Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Into the Light

When I wrote the post below, last night, I was in a very dark place. No, I had my office light on; but my heart was dark.

I started out the evening with an unbroken, hour long rant. Poor Bonnie was my audience. When she finally announced that she could take no more and retreated to the bathtub, I proceeded here to continue the rant.

This morning, feeling marginally better about the world, I considered deleting the post I wrote last night. I decided against it because I had already received a comment and I didn't want to rudely wipe out that comment along with my post. And I also decided that I had made some salient points that needed making. I did, however, delete an identical post I placed on my Barack Obama blog.

Upon review, and in a better spirit now as I write this, I realize I said absolutely nothing in the previous post with which I now disagree. It's simply that I was writing in a state of despair last night, and while I think it's healthy for us to get in touch with our inner despair from time to time, we also need to examine things through the eyes of hope. And no, I am not going all Pollyanna on your ass. Hope is not, at least not necessarily, the equivalent of denial.

Pondering this today, I still seriously doubt we will ever regain the place we once held in this world. The key to that is the commercialization of our culture and the stupefying of our citizens. We have been molded as a society into the world's greatest consumers. We exist, the corporate Moguls have decided, to buy, BUY, BUY. And when our personal wealth dries up, as it is doing, it is our purpose to borrow, BORROW, BORROW, so we can continue BUYING.

Well it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that this purchasing sponge of a nation is going to lose its capacity to soak up the crap that is marketed to us. The chickens have already started to come home to roost on our borrowing habits. And we ain't seen nothing yet. Consumer debt in this country is going to bankrupt half the population in the next few years. It's going to get really ugly folks. No question about it. It breaks my heart in so many ways. We're going to experience something our soft lives have ill prepared us for. You think we have poverty in this country now? Boy are you in for a shock.

Enough of the doom and gloom. It's real, but it may have a thin silver lining. I was thinking out loud the other day about how nations like Portugal, Italy and Spain used to practically rule the earth. These days only Italy, among the three, has any world standing at all. And Italy's place in the international community is pretty back-seat for all that. But not a one of these three countries is exactly some terrible poverty-stricken place. They are all relatively quiet and unassuming countries where folks get along (OK, other than the Basques in Spain), where they have national health care systems that provide adequate, if not spectacular, health care for their citizens. They're OK.

The United States started out as an unassuming agrarian society. Throwing off King George's yoke made us big shakes in Europe for a bit, but if you wanted sophisticated world-class society, you generally avoided the States. It really wasn't until the Second World War that the US gained the foothold we have come to assume as ours' ever since. So maybe, after the dust of poverty settles and we have picked ourselves back out of the ashes, we'll just, more or less, end up back where we started.

Hell, as we sift through the debris, we might even discover that old Constitution beneath the dust and ashes. And we may shake it off and re-read it. And who knows, we might even work really hard to educate the whole populace so they understand it this time. And we could become the new Portugal or Spain. We may even become an Italy. And it may all be for the better. We could go back to being farmers and furniture makers and just mind our own business.

And our grandchildren may honor us.

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