Overwhelming, but not Overwhelmed

September seems like a million years ago, but that’s when the financial mess was laid bare, right in front of our eyes.

The recession may have technically started back in December of 2007, but now people are pointing to the summer of ’07 as the real start of the downturn.

We’ve had a TARP, and the StimPack, another TARP (II) in the works. Heard about auto bailouts, Fed loan guarantees, underwater mortgages, foreclosures, ponzi schemes and rising unemployment. With all these acronyms and individual actions, it’s hard to keep up with where all the money is going or what it’s going to do.

Politicians and pundits have blamed Fannie and Freddie, predatory lenders, Credit Default Swaps, poor people, rich people, upwardly mobile middle class people, the government and God knows who else, but when it really comes down to it, does anyone really know what the hell is going on and how to stop it?

Honestly, there are few people that have the knowledge and distance from what led us to this point to diagnose the problem. Throw in all the noise and ideological wrangling and regular folks are left to stand there, angry, with few answers, wondering if anything is being done, not to mention if it has any hope of being successful.

Over the past several months I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to understand all, or even some of the factors that helped push us in this direction. I’ve read analysis and blogs and economists and near everything that I can read to get a handle on it, and all I find is an infinitely expanding universe of dysfunction.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most people who even marginally understand the scope of the financial problems we face are tainted by their complicity, be it tacit or active, in creating the problem. We all are to blame for allowing this to happen, and we all are the victims of our own folly, in my view.

In my experience, it is the act of taking responsibility that allows real solutions to emerge. This is true in every aspect of life. Accepting responsibility for maintaining conditions that are unsustainable is the path to a manageable solution.

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.(Source)

It is a simple concept that is difficult for most people to accept, and harder to stick with.

Few things ever get better without some help. It is the intervention of a medical staff that helps the patient heal faster, but ultimately, that patient has to want to heal, and do the things necessary to heal in order to ever really get better. Most of the time, that means making hard choices.

Making hard choices is something the American public consistently resists. We’ve been trained to do this over decades of largesse, both in personal choices and in choices that affect our communities. We’ve taken the path of least personal resistance, and run aground. We’ve been asleep at the switch and allowed people, who hold their personal interests over the interests of the society at large to manage our economy into a ditch. It is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to educate ourselves in good faith and without preconceived notions to ensure that we regain control of that which we should have never ceded.

It’s time to stop pointing fingers and start getting our house in order. This means thinking less about the “self” and more about the community at large. This means corporations need to stop thinking in terms of “quarters” and move to a decades long strategy that may not see the fast growth we’ve falsely experienced over the past 30 years, but will ultimately net us more real growth over the same time period.

Of course, Corporations didn’t do this on their own, regular old people did to. We did it when we decided to carry $20k in credit card debt. We did it when we voted against our own self-interest for some stupid fear based platform about the “gays taking over”. We did it when we stopped reading the papers and watching the news. We stopped paying attention because we didn’t DEMAND better from our news sources and our elected officials. See, this is a republic, and we’re all responsible.

It’s been a long, steady, 30-year slide kiddos, but we didn’t just do this to ourselves, we did it to EVERYONE.

Every time you point a finger at someone else, there’s three pointing right back at yourself. I take responsibility for my part in the downturn. I didn’t run up stupid debt, or pull any derivatives shenanigans, but I also didn’t really try hard enough to talk other people out of doing these things. I didn’t yell and scream loud enough when they stopped regulating the markets, or the mortgage industry. To be honest, I didn’t know it was happening. As we’ve seen over the past months, not knowing is not an excuse, its part of the problem.

If we want to keep our republic, we have to do more to become “a well-informed populace”. That means listening to the “experts”, but also being willing to do a little bit more to see the whole picture, instead of the little picture they’re selling on the boob toob. Being an active part of our republic means more than just voting whenever you remember, it means TAKING OWNERSHIP of your nation.

But it’s more than that, we have to start taking ourselves seriously, and stop blaming the government we, ultimately elect. Government may not always be the solution, but if it’s the problem, then so are we, we put them there.

Right now, I don’t see too many people doing that.

So while I can honestly and forthrightly say that I don’t know what the hell to do about the financial mess that we’re in, I know one thing for sure. As hard as it is, as much sacrifice as it may be, we’ve all got to start contributing to our nation by being a part of the process if we want to both dig out of the mess, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

That’s the only solution.

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