During the toughest times in our history, there always seems to be a contingent of people who want to believe that nothing is changing — that everything is going to be just fine — that all this turmoil is just going to pass and life will continue just as it always has. They don’t want to hear what you have to say. They don’t want to see the facts and figures and charts and graphs. What they are often saying is, “Please, lie to me!”
Too many people want to believe that this recent downturn is an oddity, an aberration, some short bit of madness that will quickly pass away. To believe that, though, they have to deny thousands of years of history — thousands of years of rise and fall — thousands of years of cyclical change ranging from one extreme to another. We have seen this all before, many times over, and denying it only makes it worse. It gives circumstance a power over us that it should never have. We are critically thinking animals with deep abilities to learn and reason. Surrendering ourselves to lies squanders our talents and makes us culpable in our failures. We have the intelligence to survive this downturn if we only remove the scales from our eyes and the fingers from our ears.
I always endeavor to speak the truth from these pages, even when it is unpopular. I will guess that nearly everyone reading or listening will find something to dislike here. The truth is sometimes hard to hear, but it is all important that we hear it, and more importantly, act on it. Power comes from a clear understanding of our circumstances and denial causes the waste of our time and talents. Let’s seek to access the “better angels of our nature” and start our recovery today.
First, it is almost certain that certain jobs, certain careers and certain industries will, and by all rights should, be discarded. As a child in the 70’s I witnessed the first death throes of the automotive industry where many family members, and families of my friends found work, careers and financial stability. For nearly 40 years we have propped up this ever weakening, ever stumbling, falling giant. Unable to see the future, we held on to the past until such a time when the future is being crammed down our throats. If you work in the automotive industry, or any manufacturing sector, you need to look elsewhere for succor. Like the last great herd of buffalo to roam the plains, the beasts of the automotive industry have fallen and will no longer provide us food, clothing and support. Will they return? One day. Maybe in time for our grandchildren or great grand-children to once again make manufacturing an important mainstay of America, but not in our lifetime. We must return to the days of the many and the small instead of the big and the few. Only then can we rebuild manufacturing in this country while, hopefully, remembering the lessons of this collapse.
Second, for years we have stretched the American Dream to ever more absurd limits. What began as a quest for home, land and family has been warped into greed, avarice and excess in almost every way. As a people, we have lost any concept of the difference between enough and all. Where a soldier returning from World War II wanted mainly a home for his family and a good, decent job in a safe community, today many of us want a huge house, ludicrous pay and power of life and death over those around us. Our love of prosperity left us without any understanding of the many levels of success. You were either a superstar or nothing, with no grey areas in between. This has led to many of the abuses we are seeing today, from Enron to the real estate crisis to our seeming inability to govern ourselves politically.
Today, I regularly talk with musicians and others in the entertainment industry who seem most infected by this superstar myth. Even they are beginning to see that being able to support your family, comfortably, while doing what you love is a far greater goal than any form of super stardom — and far more likely. While we may never stop reaching for the brass ring, we need to recognize the simple success of a life well lived and the benefits it brings to us as individuals and society as a whole.
Third, we need to stop looking for some external force, some outside factor, some knight in shining armor to fix our problems. We are the source of our own solutions, our own changes, our own imaginative creations, not our government, our corporations, our political parties, our God. If change is to happen, it must happen down deep in the psychological soil of our own being. We have to decide to change. We have to recognize reality. We have to seek the truth even when it is difficult, despairing and ugly. We can no longer abdicate our lives to someone else or we risk the very basis of our humanness. We can no longer depend on government, corporations, and other entities to look out for our best interests. Current events should show us the fallacy of that. Large entities will do what is best for them, not what is best for the people. Sometimes our interests converge, but at others they diverge at the detriment to both.
Despite what you may see and feel today, the future is bright. With the future comes hope, and time, to accomplish great things if we stop lying to ourselves and start doing the work that needs to be done. We have the power in our own hands to shape our future, even if we have denied, forsworn or simply forgotten it. The power does not reside in some mythical “out there.” It is held here, in our hands and only desires that we wield it. Like a new shovel in untouched soil, we simply need to take the tool, turn over the soil and create the future we desire.
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