Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What the Financial Crisis is Telling Us

Another difficult day for the stock market. 500 points lost... again. We are in a true economic crisis. We are in unprecedented waters here. It is time to take a hard look at ourselves and what lesson might be lurking in this extremely unattractive package.

Almost all of us are hurting economically right now. There is s lot of fear about the future. Many people are in positions where they stand to lose everything. It is a tense and emotionally trying time.

Our nation has been adhering to a policy I've heard described recently as 'spend and pretend.' We have continued to amass debt at an alarming rate in order to continue the business of the nation in a completely unsustainable fashion. I would argue that many of us have been playing our own lives with some of this same energy. Using debt in unhealthy ways to augment our lifestyles in an unsustainable manner.

The "American Dream" has morphed from one of meeting our basic needs, living comfortably and responsibly and in peace and freedom to a vision of living in permanent comfort and indulgence. We've forgotten how to sacrifice and work for a larger goal. We've forgotten how to work towards something... to wait and persevere. We've become a "I want it all and I want it now" culture. Our government (and our financial institutions) are reflections of that.

We need to individually and collectively look at how we conduct the affairs of our lives. We are not entitled to perpetual comfort and ease. I don't believe that life has to be a painful struggle, but I do believe we get into trouble when we expect our courses to be smooth sailing each and every day, and react with indignation when things get tough.

Many people borrowed too much money for homes they couldn't afford. Many people have run up huge credit card debt buying things they couldn't afford. Many people try to keep up with the cultural norms (many of which are unhealthy and unsustainable). When we do this, we create a vicious cycle that becomes a trap.

Our government and corporate structures are full of corruption and driven by greed. The worst of human nature is running rampant in these arenas. That creates an atmosphere where individuals are tempted (and sometimes encouraged) to do things that ultimately are not in their best interest.

We are in for a rough ride in this country economically. Some of it is collective 'feedback' for some of the poor practices that have been in place at every level (some at the individual level... some collective).

Whatever it is, I think we can all STOP and take a look at the way we conduct our own financial affairs. Are we responsible in our spending? Are we using integrity in our dealings with others? Are we treating others as we would want them to treat us? Are we expecting other people to pay for our comfort? Are we willing to bend rules to our own advantage even if someone else will suffer? Is our own prosperity more important to us than being fair?

We might not be participating anything remotely on par with what the executives of some of these financial/insurance institutions have done, but there may be more subtle ways that we are participating in this type of 'energy.'

We need to clean up our own act first... and then we need to hold those in government and in the businesses we deal with accountable.

We need to stop letting things slide... in our own lives, or in our world. It's time to stand up, pay attention, and make some changes. That is where the hope for the future resides.

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