Monday, October 13, 2008

Headed for hard times

I've had a stack of books waiting to be read, on the Great Depression that I picked up at the Maine State Library. I started reading one of these books, Studs Terkel's, Hard Times: An Oral History of The Great Depression, this past weekend.

If you've never read Terkel (still going strong, btw, at 96), then you've missed one of America's true national treasures. Terkel has a unique ability to capture history, with just his basic tape recorder and a gift for gathering other people's stories, a techniques he's been using for more than half a century.

Today, over 70 years later, we are still debating what caused the Depression. For people my age, this epic event in U.S. history is mostly old news footage, or possibly, John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (based on Steinbeck's book of the same name).

After reading Terkel's book this weekend, a paragraph caught my eye today, while reading Jim Kunstler's weekly download of thoughts and ideas, at Clusterfuck Nation.

Kunstler was ruminating about how the world of G-7 nations were now poorer, as the financial underpinnings of the developed have begun unraveling. Yes, the Dow was up nearly 1,000 points today--it could easily be back down that amount tomorrow, or by the end of the week. The unbelievable volatility of the markets indicate that something's just not right, not to mention Iceland's financial meltdown, the nationalizing of banks in Great Britain, and the over-leveraged nature of the world's economy.

JK mentioned how the U.S. was no longer "...the same nation that crowed around the old radio consoles for Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats. Back then, we (the U.S.) were mostly a highly-disciplined, regimented, industrial society full of citizens who mostly did what they were told to do, and mostly trusted in authority."

That proposition alone probably causes derision and scorn from our nation of "tattoed barbarian consumers" (Kunstler's term). His point however, is validated by Terkel's stories. I was struck by how Americans wandered, dazed for over a decade while FDR tried this, and then that to try to pry American out of its downward economic spiral that took a major world conflict, WWII, to finally end it. Through it all, there was this stoic, almost fatalistic acceptance and trust in the president and his administration that would never happen today. I'm concerned about what might happen if we start to see supply disruptions in gasoline, or groceries, which might happen if the King Henry and his pied pipers of finance continue to mortgage our future with their economic voodoo.

I don't know where we are headed, but if you are paying attention at all, it might be wise to make some preparations, if you know what I mean.

1 comment:

Eve Channing said...

Kunstler makes a valid point regarding the stoicism of our American ancestors. Unfortunately, today's generation can't see much further than the last episode of Monday Night Football on their gargantuan plasma TVs. I don't think they can live without 100 channels, let alone food. But...history shows that people have suffered since the beginning of time. Why should we be any different? I just wish a few Americans would come forward and give me a modern-day Patrick Henry "I'll take my liberty instead of a latte, thank you very much." Would a few Patriots (not the New England metro-type) please step up and lead?