Friday, March 21, 2008

Recession, war and the need for an open dialog

Yesterday, at work, we got the news that our "head count" would be reduced. Two of my immediate coworkers were "let go" along with 400 others throughout the company. The news was startling, but, on reflection, not too surprising. I believe that these lay-offs are harbingers for the coming storm. My company is, I believe, moving in anticipation of an economic downturn that everyone sees coming.

Poor horse is played out...
The vaunted and glorified American consumer who, for so long, has kept the global economy afloat with his insatiable appetite for whiz-bang gadgets, frivolous services, and cheaply-made goods, all purchased on credit, is becoming aware that a transition is at hand.

Just as a drunken reveler will, at the break of day, find that his good-time friends, those who egged him on and happily drank at his expense, have slunk away when the bill comes due, so, too, are the American people finding that the corporate interests and corrupt politicians now have no answers.

The hard times are coming. Can we be honest enough to admit it? Decades of hedonistic living are coming to an end. From approximately 1980, when Ronald Reagan pooh-poohed Jimmy Carter's admonitions about an impending energy crisis, to the present day, Americans have been living as if there were no tomorrow. We think nothing of jumping in the car and driving 3 blocks to the store to pick up a pack of gum. We pour thousands of gallons of water on our front lawns so we can have patches of green in the middle of deserts. We seize resources from foreign lands at gun point, and murder and kill in the name of "patriotism."

Our politicians, even now, prefer not to lead, prefer not to discomfit us with talk of sacrifice and determination. Remember what Junior said, after 911? "[G]et on the airlines, get about the business of America..."

Look at the rhetoric they're using now: John McCain babbling about war, war, war, terrorists, terrorists, terrorists. His recent "misstatements" about al Qaeda's connections with Iran not only evoke unsettling thoughts about his age as it relates to his mental acuity, but illustrate his inability to think beyond war and aggression. Warlike rhetoric, he imagines, is the key to power. He has no clue about what is happening to our country.

Hillary Clinton seems unlikely to be able to attain the Democratic nomination without some fancy footwork, since she trails in the popular vote and in the number of elected delgates. So, she has resorted to the cut-throat politics of smear and slime, disparaging Obama rather than promoting herself. Well, she learned at the knee of the master, I suppose, having endured the most vile attacks that the Republican slime machine could manufacture. But, by using their tactics in her blind pursuit of power, she becomes one of them. She seems unaware of the need to unify, to move beyond the vicious political games in order to really address the issues at hand.

Barrack Obama, by contrast, has attempted to open real dialog in this country. With his speech on "race," recently, he has addressed a long-festering issue in the national psyche. The speech was an attempt at starting a real dialog. If we were to elect a president with that kind of courage, the courage to speak frankly and honestly, even when the words are uncomfortable, we would have taken a huge step toward doing what needs to be done to get this country back on track.

Obama transcends the old political game in which McCain and Hillary are still mired. Whether one agrees with his particular stance on any given issue is, in my opinion, less important than the knowledge that he will be willing to address issues openly, that he will engage in honest debate.

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge...
Hillary and McCain, both grasping indignantly at the power to which they believe they are entitled by virtue of having "played the game," turn a deaf ear to the daily tragedies that are transpiring for everyday Americans. The tragedies of economic insecurity, shattered futures, and war deaths are waved at vaguely with empty platitudes, while the wheels of their respective campaigns work away at dividing and undermining. In short, they continue in the vein of the Karl Rove method of politics.

This kind of campaigning does very little to assuage the doubts and fears of people like my unfortunate coworkers.

It could very well be that the time-tested tactics Hillary and McCain are employing, instilling fear and hatred and division, still have the juice to take down Obama. But if that happens, regardless of which of the two of them becomes President, it is imperative, it is vital, that he or she quickly adopt Obama's message of unity and his willingness to face difficult issues head-on. Can we dare to hope that either would have wisdom enough to do it?

For my part, I'm desperate for Obama.

A chance at a real dialog...


Ridwan said...

Brother your words about the recession are troubling indeed.

I am sorry to hear about your co-workers. Sadly, they will be among many more who will have to pay for the fallout of capital greed and mismanagement.

Here in SAfrica we face the same kind of fallout as consumers are spending on consumables.

Less than 6% of all SAfricans have money stashed away.

The sad part of our post-apartheid reality is that our government has extended the ability to spend on credit as a right garnered from political struggle.

The 'stuff' of our 'liberation' are fancy and shiny cars, cell phones, and the usual capital delusions.

Now the axe is begining to fall. The dollar is falling and the rand is weakening alongside.

Though gold is strong there is no profit in that for SAfrica. The mines can't operate because we have an energy crisis.

We can't keep the lights on.

The business of business has failed the citizen who really believed that capital growth would be the good life.

SAfrica modelled its consumer based development on the US. And we look worse for the wear no doubt.

As long as we think about development, anywhere, as a matter about capital things, and not people and the environment, we will be stuck where we are now.

Thanks for a thoughtful warning and excellent post.

Peace Dade,

Shus li said...

I was shocked to read that such a huge layoff took place so quickly, and glad that your position was spared.

For my pension plan I'm asking for a super-aggressive stock market investment and high-yield freeze-dried foods and bottled water.

My point is that some of the better investments right now might be in essential items such as food and water...

Obama? We tried to see him in Eugene, OR. He was to speak at 9. Anyone who got to Mac Court after 6:30 didn't get in. He's huge, and I am catching Obama fever (sorry Ridwan:) But even he won't be able to fix the systemic problems that we are facing.

The rent is due.

Dan Binmore said...

I can't believe you are for that foreign, muslim racist. Love it or leave it sunshine.