30 March 2007

Problems c.100,000BC-2007AD

A ProblemAn international panel of scientists has concluded that the last Problem in Great Britain is dead, displaced from its home and outcompeted by its distant cousin from across the Atlantic, the "Challenge".

Archaeological records suggest that the first Problem arose in about 100,000BC - at roughly the same time as Homo sapiens developed the capacity for rational thought - when Ug realised that facing a stampeding mammoth with a bit of tree branch with a piece of flint strapped to the end might not be such a great idea. Ug was rapidly impelled to discover the problem's corollary, namely "the solution" - in this case placing a big pit between himself and the aforementioned stampeding mammoth.

Over the millennia more and more problems were to present themselves to Ug and his successors: physical problems such as hunger, illness, infirmity and the fact that the neighbouring tribe had developed superior pieces of flint to tie to their tree branches and started eyeing up Ug's successors' caves. As the years passed and worries about neighbouring tribes having superior bits of flint turned to ones about neighbouring city-states having pointier bronze swords, so humanity discovered whole new sorts of Problem to worry about, including how to work out the area of a circle, whether the Earth revolved around the Sun or vice versa and how to govern a bunch of people many of whom had armed themselves with incredibly pointy bronze swords. With each Problem, mankind was driven to discover a new solution. Soon it had discovered all sorts of things like the theory of gravity, medicine, hot-and-cold-running-water and nuclear weapons, and was entitled to sit back and feel very happy with itself, although a bit nervous about all those nuclear weapons.

Everest It was in the 1960s that Problems were to meet their rival, as Wall Street marketing men slowly began to realise that people found problems rather awkward and negative and the whole business of having to find solutions to them really rather tiresome. Searching around for an alternative they soon stumbled upon the word "Challenge", a term redolent of acts of bravery and derring-do like climbing Mount Everest and, just like climbing Mount Everest, having an air of being something one didn't have to worry about at all if one didn't really want to.

Soon the Challenges were leaping through the linguistic ecosystem and pushing Problems out of their natural territory. Anywhere men and women could be found who wanted to sugar unpalatable truths or gloss over their own deficiencies, there Challenges could be found. Perhaps unsurprisingly, among those swiftest to cast Problems out of their language were politicians. Soon pupils with learning Problems found themselves liberated from the shackles of ignorance by being redesignated "learning challenged" and those with mobility Problems found themselves leaping from their wheelchairs and zimmer frames, eager to welcome the newly-coined Challenges that injury or Mother Nature had bountifully strewn in their, somewhat erratic and very short, paths.

By the early Noughties Problems had almost died out in all public discourse. Indeed, records indicate that the last politician to have been in possession of an actual Problem was former Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, who was so embarrassed at having had a Problem, in the form of the Falklands War, that he felt compelled to resign. In early 2007, Home Secretary John Reid was proudly confirming that he had dealt with all the Problems in his department by converting them to challenges and within days all his fellow ministers had followed suit, with the whole nation following only weeks later.

Problems, having been conclusively identified as living-challenged, will be buried at the Church of St Judas the Slightly Iffy on Saturday. They are survived by "Challenges", "Small Presentational Issues" and "Downright Lies".

1 Comment:

james higham said...

Yes, I come over all calmness-challenged when read things like this.