Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thoughts on a snowy day near Christmas

We tend to talk about the hard times now upon us as if they were a destructive force of nature. A financial hurricane that has come to swamp us like Katrina did to New Orleans.

AH, but it wasn't Katrina that swamped New Orleans. Katrina was a low-grade Hurricane Betsy -- at worst -- by the time she reached the Crescent City.

New Orleans drowned because people, first of all, had been encouraged to build in dumb places over the decades. And, second of all, New Orleans drowned because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built really, really crappy levees which they didn't improve and raise to counteract the city's slow subsidence into the primordial ooze that is the Louisiana delta. (Americans' hastening of and reluctance to ameliorate that sinking feeling is another story covered here.)

Likewise, the economic pickle we find ourselves in right now is anything but a force of nature. Strike that -- the mess we now face is a force of human nature.

Basically, we got greedy. A capital sin that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when the serpent told Eve "ye shall be as gods."

ADAM AND EVE ate the apple. We, on the other hand, bought the apple on credit. From Whole Paycheck. To which we traveled in a big honkin' SUV.

Then we sat down in our McMansion to eat the forbidden fruit while watching Desperate Housewives on our HDTV.

We wanted what we couldn't afford, while business wanted more profit than it had a right to and government kept the gravy train a rollin', even when taxpayers refused to foot the true cost of the services they demanded.

OUR ECONOMY -- our insane expectations, built upon the shifting sands of avarice -- has turned out to be, pretty much, a Ponzi scheme worthy of Bernard Madoff , and we have no idea how to unwind the whole thing without lots of people getting hurt really badly.

The last time our economy was this bad -- lots worse, actually -- we at least paid lip service to the kinds of values that can help a body get through a really rough patch. We at least had a culture that, more or less, reflected those values. That sensibility.

Today, we march to the poor house to a hip-hop beat, singing the praises of bitches, hos, bling, f***in' and thuggin'.

This may not go well.

WE NEED a revolution. Not like Lenin and Marx, but of the heart.

Then, perhaps, we might get some "change we can believe in."

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