08/31/2010 05:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Adventures of Unemployed Man

I think you've got to have the ability to engage in creative laughter in order to live amid difficulties and tension. If you can't laugh at life, you're a very miserable human being. And I think a great deal of truth often comes through laughter. Some people have developed the talent to get this truth over to many people, by laughing the truth into them and out of them, so that I think humor is most important in getting at truth and getting people to understand and often to rise above the despair which can surround them. - The Rev. Martin Luther King

Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. - Salman Rushdie

We've all seen the infographics. Rising unemployment. Expanding personal debt prisons. The highest income inequality of all time.

Many have worked to reveal the truth of this moment -- for examples, see the Huffington Post's Bearing Witness and the New York Times' Living With Less. We need this kind of reporting, to help us understand these unthinkable realities.

But since we're human, we yearn for more than just reality. We want a story -- one we can rethink, deconstruct, and joke about. One that can help us rise above our despair.


As we began writing this story, we saw the advent of the "jobless recovery," and we started to think about its causes -- the many longstanding structural flaws within our economy. We saw how the Great Recession would trace its roots to the demise of the Great Prosperity, which ran from the late 1940s to the late 1970s.

Above all, we saw the need for comic relief and, as MLK said, the importance of using humor to get at the truth. 


Americans invented superheroes in the Great Depression; they rose to power, like America, during the Great Prosperity. Their stories are uniquely American symbols of our hopes and dreams. Ours is a story of ordinary superheroes, down but not out, struggling to make their way in a world where the old truths still apply... but only for those at the very top.

To begin our daring escape from the Great Recession, we as a society must confront the sinister villains of our time. We also need to laugh, to cry, and to gain power over the story that dominates our lives -- so we can reclaim our true superpowers, as individuals, as a nation, and as a world.