THE BLOG
01/19/2012 10:41 am ET | Updated Mar 20, 2012

Hugo, the Financial Crisis and St. Catherine of Siena

Don't know how many of you had a chance to see the poignant movie Hugo.

Hugo, rendered an orphan and made to live with a rather negligent relative, spends his childhood tending the clocks of Paris. I was struck by two scenes.

The first -- Hugo, in his loneliness, looks for ways to validate his existence. As he looks out on the Parisian skyline at night, he surmises that it's one big machine, and in a machine there are no unnecessary parts. He deduces, therefore, that he must have a purpose.

The second scene deals with a human-like automaton that's broken -- one that Hugo is trying to fix, to unlock the secret message left by his late father. As he gazes upon the automaton, he notes that when those, who are meant to be something, are not given the opportunity, they feel broken. The key to this automaton's ability to come to life is shaped like a heart.

It got me thinking about the effects of the financial crisis. Let's focus on one -- unemployment. It's not just a number -- to trade on, to tout. Joblessness is a silent movie unfolding in the lives and hearts of individuals and families, who feel broken.

Can we afford to disenfranchise swaths of the population, amputating them from well-being and a productive existence from which stem self-esteem and self-reliance?

The key to what ails us is like the key to Hugo's automaton, one shaped like a heart.

Imagine the possibilities, the potential that can be unleashed with a change of mindset followed by action. There are ways to work towards economic democracy for all so as to avoid ending up with monopolistic capitalism or any other equally dysfunctional economic system.

Like the one that now plagues Europe:

We know why Europe is sinking: Entitlement states that slow-growth economies can't possibly continue to afford. The question that needs to be asked of Europe's captains, political as well as maritime, is: What on earth are they thinking?

There are solutions to our economic problems. I came across this:

"Firms that have engaged employees, who own a chunk of their company, are just as dynamic, just as savvy, as their competitors. In fact, they often perform better.

"Lower absenteeism. Less staff turnover. Lower production costs. In general, higher productivity and higher wages. They weathered the economic downturn better than other companies."

Perhaps there's yet another opportunity to rebuild our US manufacturing base, with business models that keep people, profits and quality in mind, as labor cost advantages diminish overseas.

So last year, he announced that Lincolnton Furniture would open up production of high-quality wooden beds, table chairs and cabinets in his family business's old plant. "The made in USA" labels is more important now than it's ever been. People are looking for American made"....

And yet another solution for an economic system from the Center For Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) and The Just Third Way.

Solutions are out there. Who will take the key to unlock the potential of millions?

"If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire," said St. Catherine of Siena.