The Problem

This is an essay about the Problem. You don’t know about The Problem? You should be ashamed, but only a little. You see, lots of people don’t know about The Problem. That’s why I’m writing this––to raise awareness about The Problem, and to de-stigmatize The Problem. There is enormous stigma around breaking the stigma around the Problem, too, but let’s start with the basics.

How big is The Problem? Massive. Catastrophic. Pervasive. Doctors call it an epidemic. Bureaucrats call it a drain on the system. Poets use the flowery “scourge.” You can’t catch It, exactly, but you can “develop” It in any thousands of ways. For example: you can have a life experience, of any nature, that triggers It. Or you could inherit It from your parents. Maybe It appears suddenly after a bout of the common cold, or you just hate your job so much, the Problem arises. All possibilities. The Problem, after all, is many things, including but not limited to psychological, biological, phenomenological, eschatological, and paleological, not to mention scatological and agrostological.

 

Now I’m going to say something that will make it sound like we have a very good idea of causation, but it will really be more about correlation. Try to ignore this sleight of hand, and think about the human face of the Problem instead. Who is affected by the Problem? Everyone. Grandmothers; middle-aged white men, though they often suffer in silence; teenagers, disproportionately; even babies (human babies, kittens, owlets, and the infants of various endangered species.) Many people may pretend not to be touched by The Problem, but they are, in one way or another. They just don’t know it yet.

 

Celebrities! So many celebrities have the Problem. They’re announcing in droves. They’re railing against the stigma during press junkets. They’re so brave. Not only do they struggle with the Problem and Its many facets, they have the courage to admit it in public. We should all be more like them!

 

But you would like numbers, yes? Statistics. Data. We have so much data about the problem, you wouldn’t even believe. How’s this for scary: 33.23% of those who suffer from the Problem experience some degree of discomfort 89% of the time. Or this: in the past two-and-a-half decades, the number of people reporting symptoms that resemble those described by people who have at some point struggled with the Problem has risen by 231%. Or, finally, get a load of this: teenagers with the Problem are 67 times more likely to have other problems. (What other problems, you wonder? Don’t ask; for now, we need to focus on THE Problem. Triage is simply not an option.) Studies show that further studies are needed to measure the true impact of the problem, although we suspect it is yuge.

 

What do we need from you? Well, money, ideally. You cannot possibly combat a problem the size of the Problem without funds. But we know not everyone has to spare and frankly, we’re not all in agreement as to what we would do with your money if we had it. Instead, we propose the following: talking about the Problem, verbally or digitally, but certainly obsessively. We like to call this “starting a dialogue,” which studies show is viewed as 22% more effective than “waging verbal warfare” or “pestering innocent bystanders.” If talking isn’t your thing, you can click––click every link that leads to an article that raises awareness about the Problem, or click “like” (or even “love” or “feverishly adore” or “could just DIE over,” if said options are available) on any post on any venue that is accompanied by a hashtag related to the Problem.

 

And what if that, too, won’t work? You don’t have a computer or full use of your pointer finger, not to even mention the assertiveness to strike up conversations with strangers or coffers full enough to donate to a cause, however worthy it might be? Then this is all we can request: now that we’ve opened your eyes to the Problem, you continue to think about It in some manner, forever. We believe the knowledge of It should remain omnipresent, like white noise, as you go about your days. We need you to emote about It. How you should feel? Here are your options: guilty, despondent, weepy, helpless, enraged, vaguely disturbed, fearful, tense. Which, ironically enough, describes exactly how those who have the Problem feel all the time. That, and that alone, should comfort you.

(For George W. S. Trow)

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