Each morning I pick up the paper as I catch the train to campus or work. Each day, it seems, there is nothing new to read. I am beginning to wonder if journalists have taken to ad-lib in order to free up some spare time for moonlighting. Each morning I read a multiplicity of articles in which "recession" appears at least once per sentence and writers imply that we will all soon be eating SPAM-knockoffs and potato peelings, typically concluding with a "be scared . . . be very scared" in one form or another.
I, for one, am tired of it. I am tired of being constantly bombarded with reminders that I will earn less than usual this summer and all my poor friends back in Ontario will probably be unable to feed themselves adequately on their meager (if existent) summer earnings. Do I care? Obviously. But I, along with every other person on this planet with some form of social contact, already know this is happening. Most of us, in fact, never even needed to be told. It's pretty clear that the economic shit has hit the fan when we lose our jobs, can't find another, have our real wages reduced, see our savings disappear and wonder where the hell all the scholarships have gone. To remind us every day is cruel. To predict every other day that we will be out of this hole in six months, only to predict it's deepening the next, is even worse. I have only one thing to say about these flip-flop, nonsense predictions-- economics is not a science. It does not follow any laws of nature (in your face, Friedmanites!). We got to where we are as the result of human decisions and we will get to where we will go because of human decisions.
Where are all the stories of human triumph over adversity, of the resilience of communities, of the limitless opportunities arising in this crisis, amidst all the doom and gloom? Has optimism become passe?
Yes, the recession is painful. Yes, those of us at the bottom will, as always, hurt the most. Yes, times are tough. No, our world is not coming to an end -- just the world as we know it and, really, is that such a bad thing? This crisis is a prime opportunity for the middle and lower rungs of society to hold our elites accountable for their horribly flawed economic paradigm. We have the opportunity to force inquiry into risky, speculative markets. We have the prime opportunity to make a strong case for the elimination, or at least regulation, of speculative transactions, for the need to regulate interest rate variability and put an end to white-collar theft. In essence, we have the perfect moment to rise up and challenge the irresponsible deregulation of domestic and global markets, the absolute freedom of enterprise and the exploitation of the middle and lower classes that got us into this mess and to return to the glory days of the responsible, Keynesian-style capitalism that gave us healthcare, social security, minimum wages and, most importantly, regulated markets, which provided the average person the ability to survive and prosper post-Great Depression.
So there you have it-- a spoonful of (realistic) optimism to draw you out of your media-induced recession depression. Take it or leave it. I think I'll take it.