How did this happen. When did it happen? Was it the crash or the Mad(off) men or the shock and awe of the (don't bet on the) banks and the bailout (rages)? What happened to the good old days? They were never that good, as each successive generation supplanted the one before. "Here Son, stand on my shoulders, reach for the stars." Higher and higher till you retired. A gold watch and a fixed income, yours for life. When did that change? What happened? A financial Mt. Everest that once was scaled has now let loose a tirade of snow and ice, slippery and treacherous, and we are all struggling for a foothold and purchase as we are pulled closer and closer to the edge. Many we have watched go over it.
Makes me think of Touching the Void, the stunning filmed re-enactment of the true story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates in the Peruvian Andes. After reaching the peak and during the descent, Simpson breaks his leg. As rescue is impossible they decide that Yates will attempt to lower Simpson down. As Yates was attempting to lower Simpson 300 feet at a time, the gradient went into a vertical drop and he was propelled over a cliff. While Yates was being pulled slowly toward the edge, his footholds slipping and no response coming from his partner hanging below, as a measure of self-preservation as there was no other option, he cut the rope. Simpson survived falling hundreds of feet into a crevice, causing more damage to his shattered body. When deep within the crevice with no way of possibly climbing up out of it Simpson makes the only choice he can. To climb down, deeper into the crevice. Dragging his broken body inches at a time, down darker and darker there was a crack of light through the ice and eventually he was able to make his way to it and out of the crevice. Now in the bitter cold and in abject pain he made his way, crawling, dragging himself miles down the mountain, over the frozen ground. In the pitch black of night in a howling storm he knew that he was near the base camp because he smelled shit. He had in fact crawled through what was their latrine area and was finally able to call out for help. His companions, who thought he was dead, and were leaving in the morning, of course saved him and they all survived.
I thought of this today as I heard another story of a broken dream of a financial life cut off. Another small business closing its doors, employees joining the growing unemployed and another dream gone. Cut off. Dropped. Fired. We are all crawling through shit. I am a lucky one. I anticipated. Probably because I am a child of show-off business and therefore know firsthand how dismissive Hollywood can be as a business, how fickle and ageist and chauvinistic and homophobic. I have seen lives destroyed, as people's careers were deemed dispensable and were disposed of. SAG sends off the sagging. I saved and lived way below my level and am fine. I will be fine.
I am thinking about the millions of workers who were cut loose by their partners, their government, their businesses, their bosses, their schools, institutions. The rope has been cut. One lost job creates another. Who is going to FIX THE INCOME? Who is going to allow people to age with dignity and safety, that there will be a cushion, a soft seat for them to grow old on, to care for them, to help them to assist the living?
Messages from the good old days? In Britain during the Blitz, the tube stations had a poster that the Government placed there, Keep Calm and Carry On. A simple message of hope and perseverance while the bombs dropped. I was given a replica for my 50th birthday. It makes sense. Carry on. Keep moving; but how can we tell that to a worker in Detroit with three kids who has to decide if he will buy his daughters medicine or food? The shuttered storefronts, the unemployment lines. The economy grew, but not in jobs. How can you fix the income? By keeping with the same team? By holding steady? By carrying on? By keeping calm? The Main Street that is often referred to in speeches needs repairs. There are potholes and cracks in the infrastructure. How about we start by fixing them? And our crumbling schools. And the crumbling infrastructure of our country. Fix the income and we will fix America.