there will be an incredible amount of heartache and pain left behind - and THAT is what gets taken to the next world, not the dollars a few people were able to get after lots of heartache (there has been some interesting research lately about whether having money makes you happy or not: it showed [in my words] that once you get to the stage where your survival needs are met [you are middle class, in other words], more money did not bring more happiness; by the same token, not having enough money to be able to survive without heartache was something that COULD be fixed by having more money [income]).

Furthermore, if you have children, you have obligations to those children: if that means you have to put your dreams on hold for a while, then you bloody well do that, as far as I am concerned. I've had to do that at times in my life: put dreams and even necessities on hold, so I KNOW it isn't easy, but that is what you took on when you had a child - whether you planned to do so (as I hope was the case!) or not. If you get into a situation where you are responsible for other people's kids (e.g., by developing a relationship with someone who has kids, as I have), then you share a role in looking after those kids as well (as does the other biological parent). If you're single, not responsible for anyone else, then go for it - do whatever you want that dose not take advantage of others.

I have known many people who have a dream of running their own business (I've had a part time business as well): teach those kids AT SCHOOL who could be interested in running a business how to do a SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis, how to prepare a REALISTIC business plan (including doing the necessary research to make it a realistic plan), etc - so that they have a fighting chance.

Teach all kids to chase their dreams, yes, but teach them not to fail in their responsibilities along the way (such as children: I am firmly in favour of more sex and RELATIONSHIP education at school - the evidence [reality] is that it does reduce unwanted pregnancies; there is probably a need for some sort of parenting education as well, but I don't know when or how) - and not to lie. That "I'll get it for you - okay? Alright? Don't stress!" bullshit doesn't do anyone any favours.

Finally, lets have a world where we don't all have to be highly qualified or supercompetitive to be able to survive comfortably and be realistically ABLE to achieve reasonable dreams like home ownership (although expectations of the size etc of home may have to be downgraded to something more reasonable; I recall reading an article a few years ago which showed how first home purchases were for bigger homes for smaller families now, compared to a few decades ago - and this should all be environmentally sustainable :) ).

The stock broking world Will Smith's character got into is also the world of "Greed is good" Gordon Gekko, of Enron, of Tyco, etc, etc, etc. I know that the real life Chris Gardner is someone who is also a philanthropist. That in itself suggests he may well have learned from his experiences and grown into a better person. (That he is a motivational speaker depends on what sort of motivational speaker he is; some can be a bit too "Gordon Gekko" for me.) But something that stays with me from the film is the long queues of people seeking emergency accommodation, and the disenfranchised gentleman who thought the bone scanner was a time machine - did they all also get to make and live a fantastic life? Or were they all just disposable financial-cannon fodder?

I've done some fund raising for homeless people (e.g., see, and, and know the issues are complex. I recently listened to a programme on the ABC Radio (I think at about the problems homeless kids have getting into training because of the very simple, obvious, but problematic fact that they do not have contact details. Years ago I listened to another programme on the ABC Radio where someone was talking about the exit rates from poverty in Europe, with it's culture of social responsibility, and the USA, with it's "individual first" attitudes, and how Europe was doing better on this than the USA. (That one was too long ago for me to track down now, but have a look at

How about we have a film for these people as well? And maybe a film for the people who aren't favourably inclined towards school and so are cut off from good educational opportunities? Can we say we are a good society when people like this are treated as disposable? Are they not also entitled to the pursuit of happiness?

Love, light, hugs and blessings

Grumpy Gnwmythr

* I'm not favourably disposed towards the gambling industry for a number of reasons, incidentally. I don't consider the risks and power are shared reasonably - businesses that play with people's lives this way should be exposed to the same sort of risks, in my opinion. So, there should be no limit on a gambler who is winning, for instance - in my opinion. Yes, that could put jobs at risk: the people getting into those jobs should know that they are in a business which, in some part, effectively gambles with other people's lives, and they deserve to take on the same risks they are expecting other people to. In they are not happy with that, find another job (which, I concede, is easier said than done - having just done exactly that when I was no longer happy with the ethics of a place I was working at).

** If I was arguing with her now about this I would know enough to say "Pay It Forward", rather than pay the extra $20 back to me.

Tags: about me, daily life, interactions, interpersonal interactions, judging others, life lessons, lifestyles, morality, persistence, personal characteristics, personal responsibility, society

First published: Thursday 6th August, 2009
Last edited: Thursday 6th August, 2009