Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Pursuit Of Happiness

Over the holidays I went to check out my homey Will Smith's new flick, "The Pursuit of Happyness". A true story about a self made millionaire, and his struggles with his young son out of poverty. I gave it a thumps up, and I won't front, that bad boy had me tearing up from time to time. But you know me, as usual, I had some issues. Not so much with the movie itself, but with the basic premise of the movie, and some of the hoopla surrounding it.

I will explain: Folks, I have some serious issues with people making parents who do what the f**k they are supposed to do with their children out to be heroes. My home town paper, the "Philadelphia Inquirer", had a front page piece on black fathers who are doing a good job as parents, and how this particuler movie should inspire more to do so. Sorry, I can't glorify Fathers -black or white- who want some kind of recognition for doing what they are supposed to do in the first place. So Will Smith's character being a loving and caring father throughout the movie is what I expected, and unlike I am sure 90% of the movie audience, his doting over his young son did not move me one little bit. I was more impressed with how he had to struggle to overcome the obstacles that were facing him, and his perseverance to make something of himself.

So now that I have got that out of the way, let me mention something else that bothered me. Well, besides Thandie Newton's skinny behind. Thandie, it's called food, you should try it sometime. Is she competing with Nicole Ritchie to see who can disappear first? Geeez!
But back to the movie. There is a scene where Will Smith's character talks about life liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and he pontificates about the the brilliance of Thomas Jefferson inserting that little clause, "the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration Of Independence. Will's character becomes fascinated with the whole idea of pursuing happiness, and understands that the authors of the declaration did not mean that we should have a right to happiness, just the right to pursue it. This is when the light goes on for him, and to him, this is what life is now all about, it's what motivates him, and ultimately leads him to a life of success and wealth, and off the streets of San Francisco.

But it got me to thinking. Just what is so great about that little clause; "The pursuit of happiness?" Why is that a good thing that Americans value the pursuit of happiness, right up there with life and liberty?I mean I get the whole John Locke thing, and the new settlers trying to carve out their own utopia away from mother England. But maybe that's what's wrong with our country. Too many people just pursuing happiness. It's probably why we have so much crime and violence-can't pursue happiness without money-and probably why we have so much selfishness, and ultimately such a shallow population of people. Quick, who is the Prime Minister of India? Don't know? Quick, who was the lead singer of Destiny's Child? I know I know. Of course you do; Beyonce is helping us pursue happiness. Who isn't happy every time we see that booty shaking?

Maybe Thomas Jefferson, when he inserted that little phrase, didn't realize that there would be so many things to make us happy in 2006. It seems that there is so much happiness and the pursuit of it in America, that everything else is way on the back burner. We will do anything to be happy wont we? Take drugs, spend all day on our PlayStations, drive around all day in our whips, chase the skirts....hey, just pursuing happiness. And my question to black folks is this: Just what the f&*k are you so happy about? It's a laugh a minute with us. I mean my man Tom Joyner does some good things, but have you ever listened to his show in the morning? Yuck yuck yuck just a constant laugh track with that crew. Happy! Pursuing happiness on the radio, what a great formula for success. Especially with black folks. But the framers might have been smarter than we thought. Stick that clause in there, and keep black folks pursuing happiness, they will be too preoccupied with that pursuit to do anything positive with their damn lives. And when they realize that they are not happy; just still poor broke and miserable, they won't look at us, we just guaranteed them the pursuit of happiness. No one ever told them that they would be happy.

Why can't we pursue spiritual gratification, peace of mind, a healthy outlook on life, self worth, and dignity? I mean if we had all those things, or at least strive for them, wouldn't we be happy? It just seems that we have it all backwards that's all. Pursue happiness and hope the other stuff should come, when it should be the other way around.

In the movie, Thandie's skinny behind does a ghost move on Will. -She just wasn't happy, Will never had any money and she was always working- so in her pursuit of happiness, she left the most precious commodity she, or any other human being can have, her child. Isn't it ironic, by pursuing her own happiness she hurt the one she should love and made his life unhappy, leaving poor Will to pursue the happiness all by his lonesome.

I hope I didn't ruin the movie for you. Again, it was good and definitely worth seeing. So please don''t let my ruminations dissuade you from seeing it. Once you get over Thandie and the whole Darfur chic thing, you will be fine. Just remember to keep the whole pursuit of happiness thing in perspective. Before we can get to the happiness part, we have to go through the pursuit; and trust me, the pursuit part is hard work. As long as we understand that folks we will be fine, then we can enjoy the happiness part a whole lot more.

Before I go, I want to give some props to Oprah Winfrey. Yeah I know I have been hard on girlfriend in the past, and I have killed her before on this site. But you know what? Girlfriend just dropped 40 million of her own money to start a school for troubled girls in South Africa, and that's alright with me.

Now some folks are complaining; "why couldn't she have done that here in America?" Well get over that s*%t. Why should she? It's her money, and there are plenty of very good schools and opportunities here in America already. Our kids don't need more schools , they need less Play Stations, and MP3 players. They need to get their lazy behinds in some books and get motivated. All the money in the world won't help some of our kids over here, it takes something much deeper, and Oprah realizes that. She realizes that these girls in South Africa are motivated, and they will make a difference in their country one day.

In the fields book, that's all good, because the world does not end at our borders.

So go on Oprah with your bad self, I might even have to reconsider my Aunt Jemima comments about you.

The field is out.


plez... said...

I'm with you 100% about not making a big deal when fathers/people do what they are supposed to be doing.

When I was a child, I remember asking my parents for an allowance for picking up trash in the street in front of the house and washing the dishes after dinner, their response was that they were not going to pay me to do what I'm supposed to do! And that has stuck with me to this day; we need to have pride in the knowing that we are doing the right thing!

And Field, Happy New Year... I love visiting your blog, please keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

field, you hit the nail on the head. nice post. the film comes out in 2 weeks in England so I have 2 check it out.

I didn't know the zimbabwean thandiwe was in it though -- she needs more than just food. she needs a feast.

as 4 harpo, it was great 4 her to open that school in south africa, it really was but i think it may have been a good idea to have opened it in a francophone african country with riddled by civil war like rwanda or cote d'ivoire. but good on her anyway.

Tasha said...

Nice post field, I've thought a lot about the "pursuit of happiness" clause. I saw the movie as well, and was moved to tears a few times. But I got to thinking...we're so damned busy pursuing happiness, that very few of us recognize it when we attain it. Happiness and the concept thereof is very intangible and foreign to most, and so many of us have spent lifetimes in misery that when we find said happiness, we don't know what to do with it so we shun it.
I almost wonder if Gardner was happier when he was homeless and penniless. I've heard him say in several interviews that he hoardes bags now because he carried them around everywhere when he was homeless. He doesn't hoard them as a reminder that he was once homeless, it's just turned into a habit. He has demons that he has to fight every day that he didn't deal with as a poor man on his way up. Sure he has everything material that he needs, but when he goes to sleep at night does he do so with a genuine smile on his face? Sure we see his pursuit of happyness (I hate that spelling by the way), but do we see him acheive happiness?

Jameil said...

"black fathers who are doing a good job as parents, and how this particuler movie should inspire more to do so" you're joking right? that's kind of racist. like these are the few good negroes you all should aspire to be like. boooooooo.

i felt the same way abt pursuing "happyness." in addition to being annoyed with the spelling, i spent much of the movie wondering how long you hold on to the happiness. and why isn't that more important than the pursuit. i was also morbidly concerned with the possibility of one day being homeless. SCARY.

meera bowman-johnson said...

I really enjoyed this post, field.

I wrote a short piece abbout my impressions of Happyness (without seeing it yet) on my blog after its stellar opening weekend, but I have yet to get a sitter so we can get out to catch it (such is life with three chilluns...)But I appreciate that I will now go to the theater with your comments in mind.

That's a good point you raise about O-Money. I am happy – damn happy – about the school in S.A. I think we spend too much time complaining about what the super-rich black elite do and don't do with their money. She knew that the money would go further and would be more appreciated there. Who wouldn't want to feel that way before they put themselves out there to do something like that? And you're right. The world doesn't start and end with black Americans. There's an entire diaspora that needs assistance.

I'd love to see her set up a one-way exchange program though, so
a few under-privleged but high-achieving African American girls could experience the school as well.

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

01 05 07

Hello FN:
Ha! I knew you would change your tune about Oprah after a while. She is too complex to simply categorize as a Mammy. Remember the Spook that sat by the door. The Spook played that role and in the end got over...hehhehehehe AND have you ever seen Putney Swope? hehehehehehe If not, try it sometime...hehehehehe I am goofy right now, but Oprah is A-OK. And I would like to think that she is a Spook in Mammy armor. Sometimes, you gotta play a role to advance a cause...see where I am coming from?

As far as the Will Smith movie is concerned, I haven't seen it. I will likely see it when it comes to DVD though. I only see Star Trek, Arnie or other sci fi movies in the theatres.

As far as congratulating folk for doing their duty, well I see what you mean. It seems like there is so much incompetence in the world that folk are praised for doing their duties competently, which is kinda sad.

Great post!

Important Websites said...

I agree. I came out of the movie entertained, yet sad and ultimately unimpressed (in the sense of not having an impression let of me). My boyfriend and I suspect that in "real life" the wife had a drug problem that just didn't fit with the movie's PG rating--or maybe the targeted audiences values.

Anonymous said...

I liked the movie too and I agree with you on the single-fatherhood hype. I think the film was more about the obstacles dude faced and his priority to keep the relationship with his son alive.

Here is my question though, if we don't hype the single fathers, why are we so quick to hype the single mothers? Aren't they being the mothers they're supposed to be?

As far as Oprah, whatever, it's her money she can do whatever she wants to with it. How many African's are giving to African-Americans in the states? I'm not even talking on an economic level either? I have bought stuff from Africans, got passed by African cab drivers in their dash to pick up white people and asked to donate money to African causes. I have yet to be called "brother" by an African. Maybe it's just me.

field negro said...

As usual, you all make some good points. Especially about the movie itself. Nikia, I must admit, that I never considered that the wife might have a drug problem. Now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.

I guess I should read the book, I am sure if she did have one, it was touched on there.

Hey, maybe that explains why Thandie felt like she had to lose even more weight for this role :)

Anonymous said...

I might be mistaken but I thought that the orginal statement that Thomas Jefferson made was the Pursuit of Money but others said that he must change it so he changed it to happiness (i guess to imply that money and happiness are the same thing


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