Economic Crisis - A people in denial
Based once again on the principal of hope and promise, North-Americans are sleep-walking into the future while consumption still lingers to be the past-time sport in popularity just after ice-hockey. We are a nation in denial. Organizations, such as the tourism industry still paint pink pictures of the future, as individual hotel owners are digging into financial reserves and are throwing good money after bad money.
The North American way, that tomorrow will take care of itself - deeply routed in their religious puritan way of thinking, which stemmed from their founding political leaders, is still well and alive amidst the financial crisis. Televison advertising still promises whole sets of living room furniture for zero down payment and no interest for the next five years. The car industry, bailed out with billions of dollars still has its sticky fingers in the lending market: No money down and small interest on car leases for the next few years. Shopping as usual is the tenor to keep the wheels of a doomed economy spinning until it has run out of fuel in the truest sense.
The credit card institutions, which will ask for a bail out next - equivalent to the amount American banks needed to keep going - are still luring people into more debt. Soliciting phone calls outnumber any connection you have with your family. Get another credit card. Why not! As the average debt per consumer just on credit cards used to be around $34 000, that number is quickly rising. Mortgage payments for houses threatened by foreclosures and cars running on loans that would not even allow a refill at the gas pump are charged on credit cards. In a recent US talk show they established that the average credit card debt per American was close to $90 000, with some persons having up to 24 different credit cards. Shop till they pull the plastic - no moral obligations. Today is the day, live in the now. The American way of thinking and therefore doing has seduced several generations into a people, which were always told: There is plenty more to come. The old “Frontier” thinking prevails. And none of their leaders has really given a wake-up call yet.
All eyes are on Obama, the 44th president of the United States. A good man. But the principal of hope won’t help this time around here in North America or anywhere else in our globalized world. Too deep is the swamp we are in. Our world-wide debt is presently three times higher than our income around the globe. Anybody running a private household should be able to figure out, what this means for the food on the table in the future.
But are we learning anything right now in the process of such obvious despair rising on the horizon of the world economy? Not yet in North America. Gourmet restaurants still enjoy customers who can’t afford even the tip for the waitress on their credit card, shopping centers are crowded with customers who think with the money they don’t really have they can get bargains right now. The illusion still holds its perfection. The twilight of the gods, Götterdämmerung, is only an opera by Richard Wagner. The story can’t be real.
Some statistics have it, that every North American spends $1.10 of every earned dollar. Hello! Time to wake up, or?
So how does this psychologically impact the “new world”? Broadly speaking, it doesn’t. It goes right over their “in the moment” attitude - trained, manipulated and refined by a society that pretended to be better and more clever than the old world . Maybe a few, who have already lost their jobs in the oil- and service industry are starting to feel overwhelmed or depressed. But that plastic issued by Visa, Amex or MasterCard still feels pretty secure in the wallet. And after all, the first order of patriotism is consumption, which makes up nearly 70 percent of the buck going around the economic carousel in North America.
It’s all an illusion - but the denial of reality keeps a people still quiet. One could say: “Do not disturb”, because the awakening could be disastrous. And civil unrest won’t be a far fetched reality in a neighboring country, where every household has some handguns handy.
Writer and photographer, lives in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. Author of feature articles and commentaries for European and North American publications in both the German and English language.
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