My boss and I were recently debating whether we, those of us, collectively in affluently suburbia, share some of the blame for GEC (Global Economic Crisis). My boss said, "no," based in part on what she was hearing from a doctor friend of hers. This doctor was speaking compassionately about how we educated high achievers should try hard not to blame ourselves, especially if we find ourselves struggling financially.
My boss, like a lot of us, is stressed out about GEC and TNU (The New Uncertainty). She has friends who have lost jobs, or are worried about losing their homes. Like me, she has watched the $$$$$$$$$$ tucked into her retirement savings plummet to $$$.
Her doctor friend says that high-achievers are likely to get depressed in a particular way that has to do with how we are used to success and the good life. And, when we feel it start to slip away, when we feel like we can't make our mortgage payments or that we can no longer afford to upgrade to a nicer car to stylishly model our kitchen and master bath suites, we begin to feel like failures.
And we shouldn't, this doctor says, because this crisis is NOT OUR FAULT. It's beyond our control!!!!
My boss liked what the doctor had to say. She felt reassured by his words. I see my boss's point, and the doctor's--to some extent. My boss says there's nothing wrong with "wanting the good life." Sure, of course, I like to eat at nice restaurants, go on nice vacations, have a nice living space.
Still, I can't help but think that we are in some ways responsible--for getting ourselves caught up in a go-go mindset of buying, buying, buying, spending, spending, spending $$$, for reasons of projecting status, accompli
shment, entitlement. Maybe because we think we deserve it, we're entitled to it, because we think we're so damned special. Or maybe we just felt like we had to so that we would feel like we belonged.
Actually, someone else expressed what I'm attempting to say better than I can--someone who is smarter about economics and consumer spending habits. This is Steven Pearlstein, a business columnist for the Washington Post. This is what he wrote in his November 12 column, "Pressure is on for Obama, but this Rescue Relies on All of Us":
The reason we are in this mess is that Americans, collectively, lived beyond their means for many years, consuming more than they produced and invest
ing more than they saved, thanks to dtrading partners and foreign investors who were only too happy to lend them lots of money at cheap rates. Now that the credit bubble has burst and the party is over, Americans will have no choice but to go through a painful adjustment to get things back into balance.