I am in the privileged position of still having my job, an income, and a place to live. However, when I last looked, I had lost half of my life savings toward retirement which now seems very far away indeed despite the fact that I'm 61.
I may be in a minority, but I welcome this crisis. I believe that it may save us as a country. For 30 years I have watched with increasing alienation, frustration, and helpless rage as what I deemed fundamental values of a civilized society were systematically being dismantled, ridiculed, and perverted. Caring for one another, paying your fair share, protecting people's rights at work and to work, freedom of thought and action, public media that watched over the welfare of their constituents as politicians wouldn't...the civic life that promises safety and civility. What happened to personal, professional, and institutional ethics? I felt like a stranger in a strange land. Profit ruled everything.
Greed, conspicuous amassing and displaying of wealth became the values of our culture spouted and fostered by increasingly mindless and superficial mass media. It's what our children were asked to aspire to. "Education" was designed to make worker drones out of them, not to enrich their intellect and human spirit or give a sense of mutual civic responsibility.I have never been a believer in conspiracies, but there seemed a plan at work to foster mindlessness, poor reasoning ability, lack of curiosity about anything other than consumption in our children because it makes them less likely to recognize injustice and exploitation or to protest if they do sense something awry. The most honest protest against the status quo in the past few decades seems to me to have come from the world of rap and hip-hop, which has itself fallen victim to the very same excesses it once descried. The most powerful images of this past presidential election for me were the young people, so impassioned, so involved, yearning for something better than they had been offered and KNOWING it!
I was never prouder of my son than when he told me once that he lives simply because he doesn't need to surround himself with things to feel worthwhile. He has said, "I don't mind paying taxes. They bring me civilization." He has always preferred the life of the mind to the pursuit of profit. He is a historian and now a teacher. I wish I could put his message on a million billboards, in every boardroom, in every classroom.
My daughter, on the other hand, wants to become successful in the "conventional" sense and make money. She says it will give her the freedom to make documentary movies that can have a social impact. For her, having enough not to have to worry about it also means regaining a sense of safety and security she lost during the bitter financial battles of my divorce from her father. I do not fault her for wanting this because I have also taught her responsibility towards others and that money can be a means to a life as she would like to live it, but that comfort is not what gives a life meaning. And she too, like her brother, is a seeker for a meaningful life.
I believe that I have raised my children well. I do not worry about their spiritual well being, their intellectual curiosity, or their ability to engage with others and each other in a loving way.
As for the economic consequences of this crisis, I have only half-jokingly told my daughter that she is likely to be my retirement plan! She doesn't seem to mind.
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