Our September brokerage statement arrived today, and at least I was courageous enough to open it. I winced, of course: about a ten percent decline in value for the month, and the carnage this first week of October has been much worse. There is a bottom out there somewhere, but right now not even the savviest pundits have a clue where it might be. Only those who put all of their assets into copper drain pipes and used manhole covers have been spared the pain: there are no safe havens when the very structures of the global marketplace tumble.
How interesting, and sad, that we seem to be without an inspiring leader to offer us a vision of stability, sanity and hope not just in the US, but in the world. Still-president Bush has fallen from "lame duck" to "completely irrelevant" status and clearly is aware of it: he is looking like a broken man to me. McCain and Obama are sniping about incidents in one another's younger lives rather than offering inspiration: perhaps tonight's debate will see one of them demonstrate genuine leadership, but I am not optimistic. There are times where I find myself wondering if this is, in the end, a financial crisis or a leadership crisis.
Something like -what? - thirty percent of the world's wealth has simply vanished in a very short period of time. Sometimes that concept seems absurdly abstract: there is no less "stuff," no fewer useful or beautiful objects, just a loss of confidence in what that stuff is worth in market terms.
Certainly I need to rethink things like plans for retirement, which I had allowed myself to believe was just a few years away (memo to self: the markets are not going to recover that quickly, bonehead!), but the impact on my actual day-to-day life will be modest compared to so many others. The poor, as always, are going to take it on the chin in multiple ways: more expensive goods, vanishing jobs, fewer resource available to the agencies and programs that have supported them, etc. And the highly-leveraged high-rollers are essentially screwed save for the few - and most morally offensive - who have already "gotten theirs" and salted it away. The hard-to-pronounce and difficult-to-spell German word for "taking satisfaction in the misfortunes of others" is getting a real workout referring to such folks, but it is an ugly place to take comfort.
Markets do some things extremely well, but they are completely and utterly without compassion: the do not care who gets left out or left behind - the elderly, the poor, the disabled -as they merrily (and, in theory, efficiently) do their thing. Which of course is why markets need to be regulated. Greed and hubris trumped wisdom and compassion, and now the piper has showed up with the bill.
A spiritually mature response to a collapsing economy is to repent of the idolatry that led us to invest entirely too much value in pretty, shiny things and focus on gratitude for the things of true worth than can never be lost or taken from us. Mature, but I am not sure it is going to play well on either Main Street or Wall Street.
Work and Dementia
2 years ago