In It's a Wonderful Life, the classic holiday film, the hero, George Bailey, saved the small, family Savings and Loan that his father started from a run by nervous investors, convincing them to take out only what they needed, that if they stuck together, they could avert the failing of the business. He became a local hero and the fat cat, Potter, who wanted the institution to fail was thwarted. When, by accident (actually theft) all of the deposits are lost and he realizes that the Savings and Loan would now have to go under and Potter would win, George wished he had never been born. When an angel comes to show him what the world would have been like without him and he is shown what his one human life accomplished, the people he helped, that he was a wonderful son, brother, husband, father, friend and community member, he and we all are all reminded about our own unique power and generosity.
Many Americans are now feeling that pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization of financial loss and despair and many are facing financial ruin, only now the real Potter is a scumbag named Madoff whose greed and avarice is beyond words. Many men and women are feeling the shame and fear and anguish. I'm sure many have wondered if the world would be better off without them, that the judgments made about subprime loans and the lies that they were fed about them, were their fault and failures -- theirs alone. They are not alone.
I don't know if we should bail out the broken auto industry. Now that gas is back down are we all going to go back to business as usual? Go out and buy a big guzzler just to keep the broken thing creaking along. Is that real help? I don't know. Is loading up our plastic really going to help? Is debt the answer? I don't think so.
What I do know is that we are fat. Obese. See WALL-E. That is the future. We have fat lifestyles, fat habits, fat minds and arteries. Last week, Obama said that it was going to get worse but that we would emerge, leaner and meaner..I don't think lean is mean...it just rhymes. Lean is healthy. Most of us eat too much, super sized lives and meals. My four words to a better life, brand new, self-help/beauty/how-to book is being published right here on the Huffington Post, downloadable for free -- right here, right now.
Eat Less, Move More.
What this crisis is going to do is bring us into financial alignment. Families may have to live together again! What a concept. Grandparents will live with their grown children and help raise their grandchildren -- even at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Neighbors are going to meal share and carpool and child care for each other and maybe even rent out parts of homes to other families. Less meat, more beans. Might be better for you anyway. Less indoor gym workouts and more walking, more park time, more family outdoor time.
Obama promised change. Change comes from truth, Jung said, "only that which changes, remains true." but as Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, "you can't handle the truth!" Can you? Can you handle the change? You can if you understand that you are not alone, but that we can handle anything together.
In John Steinbeck's masterwork, The Grapes of Wrath, required reading for all this holiday season, during another time of great difficulty, like now, of the Powerful vs. the Powerless, where Big Business and the land companies and natural disasters created the perfect dust storm of the 1930's, people were thrown together. In the story, the Joad's, a multi-generational farming family from Oklahoma are forced, like so many others, off their land, mortgaged and foreclosed on and they head West to the promised land of California. On their first night camping by the side of the highway they meet another family.
One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and I am bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pull in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. Fore here "I lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate -- " We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first " we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: " I have a little food " plus " I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind the children listening with their souls to words they do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It's wool. It was my mother's blanket-take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning-from "I" to "we."
If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin, were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into "I," and cuts you off forever from the "we."
That is it, my fellow Americans.
At the end of It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is shown, kindness, love, support, familial bonds strengthen and deep, abiding friendships flourish.
As we head out of the darkness of the Bush and into the promise of a new day that Barack Obama has offered us, remember, "we" exist. "We" can help each other, " we " can lead our governments, businesses and institutions to change. " We" can do it. " We" can reach out, spare the dime, dollar, meal, roof.
"We" can scare the shit out of the land companies. "We" can and will and have and will again!
Peace and love to you and yours this holiday season.