How do you deal with the realization that something you have grown up believing in is wrong, fundamentally flawed?  When everything that you have been taught turns out to be a lie?  Isn’t it natural to cling to what you think that you know, even when it isn’t working anymore?  When you see other people trying to make what used to work work again, doesn’t it seem right to believe in what used to be with them?  How do you accept that you have been intentionally misled, used, deceived?

I think that these, and questions like these, are going through the minds of a great many people right now, as the framework of the world that they know bends and cracks.  We have always been told that consumption is good, that accumulation of wealth was right, that our way was the best way.  Suddenly, all of those premises are being called into question, the catechism of capitalism confounded.

We didn’t even blink when credit cards were introduced, back in the 1960’s.  This was just an easier way to pay for things, better than cash or checks.  We took it in stride when automakers began to offer financing on their products, because those products had become so much better that they were worth paying for over three years.  Did we feel any doubt when we were told that we deserved to fly instead of taking the train?  Or that driving our own car was better than riding a bus?

Slowly, insidiously, greed manipulated our trust, our belief in our system.  We might have been uncomfortable going into debt to buy things, but that was the American way! When a contract for a car jumped from 3 years to 5 years, did we balk, and refuse? Of course not.  That was just the way that things were.  We had no reservations about seeing the doctor, even though it might mean years of working off the cost of the surgery.

We grew to expect that companies would pay us money every year for lending them our money, and based our investment strategies on those expectations.  We envied the high-flying executives who made millions of dollars a year, plus stock options, but we knew that they earned that money with hard work.  In spite of wanting to keep the family home, we signed the contract on a new house, because that is the way things were done here in the United States.

But we began to feel uneasy when our neighbors lost their job to some workers in a place we had never heard of.  Doubt might nag at us when we saw the local factory, or mill, or plant shut down, because the work could be done cheaper overseas, but we kept quiet, not wanting to rock the boat.  When a family member lost their health benefits from their job, we were uncertain if that was right, but we didn’t know what to do about it.

Only when our life savings, our retirement fund, our childrens college money disappeared in the collapse of a major company did we really get upset, and what could we do then?  Or maybe it was the second house that we bought, intending to flip it for a profit, only to discover that no one wanted it, that made us think that we had been ripped off.  Disgust began to come easily, as we saw our schools failing to teach our children, our roads crumbling into potholes.

All of a sudden, none of the things that we have been led to believe in are working.  People are too far in debt to buy a new car, even though they have to have one, because there is no public transit.  Going to the doctor is out of the question, because we don’t have insurance.  Some folks are making millions every year, but our paychecks are not getting any bigger, and everything seems more expensive.  Borrowing money is the only way that we know how to survive anymore, and no one will lend us any.  Our house is worth less than it used to be, and is losing value constantly, but the bank still wants the amount we signed for.

The wealth that could have built modern train systems, rapid transit, public health care, and energy efficient housing has been squandered on a small number of our population.  Greed has prevented us from investing in social services, space exploration, and education, convincing us instead to buy, buy, buy.  Developing countries have followed our lead, instead of creating wealth that every one of their citizens could have enjoyed.

Now, there is no more money to lend, no certain value to place on assests, no real wealth to create.  We can’t afford to buy products from other countries, so their workers are suffering.  The prospect of deflation is becoming more and more certain, throwing our financial system into chaos.  People cannot pay off their debts, resulting in foreclosures and bankruptcies, which further diminishes our overall wealth.

We allowed this to happen, by believing in a system that sacrifices the whole for the individual.  We helped this to happen, by buying things we didn’t need with money that we hadn’t made yet.  We could never believe that we would have to pay the consequeces for our irresponsibility.  We refused to accept that creating public wealth was essential to our long term survival.  Now, we are just like the car owner who never put any money into their car, broken down on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere.


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