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Dec 14, 2008

Dear Ms. Christy:
I am a retired teacher and literary scholar and would like to make a few comments.
Since Minoan times, all the deeper virtues or spiritual insights that your many guests have spoken about have been with us all along. The ideas that our culture and its systems undergo cycles of expansion (hubris) and then compression (sorrow), as well as the ideas of death and rebirth, the struggles between individual and communal values, and most of the other ideas we deem either Western or Christian have been with us for over four thousand years, meaning that our culture and its peoples have been imbued with these values for a very long time, and yet with almost every new season, we find ourselves shocked by the turning of the wheel. I have listened to your show for about two years and am both cheered and fortified by the comments and observations of your guests, and by implication, by you and your involvement with them. However, directing us to our traditional responses of inward turning and renewed collective values may be fortifying and reassuring, but perhaps some finger pointing and criticizing may be good for the soul, as well.
Our current economic downturn is not an isolated event, as your guest, Mr. Palmer notes. Economics is the bottom line of any culture (excuse the cliché) and the entire culture is effected when the economy goes south. Looking inward to deeper values is an appropriate response, but I should like to make a few observations about the American psyche, in the meantime, as regards our economic situation.
I believe Mr. Palmer is correct in saying that our recent economic bubble was a form of self-deception, a kind of blind hubris or eating of our young (as in the myth of Kronos, perhaps, as well as for pigs). The recent housing bubble is symptomatic of the systemic changes on Wall Street, deregulation and innovative financial instruments, whose effects and abuses no one was willing to calculate despite the cautious nature of most economists. Over-expanding greed, seemingly, is the cause of our current calamity. But as financial markets regroup, a deeper problem becomes evident, a festering one, namely, the loss of good jobs in America. After all, if the American working class is unable to earn a decent living, how can a consumer driven economy, populated mostly by the working classes, thrive?
Mr. Palmer suggested that the materialistic, consumer driven economy should be looked at more seriously. I agree, but this is a long term solution.
More immediate is the problems American car manufactures are having as indicative of our current reality. Manufacturing in America is quietly dying and with it manufacturing jobs, for today most manufacturing is done overseas. In my neighborhood, South Florida, its obvious that 65% of the vehicles on the roads are imports. That is, GM, Ford and Chrysler appear to have only 35% of the American car market, approximately 12% each. This is mind boggling, and the consequences of these companies collapsing, even with the help of congress, appears very real as many fiscal Republicans are arguing in congress today, as well as the devastation to all the jobs connected to suppliers and dealers, as argued by the Democrats. Why, one has to ask, were American car manufactures unwilling to give the public what it wanted to buy? Why were the CEO’s unwilling to produce compact, quality cars instead of large, fuel consuming vehicles when the trend in consumer buying habits, as early as the 1960’s, has been in the opposite direction. For example, GM’s newest line of vehicles was the Hummer. The Hummer is a beautiful vehicle, but the reality is that most people are driving small, fuel efficient cars, and therefore most of the profits from sales would be with these smaller cars. Was the American image of large and powerful more important to the car CEO’s than the reality on the street? Or are the CEO and the managerial class of American car companies as well as other manufacturers so international minded that the collapse of our manufacturing sector is of no consequence as long as they can manage big business in whatever country it resides, China, India or Central America, were labor is cheap and profits are high? Here are two obvious points of concern, even to those of us who are more use to problems in literary studies.
Of course, your program does not deal with the psychology, if not the hubris, of the American business class, but as we are now learning all over again, these and other concerns, including religious perspectives, are all connected.
Sincerely yours,
Eugene M. Arnone