Tuesday, February 17, 2009

America and the American.

America is changing. Collectively, independently, completely. With it, the American is changing.

For me, the most heartbreaking change has not been the economy itself, but what we're finding in the wake of such a massive splash.

The American landscape has suffered a Pangea-sized economic earthquake and will be changed forever. The outlook, whether eventually positive or negative, is inarguably and radically alien.

The American ideal, once fortressed by pages of historical success stories is being crashed against; wave, after wave of desperation. Now, the country built on hyper-idealism is having it's head dunked in it's own ice-cold water.

But still, I think the most heartbreaking blow has been to the average American spirit. Each of us, for all of our lives have been told that we can be "anything we want." Selfish-ambition praised as virtue. Self-sacrifice praised as necessary. Owning your own company has long been termed the "American ideal." We're a nation built on small-business owners. And most of it, whether deserved or not, has evaporated.

Maybe our egos have too-long been as inflated as our credit limits. Our security has been in home equity and our anxiety tempered by the ease of withdrawing from it.

Everyday I wake up to a different news piece chronicling a different national collapse and the subsequent lament of the average American tax payer. Honestly, it's scary; I think for the first time we're all tasting the bitter taste of our own blood.

I think the one cloudbreak throughout this storm is that, for better or worse, we're seeing the widespread and very public failure of so much greed. We're all lined up watching the American balloon lose air.

We wanted to be the guy in the Mercedes until we realized he's been falsifying our investments and draining our retirements.

We wanted to be the guy neglecting family and friends to grow his construction business.

We wanted to be the guy in the movies, until we realized he wanted to be us.

I'm predicting (and praying for) a return to values. Where we save money competitively. Where our lives are defined by friendship rather than ownership. Where our popularity comes from our simplicity. Where meals out with two people become meals in with 10 people. Where passion replaces ambition, and its intensity raised exponentially.

The shallows are drying, leaving us exposed. We have to dive in, and we have to dive deep because the next wave is coming.

More to come. Thoughts?


THE BEAR said...

You articulated the inarticulable for me. I am blown away. Don't stop writing.

The Passerby said...

Yesterday, in my "History of the U.S. to 1877" class, the professor asked how many of us believed we would die with a liquid worth of at least a million dollars. Not counting your car or house or crap, just liquid. Nobody raised their hand, and he was completely shocked. He said that he couldn't believe how young people have changed, because three years ago he asked that same question, and the entire class was absolutely positive that they could make a millions liquid dollars by the age of thirty. He asked us why we felt this way, and I said, "It just doesn't seem realistic" and a bunch of people agreed. He said, "Wow, I guess America really IS losing it's raging idealism....it's kind of sad, actually."

Its true. But I honestly don't know whether to agree with him or not about the 'sad' part.

Seaner said...

Ahh, great call.

I think it is true. I think the problem you're pointing out is that for so long we've equated money with success, "dying with a liquid net worth of a million dollars" with American ambition. Maybe we're still as ambitious (or maybe we need to call that ambition to action) but it's no longer directed at gaining capital.

Thanks Alanah.

Kyle Rocks Hard said...

Agreed. Its really sad that the de-glorification of America is necessary, but in many ways it is. I very much enjoyed

"I think the one cloudbreak throughout this storm is that, for better or worse, we're seeing the widespread and very public failure of so much greed."

Its like America has an infection and instead of cleaning out the infection She just puts make up over it and hopes no one notices. But now the infection (Greed) has gotten painful, overwhelming, crippling and most of all it has made America ill. Now we are on our knees and no amount of make up will make us look beautiful again. Only medicine, only faith, patience and God will make America beautiful again.

At least that's how I saw it.

Scott Ritsema said...

It's important to not forget the role of the government and the Federal Reserve in creating this mess. Yes, I'm going to be lame and do economic analysis on your blog. =)

Living beyond our means is no doubt rooted ultimately in greed, but at some point, the insanity of the debt that was accumulated must be fueld by something more than normal human economic behavior. Perhaps that something is...the government and the Fed. Maybe when the government borrowed like crazy, enabling more cheap imports to be consumed, maybe when the Fed lowered interest rates to induce borrowing that would not have otherwise occured in a free market, then what we are really seeing is the manipulation and distortion of the economy. Rational consumers and businessmen don't create such massive bubbles on their own; they must be induced to do so by false messages being sent in the markets.

Greed + Government/The Fed = our current crisis.

A normal amount of greed + the virtues of hard work and savings = a vibrant productive growth-economy where we have a surplus of wealth to bless the world with.

You think?

Derek Hickman said...

Good thoughts. It seems that our society has created a one-rung ladder of success. We've replaced the only formula that works (desire + hard work = reward) with our own twisted version (desire = reward). Then we wonder why we are so disillusioned and unfulfilled.

It also seems that not only is our financial market correcting itself, but society in general is realigning to some degree.