Thursday, May 5, 2011

One Damned Thing After Another!

For the first time in a long while life’s vessel seems to have righted itself and is now charting upon an even keel. The Royal Wedding is over, the Canadian general election is accomplished and bin Laden is dead, all good things. As much as one might pretend or prefer to rise above the portent of these circumstances, the truth is they affect us all even if our interest is little more than passing curiosity. I expect that for the most part these events are uplifting, at least for the majority of us in the Western hemisphere. Whether these experiences are intoxicating enough to fuel renewed economic vitality is difficult to predict, but my wager is that they are. Given the immediacy of the internet and the current speed of communication it is unimaginable how historically similar events might have altered the lives of our ancestors. Today however these monuments of global activity impress themselves upon our daily undertakings with almost instantaneous effect. The bin Laden affair, connected as it is to the nefarious activities of the despots of the Middle East, also bodes well for early resolution of those conflicts. Like it or not the strong arm of the United States of America has once again extended to the remote corners of the globe with the renewed assurance of fulfillment of its mandate. Even the bloke on the street can appreciate the connection between these activities and the price of oil. Foreign policy is no longer the domain of effete diplomats. International affairs touch us all.

Closer to home a rise in the ambient temperature is also a welcome change. Winter has at last released its grip upon us! The red tulips have begun to parade themselves in the tiny urban gardens. The only continued threat of snow persists in Northern Ontario where the plight of our neighbours goes largely ignored. People here are no longer afraid to haul out their bicycles and motorcycles.

To say however that the universe has been swept into a current of complete buoyancy is perhaps stretching it. While not exactly hanging on the lips of everyone, the curse of the market decline in 2008 is still not negligible. So profound was the global economic crisis that no one is yet convinced that we have either learned our lesson or been able to dig ourselves out from under the debris. And speaking of debris, the Japanese Tsunami and southeastern US tornados have more than a little affected the spiritual and economic face of the world. Misfortune it seems is a perpetual and relentless theme.

My guess is that a large portion of the population, especially in North America where the so-called “housing crisis” ensued, is taking stock. It goes to the very heart of the masses to attack home ownership. Home ownership is a relatively new preoccupation. Its advent was heralded not so long ago by significant monetary changes resulting in the sudden availability of long-term capital, sometimes at competitive rates, but not always. Over a fairly short period of time the populace has come to expect those resources and those expectations were lately fueled by a related inattentiveness to either the value of the security or the ability to pay the debt. All that has now changed, with a vengeance so severe as to catapult an entire generation backwards some forty years. Young couples who only recently had large homes on the coast, with moored yachts and expensive motor cars in the drive, are now disengaged, living in modest inland rental properties and serving hot dogs, if indeed they’re lucky enough to have any job at all. It is nothing to hear of educated university students once again living at home with their parents and doing positively menial work for pin money. On the one hand the hunger for change is everywhere; on the other hand the thirst for permanency abounds. It has become a conflict between revolution and social control.

Yet in spite of this tension there is nonetheless a degree of stability. It may indeed be both useful and fortunate that the tug-of-war is equally balanced. If the regularly disadvantaged crowd sees itself losing ground, this may only precipitate adverse behaviour. For the time being a draw may be sufficient to engineer moderate progress. Some would even argue that these baby steps in evolution are in the end all that count. Whatever happens the progress will be slow. It is simply inescapable that the universal mood has changed and that struggles abound. While it is hoped that reasoned argument will form the basis of the dialectic between opposing forces, this may be wishful thinking. If, however, one thing is certain it is that all sides of the matter desire increased prosperity and that in itself may generate the cooperation required. The standard of conduct is no longer consumption but production. Meaningful contribution while not necessarily heightening profit will at least provide genuine product, whether goods or services. A foundation such as that may well be the only one on which to rebuild.

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