OK, the title is a bit presumptuous, I know. However, in this time of intense crisis as we sink into a global depression every bit as serious as the 1930’s, we are forced to look at ourselves to see what we realistically need to survive. My conclusion is there is only one resource I can depend on. Money can be lost despite our attempts to save it, things can be destroyed, homes lost, the earth beneath our feet flooded, strange and unusual events can challenge our very existence. Despite all this, it seems the only real thing we have is each other.
My father and mother lived through the depression. Times were bleak and they had little. My father said last night, “One of the more interesting aspects of the great depression of the thirties was that during this time we had less food and the food we had was basically a vegetarian diet. There was little or no meat, unless you were quite wealthy, and rich food was unheard of. You ate less and that which you did eat was basic foodstuff. I remember hearing that in Europe the rates of heart attacks were down 50%. It seems the lack of opulent food was good for the health of people who overate and ate the wrong things.” I chimed in a related something I read in the news, “I read that when there was a strike of the doctors in Los Angeles (or somewhere) some years ago, the death rate actually reduced 7%!” Sometimes seemingly bad things have an unexpected positive outcome. We all agreed that during times of crisis we appreciated more the simple things and the friends and people we knew. Somehow it always worked out, at least for most people.
I listened to the radio last night on my way to visit my parents and the themes being discussed were similar. In the face of the enormous crisis, people were rediscovering each other and the small, yet meaningful things that make us human. Taking care of each other, working together to improve our situation, seeing past indiscretions and seeking out the good in people, showing love, being selfless, and so on have been revitalized within a social context. I heard music from the sixties crowd, now resurrected and listened to respectfully. The return to ideals devoid of monetary gain is in the air. The revolutionary spirit of the late sixties now revived and longed for, at least amongst those already familiar with it. Enough production and consumption, they sang, find the real value in life. The empathetic ears in the audience saw the relevance of these ideals in the context of the implosion of their economy.
I remember bandying about in college terms like “the military industrial complex” and my mother reminded me that this was originally coined by President Eisenhower who had called it the military-industrial-congressional complex which rings truer to my ears considering the way in which money has been thrown here and there and few have any idea where it really went.
I find it fascinating how the labels we use to categorize people we don’t like have changed. The conservatives of the past might have been more liberal or radical than those today we call liberal or radical. I don’t want to get into this discussion here as it is a long one worthy of a book rather than this short spontaneous ramble.
I see nowadays seemingly good people simply going bankrupt to avoid ruination. Who is paying when millions declare bankruptcy and stop paying their bills? And if the government is paying, who is financing it? Do I also have to go belly-up to avoid paying for others who did it before me? How dreadful. At what point does the US become a massive ponzi scheme paying off interest and bailouts with new investments in treasuries?
I was a real radical in the late sixties and I wrote off the previous generation as irrelevant. Now I am old and irrelevant myself. Revolution? You have to be kidding me? My main tasks nowadays are to remember where I put things (much harder than you think for some reason), to digest food (not quite as hard as finding things as I can always find my bottle of enzymes, but still way up there in my list of to-do’s), to avoid the ravages of old age (a hopeless battle, but still I fight on), to avoid outrageous boredom (people, where are you?), and to not go bankrupt (sigh). I talk big about creating a community of people who care for each other, who work together, and who are friends, but I have no clue how to practically do it as any and all communities created on an ideal (religious or otherwise) have not lasted very long. It is strange for me when I project my consciousness inside the mind of my twenty year old body and look ahead to me now about to declare in public in this blog, “All community is based on one principle — economic fluency.” God, how non-idealistic that sounds. How dreadfully academic. How nauseatingly established. Alas…
Me, radical? No way. My sister, on the other hand, created this wonderful group of people around the Paper Circle in Athens, Ohio (see a previous entry of mine) and without consideration of her personal well-being or economic development has brought cultural and artistic education to the poorest members of society, even to the point of giving the children in her care a full meal she created by getting restaurants and markets to donate to these kids. Selfless. This drives my mother crazy since my sister does not take care of herself (or so my mother thinks). I think she takes care of herself great and despite her inattention to her personal finance she will always be wealthy because she has many, many friends. I think these friends will always stand together to deal with any situation before them.
After all, what other resource is there when the money is gone and you are standing up to your knees in water? John said, “All you need is love,” and although I thought it was a nice sentiment, I found fault with it whenever I considered all the other things I presumed I needed. Now I wonder. Love and friendship seem to make it all work somehow. But, and this is a big butt especially when one is lazy and wants to use friends as a way to avoid personal responsibility, friendship and mutual support depend on our willingness to contribute. Community is only as strong as all its members desire to contribute to it. If there are those who wish to take advantage of the community without contributing, the community dies.
Again, I do not have an answer. Somehow I think an answer will appear when we are forced to form communities and work together for our survival. I think I might like that.