The Great Recession has been followed by the Great Unease...or better yet, let's call it the Big Uneasy. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed an era when so many people are so uncertain and nervous about the future. Sure, I remember getting under my desk in 1st grade when we practised civil defense against a Soviet nuclear attack. We all may have been nervous, but nonetheless we were confident that ultimately we would prevail against the Evil Empire. And the Sixties scared the living shit out of me, with the assassinations, riots, war, and psychos. Don't talk to me about what a groovy time the Sixties were. As a pre-teen, I thought our country was caught in some vortex spinning down the drain. But we all still believed that maybe something good would emerge from this chaos, like the Civil Rights Movement.
But today, we don't seem so confident that we will prevail or that something good will emerge from our mass financial trauma. The American Spirit seems to be succumbing to a profound pessimism, the depths of which it has not experienced since the 1930's. Despite the monster rally in the financial markets since March 2009, no one has any real conviction that national economic health is just around the corner. Even more disturbing, a recent poll showed that for the first time ever, most Americans doubt that their children will attain a better standard of living than they presently have.
The general mood is that a bad moon is on the rise. Nasty events are going to overwhelm us, like a terrorist event that will make 9/11 look like a warm up act. Yet my sense is the the Big Uneasy is less a fear of some historic catastrophe and more a fear of a gradual winding down, coming apart, dissolution of the bonds that bind us, dissipation, devolution. Deep down we suspect that America is in a permanent cultural, economic, political, social decline. That decline will result in social unrest as the Have-nots finally rise up against the Have's and our enemies around the world, particularly would be Islamic mass murderers, will slowly encircle us.
Suddenly, I'm hearing of "escape plans." For example, I was at at cocktail party recently when a guy was telling me that he was thinking of buying a farm in Ireland that he could flee to when the "the shit finally hits the fan" in the US. People standing around downed their drinks and nodded their heads as if accepting the premise of such drastic action. And then I read an interview in the WSJ with John Malone, the media mogul who controls the conglomerate, Liberty Media. Asked about the biggest risks to Liberty, Malone said that his greatest concern was the country's survival. "We have a retreat that's right on the Quebec border. We own 18 miles on the border, so we can cross. Anytime we want to, we can get away." This, from the 400th richest man in the world according to Forbes. In the Sixties, the rich built bomb shelters; today they buy ranches in Canada or some place like Costa Rica.
These intimations of Armageddon are not limited to the US. I recently read that the fad among the newly mega-wealthy in China is to buy property they can flee to when the proletarian masses finally remember that they are communists.
One might wish that we had a leader who could inspire and make us feel that truly all we have to fear is fear itself. A long time ago, one might have harbored such expectations for Barak Obama, with his charismatic if nebulous message of hope and positive change. But he has turned out to be nothing more that a classic ole time liberal who kowtows to the unions and left-winger superannuated ancient mariners in Congress. Why else, for example, would he have spent the first year and half of his administration focused almost totally on passing the old liberal chestnut, national healthcare? What did that monstrosity of a bill do to heal us economically and rejuvenate our nation's natural optimism?
God can best bless American by sending us Ronald Reagan reincarnated.