Sunday, February 08, 2009

Hysterical Times

I was buoyed when I read an article by Kevin Libin in the February 6th issue of the National Post. If anything is capable of buoying one in these days when we are bombarded on all sides with news of calamity and rhetorical disaster.

Kevin Libin, in an article in The National Post entitled Making the Worst of It injects a voice of reason and encouragement into this daily drama of economic catastrophe.

He quotes Amos Kiewe, a professor specializing in presidential rhetoric at Syracuse University. "I wish they would induce more confidence".. Indeed, the media and politicians have much to answer for as they promote a hysterical response to present day economic problems.

Libin points out that "these times are not 'unprecedented'. This is not unlike anything we've seen. Serious economists do not call this a 'depression,' or predict a return to bread lines, work camps and street urchins peddling apples on the streets."

Unemployment rates in the U.S. are expected to peak "somewhere shy of 9%, jobless rates won't match the nearly 11% reached in 1981/82, let alone the peak of 25% during the Depression". What we have here is a rather bad recession, - but certainly more in line with 1975, 1981/82 and the early 1990's. The future of this recession bears little resemblance to the Great Depression of the 1930's, and when politicians and newspapers and TV heads shriek disaster and desolation it is wise to keep the statistics relevant.

It's always a mistake to do the ostrich routine, and hide one's head in the sand, but on the other hand when hard times strike it is fatal to collapse and wait for the catastrophe to rush over one.

Confidence, if not a miracle worker, can set a country on the right track. Libin cites a nationwide fireside chat that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made in 1933, when America's banking system was on the brink of collapse and a fifth of the country's financial institutions were out of business, - when people had started a run on the remaining banks' cash, preferring a bird in the hand to one in what they perceived to be an unsafe bush in the banks.

"Roosevelt, having ordered the banks closed, spoke to a rattled and frightened nation.....he explained the basics of how banks worked, why they needed cash deposits, why most remained sturdy and the plan to gradually reopen them.

He concluded "You people must have faith, you must not be stampeded by rumours or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system, and it is up to you to support and make it work. Together we cannot fail.

When the first banks began to reopen the following day, thousands of clients were lined up outside, ready to redeposit their money. America was soothed."

I am dismayed that the world has, unconsciously, become so materialistic. And I think about the 'simple' life and the virtues and peace it brings with it. What we need is basic food and shelter. What we have in addition are the safety nets of Unemployment Insurance and Medicare.

Why do we want so much more? We struggle to obtain luxuries, and call them our 'standard of living' - we put all our energies into accumulating 'things' and are terrified at the thought of doing without them.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
William Wordsworth

People do live 'marginal' lives quite happily, - even now.

I had a beloved friend whose motto was 'things will always be someway', - and that is true. Things will always be someway, and if we have courage and confidence we will cope with whatever way they are.

Keven Libin's article did not linger long in the paper. It did not inspire too many comments, - certainly not the comments that bad news and startling statistics engender, - alas!

It is time to strengthen the sinews of our hearts, embrace a ton of confidence, be unafraid, live prudently, but not miserly, enjoy small pleasures, be happy... and remember that Roosevelt, in his inaugural address in 1933, also made this statement

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

1 comment:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Hildred. What an inspiring post - I feel really positive after reading it. I do so agree about enjoying the small things in life and not being materialistic. Thanks for a very enjoyable read.