economic struggle
April 16, 2008 8:13 AM   Subscribe

What can I do as a 26 year old who is going crazy thinking about the political economical future our country is heading towards.

Why hasn't someone stood up and taken actions against the corporations that rule our country? How bad will the separation of wealth get before people start getting upset enough to act on it? These corporations are robbing you, why doesn't someone take the same action and fight back like when a person intrudes in their house to steal from you.

What can I do to make a change (please don't tell me to vote, as the popular vote hasn't done much, and the people who will be elected in our wonderful political system are very much interested in staying wealthier than everyone else)? It makes me crazy when I think about the direction our country has been going. I am very worried that my peers will be much to concerned with how shiny their new iPhone is, and let it all go.
posted by Amby72 to Society & Culture (64 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Think globally, act locally.
posted by mpls2 at 8:19 AM on April 16, 2008


Create a platform. Run for state representative. Raise money. Win.
posted by fusinski at 8:22 AM on April 16, 2008


Don't worry too much about your peers' iPhone fetishes. Worry about what you can control and influence directly. If you don't have a family, prepare for one. Set aside at least a year's worth of expenses in a low-risk account. Be extremely scrupulous in your consumption habits. Recycle as much as you can. Stock up on emergency provisions. Try not to let the woes of the world weigh you down too much. We humans have been in a crisis for a long time...we're a species still in its birth pangs. We'll continue growing as long as people can remain calm.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:24 AM on April 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


I like the idea of running for state rep. But you might want to take a course or two in economics (or read a reputable economics book from a conservative point of view, like "Free to Choose"), so you learn other points of view & see that situations aren't as black and white as you think.
posted by shivohum at 8:28 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seconding Burhanistan, plus:

Learn basic survival skills. I'm not recommending going commando in the woods, just learn some basic stuff-- how to make a fire without matches, how to cook without an oven (over fire or with a solar cooker), how to build a shelter. Grow some vegetables, maybe some medicinal plants.

With luck, you'll never actually need these skills. But it should calm you to know that, in case the world goes to hell, you can provide yourself with some of the basics.
posted by cereselle at 8:28 AM on April 16, 2008


cereselle, that is interesting that you bring that up. I am an IT professional by day, and a mountain man by night and weekend. I am all set in case things get that tough.
posted by Amby72 at 8:32 AM on April 16, 2008


Whenever I start to think about the problems the world is facing, I get so overwhelmed that is is tempting to just shut down, either flee to the woods and live like a hermit while society collapses, or just say fuck it and join the masses in not giving a shit. That is the "despair" option. But there is also a "hope" option; an assumption that no matter how bad things get, we will be able to cope; in many ways we're better than we used to be; there are many intelligent people who see these problems and they will be the ones to take action, not the masses, so we are not as worse off as you might think.

It may be that you need to be idealistic to accept hope and not despair. But I see this as a choice that I cannot make on the evidence alone, first because it is impossible to know, and second because the evidence largely doesn't matter. I made a choice that I want to be hopeful, not gloomy, and that I would work toward making the world a better place without despairing. If things do turn out OK after all, I will be happy to have lived my life as a hopeful person. If it all goes to hell, I would STILL rather have lived my live as a hopeful person. There is and always will be plenty of misery to go around, the world doesn't need mine as well. So I just shut despair out. It's not productive and it makes me miserable.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:38 AM on April 16, 2008


A sagging economy, corporate greed and the rich getting richer, and a populace so placated by technological baubles that the average person no longer worries about the fate of their fellow man. Has the United States ever faced such an insurmountable threat to democracy?

I find a litte perspective really helps at times like these.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:39 AM on April 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


What I wrote above sounds a little flippant - what I mean to say is: Who would have predicted the glorious 90s after the excess and depravity of the late 80s? Things like this are to some degree cyclical and the pendulum will certainly swing (positive) again.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:43 AM on April 16, 2008


They always say that the market is self-correcting, and while we can probably go on for a while on how effective and just that really is, I think that consumers do make a difference in aggregate. Corporations spend a lot of time and money trying to hide their misdeeds as you know-- why don't you stop supporting them, or refuse to support them, and vocally? Write to their CEO, board members, high level executives, tell them how disappointed you are in their actions and how they will lose you as a customer, and how you will be sure to tell your friends and co-workers the same. They listen-- or at least notice-- when you dent their bottom line, and we do have that power over them.

There are also better corporations out there. No one is 100% perfect but there's no point in seeing the world in black and white (evil corporations, good The People). Make conscientious, informed decisions about who is rewarded with your money, convince others to follow suit, and you will make a difference.
posted by lou at 8:44 AM on April 16, 2008


P.S. I wasthinking more in terms of environmental problems but it could apply to the economy as well. I was talking to someone about the prospects of some kind of environmental doom or collapse. He said, "what would collapse look like if not what we're experiencing right now?"

It gave me pause. Think about what's happening right now. Is is the nightmare scenario of ten years ago? Well, we're still here, life goes on. Will it get worse? Maybe, but life will still go on. It went on in the great depression, it went on through the wars, and it goes on still all over the world where things are a hell of a shittier than you can ever expect them to get here. No matter what happens people will still be here, probably including you and your descendants. And did you know, children who grow up during depressions often have no idea they are poor?

By all means do what you can to make things better. But if it makes you so crazy, stop and think.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:44 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why hasn't someone stood up and taken actions against the corporations that rule our country? ... These corporations are robbing you, why doesn't someone take the same action and fight back like when a person intrudes in their house to steal from you.

I'd start by finding a better way to communicate the issues you have with the status quo. When I hear people railing against "the corporations," I'm pretty inclined to roll my eyes and dismiss them. There are plenty of awful businesses that abuse and destroy and there are plenty of fantastic ones that make the world a better place. Lumping them all together is no better than saying "All Americans are fat" or "The French are all snobs."

I'm not trying to be snarky, but for me to take someone seriously, they have to presented a more balanced and nuanced understanding of the political and economic climate of the modern world. Otherwise, you'll just be preaching to the choir and if you really want to affect change, you're going to need more allies than that.

Alternatively, you could always emigrate. If you don't mind the cold, Scandinavia is a pretty awesome place to live.

(I say this as someone who has nothing but contempt for the cronyism and divisive politics that has infested US government.)
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:45 AM on April 16, 2008 [6 favorites]


I, as well, have always preferred the answer of "Think Globally, Act Locally" (even though I'm not as "locally active" as I should be, due to workaholic focus on getting myself out of debt)

If you are concerned (I definitely am) about your generations awareness of global issues, then you should brainstorm ideas on how to make them more "aware": Examples might be:

1.) looking around for local non-profit or activism groups that match your ideals/goals. If you show up to join them, they will definitely notice your passion.

2.) Perhaps you could come up with some witty demonstration signs, such as: "Your iVote is more important than your iPhone !!!"

3.) Speak to your target audience at a place and time they will pay attention. I'm not advocating grafitti, but a lot of younger people definitely notice street-art that has a message. Banksy is famous (infamous?) for a reason.

I guess what I'm saying here--- find (or some up with) creative ways to get involved to make a difference. (at the same time, also think about expanding your skills and international knowledge,etc so if global things DO change, you can "roll with it" and have options)
posted by jmnugent at 8:46 AM on April 16, 2008


emigrate?

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you know you are not the first young person to feel this way. this isn't a 2000s thing, or a 60's thing, it is an eternal thing. somehow the world seems to muddle through. it really is not as dire as it now seems. try doing some research into the other side of things, like reading the WSJ for a few months. too much Mother Jones, without a dose here and there of WSJ or even NYT will leave your view of things perhaps unbalanced, just as too much Faux News will.

as for what to do, start small by doing something for somebody else, maybe a whole group of somebodys, maybe start a charitable organization, etc. lead by example, follow your heart.
posted by caddis at 8:47 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of people who are in the same boat as you: we know voting for a rigged system doesn't work and we're sick of sitting back. (People here spitting "survival skills" are, in my humble opinion, not being very helpful, at best, and delusional at worst). There are a lot of people who are working to change the situation, but you're not going to really find out about them in the corporate press. The alternative press, (zmag, the imc, and alternet) are all easily googleable and can get you started on the path. Besides that, there are are a lot of organizations fighting against the corporate war direction: unions (I'm especially fond of SEIU), anti war groups (IVAW and tons of local little groups across the country), and just general rabble rousing groups.

The secret is not to be alone. The individualism of this country is not accidental. It isn't like a house invader, it's like a system, and it has to be responded to like a system with a lot of people working on it together. This could mean you.

Lastly (self promotion warning), you ask: "Why hasn't someone stood up and taken actions against the corporations that rule our country?" History is a weapon (google us), my friend, you should check us out and read some good old Zinn or Chomsky. There's a lot of who have been, the water's warm, jump on in.
posted by history is a weapon at 8:51 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why are you going crazy worrying? From a form chronic worrier - I have this to offer: worrying weakens the immune system and getting sick right now is the last thing anyone needs. Instead of panicking maybe becoming pragmatic about how you are/can contribute to the general well-being of humankind/the planet - globally, locally and everything in between. Start stocking up, using less, praying more, being happier, thinking positively - yes that ol collective consciousness can shift things - this way or that and try to live a morally clean life - because ultimately there's karma in everything that's said, done or thought - so it might as well be the good stuff that nurtures you and others and not anything that is potentially toxic or that may threaten anyone's quality of life. Bottom line - have faith, stock up, buckle down, live clean and spread good vibes. Worrying adds to the mass-misery in negativity. Hellavalot of that - time for something new. It ain't easy - it's the war of the psyche - so find comfort any where/way you can. Nature is best for this. It's real as opposed to the matrix which ain't.
posted by watercarrier at 8:58 AM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh and Boycott the Olympics (!!!) and stop buying from the corporations (!!!!) Don't feed the machine!
posted by watercarrier at 9:00 AM on April 16, 2008


Ok, I will be more specific. Corporations who have rebuilding contracts for Iraq where millions of dollars just disappear. Corporations who use some how have a cartel (oil) where they claim jack up prices when supply gets more expensive, yet some how make more money than anyone can fathom. Or CEOs who manage to give themselves multi million dollar bonuses after laying off millions of workers, and turned their products into junk. Or business that exist just to buy up patents on things that never should have been patented and their business model is litigation. Wow, that really adds something to society.
posted by Amby72 at 9:01 AM on April 16, 2008


wow, I butchered that.
posted by Amby72 at 9:04 AM on April 16, 2008


caddis wrote: "try doing some research into the other side of things, like reading the WSJ for a few months. too much Mother Jones, without a dose here and there of WSJ or even NYT will leave your view of things perhaps unbalanced, just as too much Faux News will."

Wait, what? When has the WSJ said anything different from Mother Jones? They are reporting the same trends and stories, but one side says, "make money," and the other side says, "this is unjust."

I don't have an answer for you but certainly the idea is here is to change things, not change your opinion of them. It's pretty clear (Iraq, environment, etc) that we're in the shitter, WSJ or Mother Jones notwithstanding.
posted by chelseagirl at 9:07 AM on April 16, 2008


Learn about corporate finance and get an MBA or a CFA. Get a job investing in the equity markets. Become a successful enough investor that you can raise your own fund. Your fund will then employee a socially responsible activist strategy. The fund will need to be very, very large--multi-billions in assets under management. With this big fund, you'll get a seat at the table. You acquire significant ownership positions in a number of companies, which should give you some leverage in advocating for the election of like-minded directors and/or specific shareholder votes. In other words, become the Carl Icahn of socially responsible investing.

Al Gore is involved with a firm called Generational Investment Management that is about to close a $5 billion fund with a socially responsible strategy. And there are a handful of other 'socially responsible' investment vehicles out there. However, I think their effect is minimal--but a more extreme activist strategy based on the Carl Icahn/Bill Ackman-mold would be a better route, I think.

FYI, this is probably impossible.
posted by mullacc at 9:20 AM on April 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Amby72,

I totally identify with your frustrations.. but my feeling is this type of behavior is probably always going to be the "norm" so long as our society is focused on the accumulation of wealth, power and material possessions. Breaking individuals out of that mindset is hard enough, breaking larger groups out of that mindset seems damn near impossible.

My personal opinion is that the shallow thinking that leads to obsessiveness about power, wealth and material accumulation all stems from : 1.) self centered thinking, 2.) greed and 3.) resource shortages.

Technology may eventually solve our resource shortages, but greed and selfishness are much harder things to solve. As a society we have to "break the cycle" and start raising people under a new social paradigm. Changing a system that huge (worldwide) is incredibly difficult, and arguably wont happen as fast as some of the impending global challenges we are facing.
posted by jmnugent at 9:28 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Greed is a large part of the problem. people who already have more money than they could ever spend taking or embezzling millions of dollars is despicable . Is this the "american dream" that everyone talks about?

I feel I make many decisions with my dollar that keep it from getting to the hands of these pigs. But I also know that it doesn't have enough of an effect. every time I drive by I see that Walmart's parking lot is still full. I realize that some of the people there are because that is the only place they can afford the necessities.

For every educated or positioned decision I make, there are 5 other people who just don't care who negate it.
posted by Amby72 at 9:38 AM on April 16, 2008


"What can I do to make a change..."

Start with yourself. Think about the implications of the things you use and the things you discard, and the people you support. If everyone takes individual responsibility for their actions, as a whole things will get better.

And, even though you asked us not to, I must say vote. If the national elections seem rigged, then concentrate on the local ones. Local politics impact the houses that get built or not built in your town, the local taxes that support your schools, and the local people who impact your daily life. If you think your vote doesn't count, get some statistics from your local elections. Policies that directly impact your schools' budgets and your town's roads are decided by small margins. Don't fool yourself into thinking votes don't count. The people in charge who you decry count on our complacency when it comes to voting. Don't give in.
posted by gyusan at 9:44 AM on April 16, 2008


I asked you not to tell me to, as I already do vote often and regularly. Otherwise I feel a person has no right to complain at all.
posted by Amby72 at 9:48 AM on April 16, 2008


I just didn't want people to simply tell me that and move on. you are correct about local decisions. they have very small margins.
posted by Amby72 at 9:52 AM on April 16, 2008


Amby72: Why hasn't someone stood up and taken actions against the corporations that rule our country? How bad will the separation of wealth get before people start getting upset enough to act on it? These corporations are robbing you, why doesn't someone take the same action and fight back like when a person intrudes in their house to steal from you.

While being oppressed by a corporation is fairly new in the grand scheme of things, being oppressed isn't. Fortunately, the market does give us ways to combat the abuses of power and excesses that are the rule in some corporations. Choice - you have a choice, make others aware that they have a choice as well - and that's it's a better choice than from buying from a reckless, greedy corporation.

The abuses in are marketplace, in my opinion, stem from the nature of what a corporation is - a "person" who only exists to make money. I'm not the first to point out that this is psychopathic behavior. The abuses are worst in the commodity type markets - foods, energy, and so on. The big players corner the resources and erect insurmountable barriers - in the form of legal protections - to smaller players. So they wind up paying the producers nothing and charging a ridiculous markup to the consumers. Sleazy middlemen.

But don't t despair, things are getting better - with inexpensive, widely available communication and a more thorough shipping network - producers are starting to be able to compete with the middlemen - because pretty much all they provided was getting to the market and selling it. Those advantages can be erased by expanding communication and shipping capabilities. So cheer on AT&T and UPS - they really are changing the world.

So yes, buy local & buy global, but try to buy from primary producers. Skip the middleman. If you are interested in learning how to fight abuses of corporations that you have a hard time dealing with - check out the consumerist - it's a great blog about consumer issues.
posted by bigmusic at 9:54 AM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think you still have alot of things backwards about this, though your heart is in the right place so you should continue the constant self-reckoning that has lead you to this question here. Focusing on the perceived mistakes or misguidance of the public at large is going to make you a bitter man. I was in the same category, really, until I got married and my perceptions of my place in the community changed. Marriage has a way of putting healthy limits your vision so you look to protect your own and your loved ones' interests in a more exacting way.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:54 AM on April 16, 2008


yes, I fear If weren't also a married man, I would probably do something rash.

I would like to know what I have backwards.
posted by Amby72 at 10:02 AM on April 16, 2008


Ah, sorry, Amby72, I read into your original post as that you didn't vote. Relieved to hear that you do!
posted by gyusan at 10:05 AM on April 16, 2008


Prepare for a primitivist lifestyle. Shit will hit the fan within the next 10 years. The more you know about survival and nature the better. Plus, nature is amazing and invigorating. Pass your skills on to others.
posted by cloeburner at 10:13 AM on April 16, 2008


The sky just isn't falling.

Ok, I will be more specific. Corporations who have rebuilding contracts for Iraq where millions of dollars just disappear.

There's an election coming up...

Corporations who use some how have a cartel (oil) where they claim jack up prices when supply gets more expensive, yet some how make more money than anyone can fathom.

The only true "cartel" is OPEC. Everyone else is a multi-national corporation competing with other multi-national corporations. If there was no competition, prices would rise even higher. And prices go up naturally when "supply gets more expensive" until such time as demand drops (hello, hybrid vehicles, solar and nuclear power) or the supply gets larger (hello, oil exploration and increased domestic refining capacity). This isn't evil manipulation. It's par for the course for the last 100 years or so. It's just economics.

Or CEOs who manage to give themselves multi million dollar bonuses after laying off millions of workers, and turned their products into junk.

Name one.

Seriously. Name one that meets all three of your criteria (a multi-million bonus, millions laid off and junk products). If you'll try, you'll find that a) the multi-million bonus was voted by the board, which is ostensibly beholden to shareholders; b) millions have not be laid off (the U.S. is essentially at full employment capacity; and c) junk products are swiftly replaced in the market by competitors.

Now, there are many examples that seem to fit the criteria, but you'll also find that the multi-million bonus was pegged to some kind of performance metric, such as stock price; the layoffs were actually corporately responsible, meaning the company had a lot of dead weight; and the products were unfocused at best. For example, people like to hate on Michael Eisner for "ruining Disney," but fail to notice how incredibly much money Disney made during his tenure. Guys like that get multi-million bonuses.

Or business that exist just to buy up patents on things that never should have been patented and their business model is litigation.

There are indeed several examples of this, but are you against patents or litigation? Patents as a model to protect business interests are hundreds of years old, and patents expire. Litigation is ... well, you know who else hates litigation?

Republicans.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:19 AM on April 16, 2008


Here are some easy, non-alarmist goals.

Learn about peak oil. Learn how we're living beyond the planet's means. Learn how the financial sector took over and looted the economy. Learn who the enablers were.

Calmly explain the mechanics to your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers in plain language, who most likely know little about these topics and as such view them in conspiratorial terms (the price of gas is rigged by the big oil corporations, etc). Do not engage in mockery, otherwise they're going straight back to Lou Dobbs or Fox News for their information.

People are going to fight back once things get bad enough. Two things can happen: an ignorant public blames foreigners and brown skinned folk for their problems, or will an educated public demands their piece of the pie along with a plan for the future that goes beyond the next quarter's earning report or election cycle.
posted by MillMan at 10:20 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Accept that other people don't agree with you and figure out how you want to live your life. I don't know if a lot of communes exist anymore, but maybe you can join one and have your own piece of heaven by meeting like minded people.

I used to care about stuff like that and all I really care about now is myself. I'm not a bad person, but I really don't like paternalism or people who think they know what's best for me.
posted by onepapertiger at 10:23 AM on April 16, 2008


Start a business. Become wildly successful while staying true to your principles by appealing to similar people's wishes. Show the world another way.
posted by FuManchu at 10:23 AM on April 16, 2008


Robert Reich (who was secretary of state for Bill Clinton) has written about how corporation law has given us a distorted society. You might find it worthwhile to work with the Program on Corporation, Law and Democracy and try to reduce the impact of current corporate values.
posted by anadem at 10:36 AM on April 16, 2008


worrying weakens the immune system and getting sick right now is the last thing anyone needs...because ultimately there's karma in everything...Worrying adds to the mass-misery in negativity.

I have a feeling if I stated this to the next homeless person I saw out on the street, or neighbor who was recently among the thousands laid-off from their jobs, or the single mom trying to cope with inflated prices for basic grocery staples -- I'd get my face slapped.

Instead I saw the concern expressed by the OP and applauded that someone *cares* -- much as the guy I'm dating, who regularly tunes in to Democracy Now, and gets overcome with shock at the injustices reported there, many of which you've mentioned here...
As much as it's frustrating to realize the vast ignorance out there ("Wal-Mart parking lot still full"), know that others out there actually feel the same way you do, and thanks for having a solution-seeking attitude in your addressing this, rather than complaining just for the sake of it.
posted by skyper at 10:38 AM on April 16, 2008


It might help to start by accepting the premise that the overwhelming majority of people who don't see the same problems you do in the world and act the way you would like them to act to fix them are neither malevolent nor blind; they simply disagree with you about priorities or optimal solutions. That does not make them bad people, nor does it make them stupid. It makes them people who hold opinions different from yours about the best way to solve world problems. Calling them uneducated or dishonest or dumb isn't a good way to convince them that your way is better than theirs. Giving people the benefit of the doubt, even when they disagree with you, might also help you to be less angry and upset.
posted by decathecting at 10:41 AM on April 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


You have to also realize that all systems known to us thus far are collapsing. There will be no big brother to rely on - as a matter of fact as we're all pretty much being made aware - big brother is turning on us. There is little *out there* to offer solace. Even if you have money, the choices are really narrow if your mindset is narrow, archaic and pedestrian. It's a state of getting rid of all preconceived notions about how things need to be - and living with how they are. The system is basically rigged in such a way to render us weak and powerless, in the face of the almighty corporation and government. Basically - we can't win utilizing the old tactics that kinda/sorta worked during 60's-80's. It's a whole new bag of tricks. It's spiritual warfare of the first degree. You either get sane and untangled from the web of deceit or you get wrapped up into a nice and mindless package, wrapped and ready to serve to the soul-less CEO's who are drowning in money and oil and who'd try anything at least once - including human flesh. So - options? Simplify your life to the nth degree. Stop relying on stuff out *there* for comfort - including toys, food, vices and anything else that distracts you from the now moment. Invest in your health.
posted by watercarrier at 11:07 AM on April 16, 2008


One thing you should keep in mind is that some people have felt like you do at virtually any point in history. And, usually, they've been wrong. Or at least they were wrong in the long term. Think how the world looked to a lower middle class American in 1935 or whatever. The worst economic situation in our history. Bread lines. Shanty towns. Starving people. A re-arming and resurgent nationalism in Germany. Communism in Russia. The Japanese Empire expanding across China and the Pacific.

Twenty years later the United States was economically the most powerful nation that had ever existed or is likely ever to exist, in terms of percentage of the world's GDP.

So, yeah, things look gloomy. But they've looked gloomy before... gloomier than now, frankly, and we've gotten past it. We'll get past this, too.
posted by Justinian at 11:07 AM on April 16, 2008


Please remember that the media and political parties (both right and left) have a vested interest in creating mild hysteria: a.) it motivates you to tune in tomorrow, and b.) it mobilizes constituencies to affect a political agenda. Both parties want and need you to fear and worry. I love H.L. Mecken's quote:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

As others have mentioned -- read your history. Things have certainly been worse in our past. America and the world have seen more troubling times. Be skeptical about the hyperbole you see in the news - ask yourself, who's agenda did that story serve. (As someone who works in PR, I can tell you... most stories are placed.)

I personally think John Stossel offers an interesting perspective:

"I hear a constant whine about life getting worse: avian flu will kill us if terrorism doesn't get us first; crime and pollution keep increasing, and the poor are suffering. But in truth, life keeps getting better. We live longer than ever, and with less pain (think about dental care in the 1960s). Crime is down. In America, even poor people have homes, cars, and access to music and other entertainment that was once only available to royalty. Pollution? The air and water keep getting cleaner. I jumped in the Hudson River not long ago to illustrate the point. There I was, swimming away and looking up at the Empire State building. Despite eight million people flushing nearby, the health department says swimming in the Hudson is now perfectly safe. Despite all the complaints from the media, life keeps getting better."
posted by LakesideOrion at 11:16 AM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


I have a feeling if I stated this to the next homeless person I saw out on the street, or neighbor who was recently among the thousands laid-off from their jobs, or the single mom trying to cope with inflated prices for basic grocery staples -- I'd get my face slapped.


Please don't underestimate the spiritual savvy and integral knowing of the average *street person*. I know a few personally who are blissful to be out in nature, free as a bird, owing nothing to nobody and accepting their lot with a twinkle in their eye. It's really not a catastrophe for the average hobo - homeless by design and later by choice. And those that i know will strengthen the assertion that you bet - everything is karma. And they readily apply that to every straight person passing them by burying their heads in some kind of cloud of denial and blindness so they don't have to see their signs: *will work for food*. I experienced people needing food, a shower, clean clothes, medical help, a smile, comfort - and I also experienced people living on the street with no desire to return to *babylon and insanity city*. All they ever wanted was acceptance and decent treatment and for the most part, unlike the well-fed and housed - they held no grudges. Maybe the ego leaves when the struggle against the system stops, because I never saw hate in any street person's eyes. Only innocence gone into overdrive. And that's perfectly understandable given the odds against them in the current state of things as they are.
posted by watercarrier at 11:18 AM on April 16, 2008


You could go here and bone up. Alex Steffin is a friend and sustainability advocate since I met him in the early 90's.
posted by black8 at 11:25 AM on April 16, 2008


I understand that people will get by "this". (until "this" is a solar event) anyway, everything I have said has been a bit vague, and I quoted no exact facts. I tend not to quote things on the internet, as web sources I don't trust a ton, and I have no primary sources in front of me. I never realized that this would be a peer reviewed journal article.

I am frustrated with the fact that the majority of wealth in the US is distributed strictly based on share holder value/return.

I really appreciate the volume of information flowing in though that speak of social activism groups, and other ideas.

I know other times and places have always felt this way. for some reason or another.

To restate:

I guess I just want to know what other people who feel this way do to cope with these thoughts. (about the social economic downturn our country has taken).
posted by Amby72 at 11:29 AM on April 16, 2008


I guess I just want to know what other people who feel this way do to cope with these thoughts

This comment by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] seems appropriate.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:41 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why hasn't someone stood up and taken actions against the corporations that rule our country?

Short historical answer: there was a radical wing of the labor movement that did stand up and take action during the Depression and WWII. The government smashed them in the post-war era. The government then convinced most of the more moderate remnants that they were "middle-class" and that their interests and those of the corporations were one and the same.

During the 1960s-1970s, other movements arose to challenge gender, racial and orientational oppression. While these movements accomplished a great deal, for which I am very grateful, they were unfortunately unable to cohere into a broad-based anti-capitalist movement. Martin Luther King was planning a Poor Peoples' March on Washington but that campaign sputtered out after his death.

As the Seventies wore on, the Left lost momentum and those movements calcified into Identity Politics which further divided the progressive movements from each other and placed a premium on the narrow pursuit of particular groups' goals at the expense of broad-based movements.

That's a thumbnail sketch of why things are so fucked up right now.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:50 AM on April 16, 2008


I understand what power I do have and what I don't.

The government has been elected to control something I cannot, the economy. The current government was and is granted it's powers through an agreement with the people, the people of which still trust the government to lead. People tend to have a high tolerance for failure in their leadership, for a lot of reasons, but not complete tolerance. A family or person is only ever 3 square meals away from a revolution, iPhone or not.

Either take some power for yourself, emigrate, or accept a lesser economy and thus less iPhones/non-base human needs.
posted by Submiqent at 11:56 AM on April 16, 2008


I guess I just want to know what other people who feel this way do to cope with these thoughts. (about the social economic downturn our country has taken).

I try to focus on the things I have control over. I car pool to work, eat as much local food as possible, try not to be a massive consumer, for example. I remind myself of all the things I am grateful for. That doesn't change the reality of the world, but it helps me to not be overwhelmed by all the economic and political and environmental disasters out there. I think better when I'm not overwhelmed, and I find it easier to deal with the fact that I'm just one person in this big, beautiful, terrifying world.
posted by Bearman at 11:58 AM on April 16, 2008


I guess I just want to know what other people who feel this way do to cope with these thoughts.

I like to listen to music. Like this song:

I thought IBM was born with the world
The US flag would float forever
The cold opponent did pack away
The capital will have to follow

It's not eternal
Interminable
Oh, yes, it will go . . .

posted by jason's_planet at 12:00 PM on April 16, 2008


Oh and as a general coping rule, a concept without details is almost always much more horrifying/exaggerated than the truth. As a kid I always used to be horrified of even talking to a cop, because I was horrified of the thought of going to jail. Never mind the fact that I could control (very easily) wether or not I do something illegal, talking to a cop was somehow equated myself to being a criminal.

Similar effect in movies, in the first Alien (or Jaws), you don't see the alien or shark until the very end, they are usually abstracted away as a signal on a radar or a dorsal fin until then. But the reaction of the people involved made it horrifying. Even though when you learn of the creature(s) abilities, it's no where near as scary as imagined and could be reasonable to believe that a regular person would have a higher chance of survival.

My point is, unless you're an expert economist, then freaking about the idea of what's going to happen is kind of silly and that's what politicians want you to do. I'm not saying don't make plans, but it is also reasonable to relax a bit!
posted by Submiqent at 12:07 PM on April 16, 2008


Convince people that debt doesn't work unless it builds equity. Then convince them to pay it.
posted by thetenthstory at 12:16 PM on April 16, 2008


so does a person have to be an expert to realize that as we invest in a war that goes nowhere, and underfund education, that might not be great? Do i have to be an expert economist or an expert politician to know that?
posted by Amby72 at 12:21 PM on April 16, 2008


For every educated or positioned decision I make, there are 5 other people who just don't care who negate it.

You first have to come to terms with the idea that those five other people may be just as educated and care just as much, but don't share your anticapitalist* views.

* Loaded term, but I don't know how else to parse "I am frustrated with the fact that the majority of wealth in the US is distributed strictly based on share holder value/return." If you really think that, more power to you, but, given the history, you'll need to propose a workable alternative system to make a decent argument.
posted by backupjesus at 12:22 PM on April 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


oh and may I add that student loans = equity in yourself.
posted by thetenthstory at 12:23 PM on April 16, 2008


Maybe you need to calm down and think in a bit more balanced way about things you can do that might make the kind of difference that would matter to you? I wonder if this sort of crisis is a function of age: some people get to a certain twenty-something point and have an "oh shit" moment when they realize how fucked up the world is. Of course, the world has always been and probably always will be fucked up and seemingly on the verge of apocalypse, but sometimes people start noticing this all of a sudden as you seem to have.

Start by letting go of as much axe-grindy stuff (people talk too much on cell phones; no one respects red lights any more; I hate when people eat meat / eat vegetarian / eat take out; reality tv is so stoopid -- stuff that gets one worked up but which you can do nothing about).

Try to be as kind as you can to the real people around you every day, every hour, particularly those who are not being kind to you. Think about how every one of those faces contains a mind with a whole life who is trying to get by, even if they seem to be doing poorly, what they are is their entire universe that is all they have and you should have sympathy and compassion for that. Being kind will make a difference in some of their lives, and it will almost certainly make a difference in yours. And it will be incredibly difficult to do this consistently and sometimes at all. But it will make a difference to try.

Think glass half-full if you can: not "everything is coming apart at the seams and falling into shit," but "Everything is changing fast and the people alive now might have the opportunity to build something new in this state of change." Don't stay friends with anyone who thinks you are a dork or a fool for thinking this, or who thinks that small positive efforts are stupid or futile. I've always liked the Alasdair Gray quote, "Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation."

Research charities that have integrity and do great work that means something to you personally, and support them as generously as you can. Then get involved in local politics and try, personally, to change things for the better in your own community.

If you decide to have children one day, do everything you possibly can not to take out your frustrations and fears on them, and do everything you can to show / give them the things you think are worthwhile in the world.

Okay, there's your plan for the next decade or two anyhow.
posted by aught at 12:30 PM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


so does a person have to be an expert to realize that as we invest in a war that goes nowhere, and underfund education, that might not be great?

No they do not, but that is not the full story. If you want to seek refuge from the idea that the war will disembowel the US, you can learn what, when, where & why the war has occurred in the first place. The details can and will put your fears to rest, you may find out that the excursion in Iraq is justified given a future without cheap oil in the US. It may not be justified and you can feel safe understanding the consequences and even attempt change!

But with "war that goes nowhere" as your understanding, you allow the idea to control you, particularly because politicians perpetuate that idea & control for their own purposes. (There's other ways out of your predicament, but that's my answer).
posted by Submiqent at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2008


Watch the movie "Network."

I get the feeling you're just too young and immature.

While I generally disagree with what the usual glibertarian/Republican-lite contingent has opined above, the way the world is working now is rather understandable given a sufficient degree of perspective and clarity of observation.

While this decade has seen wages stagnant, if best, credit has flowed like wine and there's no denything that the American Standard of Living has never been higher.

While you mock iPhones, consumer goods are a form of Wealth, and understanding what Wealth means is crucial. Wealth is not money, credit, or debt; wealth is simply that which satisfies human needs and wants. It is furniture in your room, the 40" plasma TV, the DVD collection you've ripped from the internet.

I'm a child of the 1970s, and quite simply, the modern experiences of life today is generally an order of magnitude more enjoyable and convenient and affordable to what we had 30 years ago.

As for change, dunno. IMV our future course has been locked in and events will proceed regardless of the hands at the helm.

Who would have predicted the glorious 90s after the excess and depravity of the late 80s?

Indeed. In 1992 I was 25 and much like you. I went to Japan and missed out on dotcom riches. D'oh!
posted by tachikaze at 2:40 PM on April 16, 2008


I am frustrated with the fact that the majority of wealth in the US is distributed strictly based on share holder value/return.

This is the essence of capitalism.

Otherwise, since you are the sole shareholder of all the stuff in your house ... and you don't mind if it's redistributed ... can I, like, have your TV?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:42 PM on April 16, 2008


no, but you can seek the numerous other charities that i regularly distribute funds and time to if you would like.
posted by Amby72 at 4:53 PM on April 16, 2008


Live your life the way you believe it should be lived. Seek out others who live the same way, and support each other in that lifestyle. Share your ideas with others, and show by your contentment that you are living in a pleasant and sustainable way. Give up on the illusion that you can change any other human being. Be grateful for what you have and share what you can. Realize that no-one knows how things are going to work out, and that what seems to be a trend now can fizzle and die in a second. Life is too short and too precious to squander it in worry - build what you can and be happy.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:06 PM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


If people with money have the power, and you don't like that, don't complain about it, get the money, then you will have the power to do as you want. Don't think about the problem, think about the solution. You cannot change human nature, but like in many martial arts, when you're facing a foe with more strength and size, use it against them.

The curse of our society is that it's run on money, but that's also the great secret. You can do anything you want, if you get the money. No one is trying to stop you from having money. Opportunities exist. Some of the poorest of the poor have become the richest of the rich. Bill Gates could afford to put himself on the moon, if he chose to. When he was younger he wasn't rich.

It's all in how you think about the problem. Don't label yourself as powerless, re-evaluate the tools and methods you're using, because one person really can make a difference to society, but you're going to have to be willing to play by societies rules.

For example, if everyone that was in favor of outlawing guns joined the NRA, they would quickly outnumber the gun-owners, and reverse its stance on most issues. But instead they fight it head on, and get no where.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:34 PM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


What country are you from?
posted by tomw at 8:57 AM on April 17, 2008


^ Bill Gates started life as a member of the upper middle class, at worst. His mother was on the board of the United Way, which was according to lore instrumental in his company landing the IBM deal.
posted by tachikaze at 9:38 AM on April 17, 2008


I guess I just want to know what other people who feel this way do to cope with these thoughts. (about the social economic downturn our country has taken).

Once I was stuck in a very similar mindset and very upset by what was going on in the country (the US). I was so frustrated -- I could see so many problems but not do anything about them.

What helped me more than anything was to quit reading national news. I quit for about a year. It was so refreshing. My obsessive reading of the news, my feeling upset about it, and so on, wasn't helping at all, and it was refreshing to admit that and just stop. I didn't need to follow the gory details. Everything was in re-runs anyway. So, I just stopped.

I was involved in local activism at the time (professionally, and in my spare time) and so I focused instead on local news and politics. Instead of thinking about things I couldn't affect, I was looking around at the things I could do something about. Part of that year I spent in a small town, which helped even more (but even in a big city, the politically active portion of the community is small). Focusing all my change-the-world learning and energy on a context where face-to-face relationships actually mattered did a lot to make me feel like I mattered and like what I did could actually help.

Then, I didn't need to read the news, because I had been at the city council meeting, and I had networks of people who told me stuff long before it hit the papers, and a lot of what they told me didn't end up in the press. So, reading the news became an interesting study in how to get media attention, and what other people were going to hear about.

My key concern was environmental, but if your key concern is helping people be self sufficient without relying on companies, maybe you could start a coop. If you want to look at how businesses relate to the community, you could look into local investment funds (where investors' money goes to starting small local businesses or building local housing) or the local chamber of commerce. You could be the person who helps businesses give back to the community, or who keeps out national chain stores. You'll probably figure out something even better. You just have to find a way to get connected to the movers and shakers. Whatever way you'd like to see the world change, you could start making it happen there where you live.

When I quit, I started to feel better pretty quickly. I'd hear snippets or see a headline, realize how upset I had been getting, and know I needed to keep shielding myself from it. I finally picked the news back up not only when they stopped being upsetting, but when I started to get curious about what was going on. Things had been in re-runs before, and somewhere there, a new season got started with entirely new characters. I haven't felt that frustrated again. I think the exercise re-set me from a frustrated desire to solve everything, to a clearer knowledge about what I am personally working to change, and where I am just an observer.
posted by salvia at 10:08 AM on April 17, 2008


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