I have no problem being or sounding self-congratulatory. The alternative (waiting for others to congratulate you) is much worse.
One of the biggest thinking errors in humans

I have rewritten the movie script for the drama Kramer vs. Kramer. I couldn’t stomach the conventionality about success in it.

[ 5 min read ]

But it’s a great movie anyway.

For those who have never seen it, and for those who did see it but no longer remember, or no longer remember exactly what it was about (after all the movie is 40 years old!) I provide a quick summary.

Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman), an advertising executive, is just given his agency’s biggest new account. After spending the evening chatting with his boss about handling a new and very large account, he returns home to find out that his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) leaves him.

Ted is left to raise their son Billy by himself and after the initial shock Ted seems to have everything more or less under control (he has adjusted to this new situation, as we usually do, and things which initially were challenges to him no longer are). And his relationship with Billy is healthy.

Fifteen months after she walked out, Joanna resurfaces in Ted’s and Bill’s lives and she does it in order to claim Billy. As one might expect, a custody battle between the parents over their son ensues. Both Ted and Joanna are unprepared for the brutal character of court hearings as both sides’ lawyers do their “best” to win the case for their clients.

The fact that Ted was fired because of his conflicting responsibilities as a parent, which forced him to take a lower-paid job, comes out in court.

A courtroom scene near the end of the movie. Paul Gressen, the counsel for Mrs. Kramer begins questioning Ted.

Gressen: Mr. Kramer, how long have you worked in advertising?

Ted: Uh, ever since I graduated high school; uh, uh, college, I mean. I started in the mail room; I’ve been in it for about ten, fifteen years.

Gressen: And would you say that you have achieved a certain status or position in your profession?

Ted: Yes, I think I have a pretty good reputation.

Gressen: Mr. Kramer, when you were working at Roth, Caine and Donovon, what was your salary?

Ted: Like around 33 thousand dollars a year when I left.

Gressen: And now I believe you’re working at Norman, Craig and Kummel?

Ted: Yes.

Gressen: And what is your salary there?

Ted: It’s uh, it’s, uh, almost $29,000.

Gressen: Could you be more specific, Mr. Kramer?

Ted: I make 28,200 dollars.

Gressen: 28,200. Well, Mr. Kramer, you’re the only person I’ve ever heard of who’s working his way down the ladder of success.

My version of this scene goes like this.

Gressen: Mr. Kramer, how long have you worked in advertising?

Ted: Uh, ever since I graduated high school; uh, uh, college, I mean. I started in the mail room; I’ve been in it for about ten, fifteen years.

Gressen: And would you say that you have achieved a certain status or position in your profession?

Ted: Yes, I think I have a pretty good reputation.

Gressen: Mr. Kramer, when you were working at Roth, Caine and Donovon, what was your salary?

Ted: Like around 33 thousand dollars a year when I left.

Gressen: And now I believe you’re working at Norman, Craig and Kummel?

Ted: Yes.

Gressen: And what is your salary there?

Ted: It’s uh, it’s, uh, almost $29,000.

Gressen: Could you be more specific, Mr. Kramer?

Ted: I make … Does it really matter how much I make? Really?! I make enough! Whether it’s 33,000 dollars or 25,000 dollars it’s enough for us to live. I work. I provide for my son’s needs. If need be, I can eliminate or reduce certain costs. Downsize. Why not? Who said people must maintain the level of their monthly spendings at all costs? Who? And why should they do that? To help the economy grow? To help businesses grow? To help the government brag how people’s lives are “better” now because they buy more? I am a good parent, regardless what you think about me and how you view this situation. I make 28,200 dollars.

Gressen: 28,200. Well, Mr. Kramer, you’re the only person I’ve ever heard of who’s working his way down the ladder of success.

Ted: [with scorn] Down the ladder of success! [with scorn, a bit louder] Down the ladder of success! Oh please. Are you serious? Do you really believe there is only one definition of success in this world? Why should there be only one definition of success? Because that’s how you view success and because you want to make use of that definition right now in order to prove that I’m a failure? Or is it because that’s how the majority views success? Or because the level of success of 99,99% of people in this courtroom (and similar courtrooms) is judged based on how much they make, or what positions they hold, or what titles they earned, or whether or not they graduated from college, or what college they finished, or what car they drive, or in what part of the city they live, or whether or not they can afford to send their child to private school and then to college? Do you really believe everybody will buy into this crap about success in life? [addressing the judge] Sorry your Honor, that won’t happen again [meaning he will not use a bad word in the courtroom again]. [addressing Gressen again] Do you really believe people can’t have their own definitions of success? Do you really think we owe it to someone or something to live our lives according to some officially approved version of success in life? [addressing the judge to have his or her full attention] Your Honor, may I ask the counsel where the official version of success (the only legitimate version of success in life) is stated? Does he even know how he ended up having this particular definition of success in life? Did he look it up in a dictionary? Or had he (as the vast majority of us) soaked it up growing up and then never thought once about questioning it? Which law in this country contains the official definition of that word, ‘success’, and which law requires us, the citizens of this country to pursue only this version of success in life? [addressing the judge to have his or her full attention] Your Honor, may I remind all of us here that we live in a country which we refer to as ‘free country’? Plus, judging someone based only on his or her current situation and concluding from that that this person is or isn’t a successful human being (even if it’s based on this conventional meaning of success) is ridiculous. For example, I took this lower-paid job because my counsel told me that without a job I will certainly lose this case. As if being jobless today meant you will not have any job tomorrow or a week later. As if being in a job which pays a certain amount meant you will certainly not earn more any time soon. What is such conclusion precisely based upon? Some study? Some article in some newspaper or magazine? Or what? It’s ludicrous to view our lives this way. It’s a dumb way of looking at life.

Gressen: [addressing the judge] But that’s a heresy your Honor.

Judge: [in a manner most judges, would probably, unfortunately, respond, because it’s easier that way] Mr. Kramer, you’re here to provide answers, not to preach. Not to undermine or ridicule the way most people (almost the entire society) in this country live.