The burning of our houses
Two days ago I was visiting friends nearby. I will call them James and Jeanie.
"Since September," James said slowly, "we have lost about $250,000 from our retirement account. It's like our house has burned down and we didn't have insurance..."
Later that same day, I was visiting other friends who have a small publishing enterprise. They make a marginal but satisfying income; this is a couple of modest means and modest expectations.
I'll call them George and Florence.
Florence said they are going to have to shut down their enterprise because the bank will not loan them the money needed to put together next year's catalog.
"We're finished," she said. They are just approaching retirement years and will try to hold on until they can claim for social security.
I heard both these stories on the same day; a one-two punch that cleared my head from the fog of political war that has been raging non-stop in the mediascape.
We have all been dazed by the constant barrage of charge and counter-charge; we're anxious and confused. Crisis begets chaos and noise. We are blinded by the finger-pointing and by the fury of our building rage.
At times like these we can find ourselves setting fire to our surroundings without really knowing what we are doing or why. We become submerged in the stew of our circumstances.
But real things are happening.
People like James and George and Florence and Jeanie are real. When they told me their stories, quietly and in despair, it made me realize that something very big and important is happening.
The air began to clear for me. Reality intruded.
Suppose we began a conversation, among ourselves. We eschew the rat-tat-tat of blame and simply recount what we see.
Patterns will emerge; our thinking will change. We'll experience what others are going through, and we'll learn.
This is what we do in really big crises - our survival instinct leads us to what works, what is real.
There is no doubt now that our society is undergoing a sea-change of profound implications. The sooner we understand the nature of these changes the better prepared we will be to adapt.
Let me hear your stories. Many of you have important, true things to relate. I believe that NowPublic is uniquely placed to keep a record of what is happening all around us.
She hadn’t finished college, and the two jobs that kept her “constantly moving” brought in a little more than forty thousand dollars a year, but after the mortgage (a thousand a month), car payments (three hundred and fifty), levies for supplies at the girls’ public high school, fuel, electricity, stomach medicine, and a hundred dollars’ worth of groceries each week (down from eight bags to four at Kroger’s supermarket, because of inflation) there was basically nothing left to spend. She could cut corners—go out for a McDonald’s Dollar Meal instead of spending seven dollars on a bag of potatoes and cooking at home. But that meant the end of any kind of family life for her nieces. “These days, you have to struggle,” she said. “As a kid, I used to be able to go to the movies or to the zoo. Now you can’t take your children to the zoo or go to the movies, because you’ve got to think how you’re going to put food on the table.” Snodgrass’s parents had raised four children on two modest incomes, without the ceaseless stress that she was enduring. But the two-parent family was now available only to the “very privileged.” She said that she had ten good friends; eight of them were childless or, like her, unmarried with kids. “That’s who’s middle-class now,” she said.