Thursday, March 01, 2007

How Do You Solve a Problem Like...?

One of the bright and cheerful songs in the film The Sound of Music has the nuns in the Austrian convent asking the musical question, "how do you solve a problem like Maria?", Maria being the free-spirited young woman who will eventually become Baroness Maria von Trapp, musical leader of the Trapp Family Singers. An article by Douglas Kern from the TCS Daily on February 27th ( asks a variation of that question: "How do you solve a problem like Anna Nicole Smith?"

Yes, I know I said that I wasn't going to write anything more about this sad and tawdry story, but Mr Kern's article puts an interesting twist on the whole thing. He reduces the story to six elements:

1. Sex tends to make people stupid.
2. Stupid people tend to break down good order.
3. Smith was very sexy.
4. Smith was very stupid.
5. Smith was very lucky.
6. Smith lacked the cultural safeguards (religion, ethics, etc) to limit the damage from 3, 4, and 5.

I would have to agree with all the points above (except for #3, because I have to admit that I didn't find Anna Nicole Smith particularly sexy), and particularly with Mr Kern's summary point that "when you strip away the money and the impossible good looks from this sorry tale, you're left with a simple story: 'irresponsible but sexy person screws up the life of family and friends.'"

As I noted in my earlier posts on this subject, Anna Nicole Smith's sad and sorry life provides an important cautionary tale for young people. But in addition, as Mr Kern points out, it's also an advertisement for the immediate-gratification, screw-the-consequences way of life that drives too many young people today. It reminds us that some people will choose to live the irresponsible and carefree life of an Anna Nicole Smith or a Paris Hilton, letting other people pick up the pieces of broken lives and dreams. Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter is now part of the wreckage, the grand prize in a disgusting scramble of would-be fathers who care not for her, but for the vast fortune she may inherit.

Freedom is a wonderful thing. But freedom without responsibility is a dangerous thing, and the legal and moral wreckage Anna Nicole Smith left behind perfectly illustrates that point. How do we solve the problem of freedom - vs - responsibility?

You can't legislate stupidity away. People will always find new and creative ways to screw up their lives and the lives of those around them. In the end, you can't solve a problem like Anna Nicole can only try to keep the problem from happening in the first place, through good parental example, good schools, and an emphasis on the personal, moral responsibilities inherent in the freedoms we enjoy.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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