Have we changed?

April 14, 2009 at 1:17 am (By Rodjean)

Only six months have passed since October, when a sluggish economy turned into a financial panic, but sometimes it seems like six years. Each day brings home the reality to me in different ways, from the barber who needs to renegotiate his lease because people are getting fewer haircuts, to the doctor who pledged money from his IRA to settle a lawsuit and now faces financial ruin because he cannot fulfill the terms of the settlement. Most folks seem to be living the new reality, skipping life’s frivolities. A new cost consciousness is upon us. But, have we really changed, or is it all superficial? What will we be like if the tide rises?

~ Rod


  1. amba12 said,

    My sense is that there’s still a lot of psychic fat on us, collectively, from the good times. There’s still a feeling of disbelief, of unreality about this crisis even as more and more people fall into really dire straits. The New York Times Styles section had a piece a couple of months ago about how to throw frugal parties, and it was presented as a new adventure — sort of like camping out. Playing at it. Frugaity is a novelty. In some circles (the previously and still somewhat affluent, I guess) there’s that self-consciousness — watching oneself play this cool frontier role. As if this were a lifestyle change, a theme for a new decade, rather than something much deeper and more fundamental.

    While no fan of Marx, one of my favorite quotes is his “The conditions of existence determine consciousness.” I’ve cruised up and down the class scale and across many boundaries, both as observer and participant, enough so that I have a forceful sense of the truth of that. It isn’t quite an absolute, ironclad truth, but it’s close, because even the ability to decide to change has to come from somewhere — where one was before.

    But there’s a time lag. The conditions of existence have changed, but we’re still in the previous consciousness. We sense that the bottom has dropped out from under it, but we haven’t yet experienced what that really means. There’s a disjunction. It’s just beginning to get through to us.

  2. lfineaux said,

    We’re in a cartoon and we’ve run off the cliff but don’t know it yet?

  3. GN said,

    There is a certain quality of life returning to those of a certain age. As Amba points out
    .” I’ve cruised up and down the class scale and across many boundaries, both as observer and participant, enough so that I have a forceful sense of the truth of that.” I think that some will close in on a remembrance of times past, when neighbors fed neighbors, communitys communed, and social circles were based on needs. Maybe that is a good thing in the long run. Who knows for sure, but anyone born after 1960 is in for a culture shock, I think.

  4. rodjean said,

    It is an interesting question whether hard times bring us closer together or cause us to pull up the drawbridge on those less fortunate. I think the affluence of the 90s and early 00’s and the prevailing ethic made it harder for us to notice those who did not come within the walls.

  5. GN said,

    rodjean, I think you are absolutely correct about the 90’s and early 00’s. That will be the culture shock wave …. and a hard pil to swallow …. but survival has a way of humbling even the most steadfast into learning something new …. hopefully

  6. amba12 said,

    Interesting … you’re saying when we were affluent we pulled up the drawbridge, so which way will we go now? Lash it tighter, or?

  7. rodjean said,

    I believe we will show more compassion for victims of economic dislocation and less for economic predators. In hard times we pay more attention to ech other. We feel more punitive towards criminals and more forgiving of those whose failure to make payments has been criminalized.

  8. gln8849 said,

    Drawbridge … great analogy for the economic isolation phenomenom … drawbridges are dissolving for most of the recent aflluence …. the question becomes “are we comfortable enough in our own skins to assimilate to new or revisited environs”

  9. gln8849 said,

    A thought …. When asking the question “Have we changed?” are we really asking the qwestion “Do we have the humility to adjust and transition to the perception of becoming a (have not)?

  10. rodjean said,

    In the 1500’s, canons made castles (and drawbridges) obsolete. Some walls are tumbling down now. We have to decide if the moat really offers any protection.

  11. amba12 said,

    There are people who are ready to pour down the boiling oil and set the moat on fire.

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