Friday, September 19, 2008

The Coming Crash

Cormac McCarthy was right when he said in Suttree: "There are no absolutes in human misery and things can always get worse."

I've been saying for some time that, economically, things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better. Part of that has been a carry over of a general sense I had, and have commented on before, that this year, the world as we know it, was going to change. Not a small change, but a major shift on its axis, the kind that leaves us measuring time in a new way: before the change, and after. It's not a personal shift I have in mind, but a shift for all humanity. It will feel personal, very personal. But our personal perception of it will only be a part of something larger.

I've been speaking from the gut, from personal experience, from a strange sense of foreboding and little else. Over at Enrevanche, Barry posted a piece in toto by someone qualified to speak on the economy from more than his gut.

If you need to keep your head in the sand in order to avoid despair, then don't read this. If you believe that knowing what's coming doesn't really make it any worse, if you're committed to seeing the crisis through to the other side by simply putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, then, by all means, read it.

We look back on history and we wonder how some of the worst things could have been allowed to happen. Where were the good Germans during the Holocaust? Why didn't someone stand up to Joe McCarthy sooner? How was the massacre in Rwanda allowed to happen? You can find your own example of something, I'm sure, that you just know you'd never have allowed to take place on your watch. Well, it's our watch now. In the coming days, probably years, there will be ample opportunities to show our mettle, or to burrow into a corner in the interest of self-preservation. I had said "cower in the corner," but I'll not cast that stone. For some, saving one life will mean putting other lives for which they're responsible at risk. The firefighter who's a sole breadwinner for a family does that every day. Not everyone faces that dilemma, and not everyone facing it decides for altruism.

We look back on history and wonder. When our children and grandchildren look back on the coming days and wonder, it will fall on us to explain. If we can.

Be kind to one another. Putting one foot in front of the other will carry our bodies through this. Nothing less than kindness will ferry our souls across.