Friends, there comes a time when questions have to be asked. Questions that aren’t easy to answer. The economy seems to be bandaging itself and all of those in the know seem to think all’s well that ends well. Well, I don’t know about you, but things seem pretty well the same to me. Despite the Wall Street economic indicators and feel good growth numbers in hiring rates, I still can’t find even the most menial of jobs. I’m sure many of you are facing the same dilemma. No matter what the main stream media is power-hosing onto the nation about recovery and redemption, far too many of us out here are still scratching our collective heads wondering where in the hell the light at the end of the tunnel is. (Perhaps that light is torches!)
This desert of reality started me thinking about what runs through my mind on a daily basis as we climb, crawl, and scratch our way back to some sort of normality. Each of us fights so hard to get back into the cubicle world, the office world, the nursing world, or any other ‘world’ that makes up the world that demands our Social Security numbers, our attention and all of our talents. We are all faced now with having to do the work of 3 or more employees and look at longer hours every week. Salary or not, our lives have taken on the skin of work, fear and loathing.
I began to think the other day about a how those in my generation were reared with a sort of social expectation of prosperity and excess. The 1970s saw stagnation and inflation and an oil crisis that crippled may Americans. Yet, music, the arts and civil liberties seemed to flourish. Then came the 1980s. Ronald Reagan took office and taught us all about ‘deregulation’ and ‘trickle down’ economics. Money was free to be borrowed without much hassle and I began to believe what many Americans did…that the American Dream was possible. Not only possible but probable. Just get a job, as they were plentiful, work hard and save and a healthy, happy retirement was a sure thing. But we soon discovered the dark, manipulative side of far too many American corporations and businesses allowed to operate at their own discretion and out of the light of accountability. Who knew that their American Dream was far different than the average American worker. In fact, it appears now that their dream was in direct contrast to the citizenry. They wanted a redistribution of that new wealth right into their bank accounts and straight out of ours by any means necessary. We are paying for that hubris, greed and malfeasance today. And it appears the damage was/is so systemic that this dis-ease…this national malaise…will follow us for the rest of our days here. This brings me to my topic.
Realistically, how many more years do each of us have left? Discounting disease, tragedy or an asteroid impact…how many more good years do you think you’ve got? For too many of us, we’re coming down the other side of the peak and the slope is steep and slippery. How long do we actually have to somehow land a job, pull ourselves out of debt, put away enough money to retire and have a few years of relative comfort? For many of us, that number is frighteningly small.
So, what do we do? What are our options? Do we walk a brand new path in the system that has betrayed us,…or walk away? And by ‘walk away’, I mean disconnect from the norms of the work a day world of the established business model and seek out a new model altogether. Recently, I have begun considering what life would look like if I were to simply stuff a backpack with simple necessities, surrender my keyring with all of ties and responsibilities it carries and cutting all of the societal leashes that keep us all towing the ‘American line.’ I have to admit, there is a certain romantic wanderlust there that I find truly romantic…yet terrifying. Conversely, the idea of licking the boot of my corporate master for another 30-40 years, sheltered in a cubicle and praying the business doesn’t go under or plunder what little retirement savings I would have accumulated is even more terrifying to me. Which is the greater gamble? Because make no mistake, either choice is probably the last we will ever get to make on this go ’round.
That being said, I have read and re-read all of the posts here hearing the stories of so many, …so many…talented, skilled, experienced, creative and educated people and I have to believe there is a solution in this idea of combined understanding of ideas and talent. Surely, there is a way for many of us to collaborate and build new businesses together by pooling skills and knowledge. So, finally, I ask that you send others here in our situation. Get the word out as often and and strongly as possible to build this database of jobless American ingenuity and strength. Together we can lift one another up and build a new model outside of the one that exists today. I have, in the back of my mind, a vision taken from the WPA projects of the last century where artist communities (and other communities) flourished by pooling amazing talent and created what we call our American history. Why couldn’t we campaign for land to develop new century-communities of artists, accountants, IT professionals, etc, etc.? Wouldn’t employers look to these communities for the best of the best, at the very least?
Of course, if you’ve just about had it with the whole system, just grab that backpack and walk away…I’d love the company.