Issue 140

"What society has thought to be its greatest social, political, and individual achievements have often resulted in the greatest discontent."

Response:

I tend to agree with the speaker. The greatest achievements often lead to the greatest discontent, which means people are not satisfied with the current achievements. Whether it comes to be on the individual, social, or political level, the speaker’s statement is tenable.

First of all, as for individuals, who could continually succeed is often the one that is not easily satisfied with his/her current achievements. For example, the author of the most classic economics textbook in the world, Paul Samuelson, is still striving to write a new version of the book after successfully publishing the 1st till 18th version even though he is already over 80 years old. The reason why he would not like to stop such work is that there is always regret when he has finished one version and he is always discontented with his achievements few people could surpass until now. When watching an interview program on TV, we may often hear that movie directors or actors talk about their regret in the works people acclaim to be their greatest ones. An artist said that art and regret always come side by side. In fact, there are few perfect art works on earth due to the limitation of resources available in the creation process. The fact usually has artists be discontented and get incentives to do better work next time.

Secondly, on the social level, achievements are usually “two-edge” swords. On the other side of the greatest achievements, there is all too often the greatest discontent. For instance, China has achieved great economic improvements for the last three decades and kept the highest speed of economic growth cross the world in most of the years. But discontent is nowadays prevailing among the general public of this country because the greatest economic disparity in the republic’s history appears and many people could not share the prosperity. Social affairs are so complicated that facing a trade-off, people have to make a choice – when emphasis is placed on one issue, another one or more will unavoidably be overlooked. Therefore, the greatest discontent appears on one hand as we achieve the most on the other hand, as the speaker contends.

Finally, on the political level, special interest groups have often crucial influence on the decisions of politicians. Under pressure from a certain special interest group, a “big” decision will be made and the greatest achievements will appear from their perspective. However, the achievements might be made at the cost of interests of others in the society, in whose eyes there are the greatest losses and they will definitely be discontented. Three Gorges Dam, the largest one in the world, for instance, benefits a lot of Chinese due to the tremendous economic returns during and after its construction. But a large number of residents, who had been living there from generation to generation where the dam currently is, sacrificed enormously. They had to move, and lost their fecund fields or lucrative jobs. As for them, the construction of the dam resulted in the greatest discontent. More than ten years ago, Chinese leaders decided to construct it after rounds and rounds of discussion owing to more and more heavy pressures from some special interest groups.

In sum, as the speaker states, no matter it is comes to the social, political, or individual level, the greatest achievements often cause the greatest discontent although the reasons for that phenomenon are probably different.