Archive for December 10th, 2008

About three months ago I successfully bid on a new mail route. The new route has quieter neighborhoods, some bordering wooded areas, and a good bit less walking: about 2 1/2 hours instead of 5 1/2. It gets a lot more mail and is not as leisurely a pace as the old route, but I am less tired at the end of the day, which can include an additional hour and a half of overtime walking. So all and all it seems a good move.

On the route is a recently constructed housing development, about 35 houses. It abets public housing and is just down the hill from a mostly vacated shopping center, but the homes are pleasant looking and the residents solidly middle class. The sign at the entrance to the subdivision reads “You’ll be surprised at what you can afford!” and “Unbeatable financing!”

Since I have been on the route there have been three foreclosures, and several more homes stand vacant, apparently also foreclosed. For that matter, four homes have been foreclosed on our block in the last couple of years.

Welcome to Ohio. Welcome to 2008.

As I write the nation is careening, staggering like a big drunk. No one knows where he’ll land or how much damage the crash will cause. Headlines are surreal: major banking institutions have collapsed, the Big Three automakers are facing bankruptcy, and Congress is tossing around unbelievably huge sums of money, You’d think they printed the stuff themselves. Oh, yeah, that’s right. They do.

Meanwhile the warring political factions view the crisis from behind their ideological glasses. Free market conservatives, like fundamentalists always do, blame everything else rather than rethink their beliefs: the problem was too much interference in the Market. Greed is still good. Apparently the big shot financiers still think so: I just heard of the CEO of one of the banks which collapsed who has just been awarded a ten million dollar bonus. Such spectacular and shameless venality is breathtaking.

As I said, no one knows where the drunk will land, or how bad will be his crash. The whole world is holding its breath. I heard a market fundamentalist on the radio proclaim that this is just a normal part of the old economic cycle, a blip that will soon even out. That is sort of like declaring that the automobile which has just hit the brick wall at 90 mph has suffered a fender bender.

It took the communists to finish off communism; is it now the capitalists’ turn?

When my friends and I have talked about our dreams of a society lived on a more human scale, of a spiritually healthier and sustainable culture- you know, the old small-is-beautiful, Caelum et Terra vision- we’d usually come to a dead end when it came the question of how this could be attained. Someone inevitably would remark that it would be impossible without a major disaster, an economic collapse.

Well, we may be on the verge of such a collapse. The question is whether, if such a thing comes to pass, America will slide into the Third World morass that many see awaiting. Or will She out of necessity again become a nation of small farmers, craftsmen and shopkeepers? And do we even possess the will and the skill and the wisdom to do so?

Daniel Nichols

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