Whether or not there is an authentic calamity or a media-manipulated, wholly-machinated fear-based frenzy of a pseudo-crisis, we are mesmerized by the dull beacon of normalcy. It is as though those traders and brokers, whom AP photographers are adept at capturing in poses of dramatic despair, are creatures in a zoo, ape-ing for the crowds, rather than people on the front lines in an economic event that patterns out remarkably similar to the beginnings of the Great Depression. Chickens and eggs everywhere are fighting it out, like the international markets, to see who falls first and farthest. But still, there’s the Lindsay Lohan deposition…
Fair enough—there would appear to be little an individual can do, aside from not panicking and initiating bank runs, to have any real control over the situation. Quietly, though, anyone with substantive amounts of money, has been moving it around. At deadline, a little more than $50 billion in individual accounts had been moved, in barely over a week, out of stocks, bonds and mutual funds into FDIC-insured accounts and money market accounts. This, of course, hasn’t helped prop up stocks or stabilize credit markets, but it hasn’t panicked the general populace either.
There has been a tiny torrent of interest in and articles on survivalists (the upscale Details magazine called them “preppers”) who are busy squirreling away food and supplies with the certainty that the event they’ve been waiting for is finally coming to pass. Most of us, realistically, probably confront situations like this from somewhere in that vast teeming morass of middle ground. We don’t have enough money to move it around like giant Lego bricks; we may have a few prudent gallons of water and some canned coconut milk and black beans, and we’re grateful for some entertainment while being mutely alarmed at the prospect of prolonged economic despair.
Polls demonstrate that people on the street would like to see some accountability from on high but, as of yet, no lynch parties have gone after Phil Gramm. Of course, that’s a game with little returns and if we start punishing everyone responsible we’ll end up kneecapping Bill Clinton and, in the end, working ourselves over in the back alley for our over-leveraged, credit-thirsty personal shenanigans. But considering thoughtful accounting and a sense of responsibility, from here on out, is a good idea.
Is an Obama or a McCain administration going to be accountable for its actions? We can’t know. A Tom Udall? Much more likely. As we consider who represents our interests—and the task of electing them looms—accountability may be among the single biggest factors worth weighing. With the regulation of private industry writ large as a national priority during this “downturn,” the Public Regulation Commission race in District 3 is a prime example. Reporting by SFR Staff Writer Dave Maass has demonstrated that Green Party candidate Rick Lass is willing to be accountable for mistakes he has made, while Maass’ groundbreaking investigation of Democrat Jerome Block Jr. has revealed a candidate who, whether or not ultimately guilty of lying and mishandling campaign finances, is clearly incapable of accepting the consequences of his own actions. How could we possibly expect him to oversee the actions of private industry?
Even more reduced, to whom am I accountable? Myself, my friends and my family certainly, but if we entertain the notion of Depression 2.0, there’s a community to consider as well. People do not survive such hardships in isolation but, rather, through mutual support. My community begins with my neighborhood, begins with my neighbors. So I plan to be a better neighbor from now on, not only so that I can greedily borrow that precious cup of flour in hard times, but also in the interest of building a network of mutual support. I’ve been eyeing those tent caterpillars roosting in the cottonwoods across the way—I know my neighbor can’t get rid of them on her own and I’ve got to wonder what it is that’s so important about my own time that I haven’t yet taken a few minutes to go over and lend a hand.
I’ve been doing some accounting on my own ledgers lately and I’ve come to understand an economy that isn’t measured by anyone’s industrial average. It is clear to me that it’s relationships between people, not between banks, legislators and financial markets, that hold a society up when conceptual values collapse.
Besides, I don’t have cable TV—if I can’t gossip with my neighbors, how the hell am I going to find out what Lindsay Lohan is up to?