Is this a story? I'm not sure, but it is a record. Its beginning predates the present recession, but the same sorts of moral distresses resulted. I am not naive; politicians sometimes have to conceal the truth, and even to lie. But I began to feel morally sickened early in the George W. Bush presidency. The scope, intensity, and regularity of falsehoods and deceptions wormed their way into my spirit to the point that I told my friends I was felt culturally or existentially ill. I had physical symptoms of this disease. I saw much goodness in individuals, but my overall impression of human behavior in American culture widely speaking took on the grey color of hopelessness or despair. I am afraid that those eight years will end up taking eight from the back end of my life.
Anyway, that morally expedient or even lawless environment was fertile ground for a sort of thoughtless euphoria in the minds of many people who, for one reason and another, looked to the culture, not themselves, to provide their morality. The culture responded by providing distractions and entertainments designed to forestall careful consideration of situations that arose, such as the husbandry (what an outmoded word!) of one's financial resources. "Less is more" became totally defunct, and was replaced by "more can never be enough." This attitude turns a community inside out: the individual triumphs over the community.
Who will we be for each other? Government is attempting to exercise more control, and perhaps in the long run such a different ethos can restore to the citizens some dignity of intention when it comes to managing one's own affairs. The "green" movement, too, has begun to influence the way individuals see themselves in relation to the whole. More people are seeing themselves in terms of the world, rather than the world in terms of themselves. I believe we need to be better and better stewards of others. This can start in each family, as parents encourage their children to make principled, rather than self-driven, choices in economic matters. I do not believe we can condemn, criticize, punish, castigate, or force others into prudence, but people can be led or induced, especially in a scary situation like the one confronting us now.
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