I have often wondered about people during the Great Depression. Did they realize at the time what they were going through? Did the common Everyman (person) of the time give thought to the historical significance of what was happening to them financially? Or were they more concerned about how they would feed their families, and keep them safe? My opinion is that they were more concerned with family. It is people who are less affected by the recession, and financial depressions who have the luxury of looking at the historical significance of such things (I don’t claim to have such a luxury, I just decided that I would steal it for this article). History thus becomes less objective and more relative. For some families this recession is a mild inconvenience, for others it has been a catastrophic event uprooting and endangering their families.
The sociological aspects of this country during financial crisis are fascinating, from changes in music and television, to fashion and even religious belief. Not to mention the increase of alcohol sales and lottery ticket purchases. So where is this going? What are we learning from this recession that we should teach our children?
The answer to the first question is found in the American spirit of independence. This country has always managed to pull itself out of the financial troubles that trickle down from the top. The problem is that the top never seems to learn what the problem is in the first place. They continue to fall victim to that which has plagued man since the dawn of time, greed. Whether you believe in God or not, you still must contend with human nature as a problem. Judeo based faiths deal with the concept of sin. It had a beginning, even before the Garden of Eden (yes the origin of evil is a discussion for a different day), sin manifested itself in a selfishness. Thus we have the original sin of selfishness. Following the Jedi line of thinking selfishness grows into something far more sinister and deep, greed. Greed has a far reaching expanse to its evil nature. Greed desires, consumes, lies, cheats, and steals so that it may have what it desires, and once it has possession it does not share. Moreover, greed has no end, it continues to seek more of what it has so that it might be the sole possessor of everything it’s eyes may fall upon.
American greed can be wrapped up in several areas, corporate, political, and private. Corporate greed is an easy one to grasp. Large companies want to have control of everything, because that is what they are designed to do. That is why we have corporate espionage, sabotage, and lawsuits. Political greed we see on a daily basis. Each party in the ridiculous two party system that we continue to put up with for some reason jockies for more power and better position. We see the candidates go after other candidate’s family life, finances, or even religious beliefs. They do not seek to have a moral high ground because they feel they would do a better job, or because that is what America needs, they seek the office and the prestige. It’s like sports competition only instead of the winner being the best, the winner is instead the one who out lied to the other and convinced a country that they would hold true to what they were elected. Until America decides to actually read the Constitution for something other than a passing grade in High School, we will just have to deal with that sort of greed.
Private greed is something that we can deal with. How do I know? I dealt with private greed for the last 13 years. I became so convinced that I was in a race with everyone around me that I lost sight of everything in life that was important, and it cost me dearly. Private greed manifests itself in many varied and different ways. Financial counselors will refer to one aspect of it in the concept of “keeping up with the Jones’”. We always want to have one better than everyone else. We have to have the newest phone, computer, car, house, neighborhood, school, or whatever you can buy. Private greed also comes in our relationships, how we go about caring for ourselves, and how we act at work. I have no time for a diatribe on those things today, I just would like to point out that they exist, and that they can be a detriment to your life.
It is said that human’s need food water and shelter to survive. I don’t know about you but that does not sound like a very appealing life to me. I think that list is missing one more thing. In order for humans to survive we need happiness. Unhappy people don’t survive long. The problem we face in our greed ridden society is that we fail to see that we need will not find happiness in having more. The lesson that our children need to learn from this recession is that happiness is in actually liking what you have. Happiness is found in how we treat the other people around us. I keep being reminded of the saying I used to have on a t shirt, “he who dies with the most toys… still dies.” The lesson of this recession is that we must find happiness outside of what our leaders tell us should make us happy. Your new car won’t make you happy for long, it will break down. Your fancy new phone will be obsolete in six months. Your house will need work. Don’t look to those things for happiness, because happiness cannot be bought.
In the last 18 months I have gone from having a quite lucrative salary to making one third of that. Yet, I am a happy person. Why? Because in 18 months I have learned that all of the things I was seeking were empty. All I had to do was look around and see that I was loved, that I had my basic needs met, and anything on top of that was extra. Happiness is a thing we find, perhaps we can earn it, and perhaps it is right in front of you with the people that love you. It is easy to get side tracked, to blame others for our lack. In the end, however, happiness is based on your own individual point of view. You can chose to follow greed’s path which leads to blame and bitterness. Or, you can choose to seek happiness and not let such negativity invade your life. There is no magic spell, no special saying that changes your life for the better. Even a life of faith requires hard work and discipline. A recession is a chance to take stock of that which you find important in your life, and what you really need. I encourage you to take time to do just that, you might be very surprised at what you can live without, and what truly makes you happy.