Ten Best: Silver linings
It’s not all bad
Doom? Check. Gloom? Yep. Despair? Oh yeah, it’s all in there in this big crisis gumbo we’ve cooked for ourselves. But I’m here to say that it’s not the end of the world, that things are not monolithic, that, certainly, there is some good that comes with all of this bad. After all, the name of the paper is YES! Think about it this way: In every situation there are winners and losers — Warren Buffet, for example, seems to be making out like a champ right now. And remember, in Japanese, the same word is used for “crisis” and “opportunity.”
Good for editorialists
I’m not talking about the newspaper business itself, which is seeing its share of challenges these days. But if you write about current events for a living, like me, this is a Golden Age. Take your pick: We’ve got war, poverty, real estate meltdown, a looming economic disaster, crazy political theater, culture wars, a skyrocketing deficit, shifting global hierarchy, class struggle, civil unrest. The Cubs are in the playoffs. We’ve built a supercollider. And Lindsay
Lohan is a lesbian — or, if you prefer a more perfect alliteration for: Lindsay Lohan loves the ladies. Even the headlines are easy. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
People are plugging in
With so much going on in the world, it’s hard not to pay attention. People are watching the news, talking about politics, engaging in informal debate. More people than ever know what “mortgage-backed securities” are. We not only know who Ahmadinejad is, we know how to properly pronounce his name. We understand — as much as it can be understood — why the price of oil goes up, and why corn makes lousy ethanol. Most of us can now find Alaska on a map! It’s not much, but it’s a start.
People are taking action
An informed populace provides one of the necessary checks and balances we need to make our society work. To that end, people in this country are getting it together. Just as more of us are following the news, more of us are becoming active instead of passive citizens. We are using less gasoline — giving a healthy boost to public transportation systems. We are conserving water and raw materials. We are eating more nutritiously. We are blogging about our opinions and sending them off. And we are voting.
Now is the time, voters of America, to show your elected officials exactly what you think of the way they’ve been running the country. Remember that we are the ones in charge, and that it’s high time we take our country back from the lobbyists and corporations that have been poisoning the system. If you don’t like the way your representatives have been voting, throw the bums out. If you think someone else will make a difference, help her to win her election by volunteering for her campaign. Better yet, run for office yourself if you think you can do a better job — there are plenty of candidates running unopposed this year right in your backyard.
Turning a page
We are living through the queen mother of all elections, with our very future as a nation on the line. And no matter which side of the fence this one lands on, there will be either a woman or an African American in the White House for the first time. This is a very big deal.
Our flaws laid bare
We can admit that our country has made its share of mistakes over the years. It would have been nice if they all hadn’t been exposed at the same moment in history, but there it is. On the up side, those things we’ve been doing that haven’t been working are now starkly evident, all the better to go about fixing them.
For example: Perhaps banks should exercise a bit more discretion when making home loans, and maybe there should be some accountability for lenders who make loans mathematically destined for default.
A thinning of the herd (figuratively speaking)
As with any kind of correction, the recent jostling of the financial markets will introduce an element of Darwinism. Companies that don’t have the stuff to make it will fall by the wayside, allowing better organized and more efficiently run outfits to rise to the fore. The quality of goods and services will improve, and the price will go down. At least that’s the way the free market is supposed to work.
As any good blues fan knows, hard times make for good music. Nobody can wail like a broke-down, hard-luck journeyman or a good woman done wrong. The same applies across the whole artistic pantheon: We’ll be seeing better writing, better paintings, better musicals, better comic books, better rock music, better tattoos, better comedy routines…. Adversity is good for the creative process.
I was a kid during the last gasp of the Cold War — too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis but old enough to remember sitting under a desk with my head between my legs. I remember thinking that the whole world would come together if aliens attacked from outer space. This was shortly after Star Wars came out. But the premise holds: We will unite in the face of a common enemy, in this case a global financial crisis. We owe humanity no less.