The Crisis

By Jim Selman | Bio

an elder, what do I have to say regarding the ‘crisis’ in the financial
system? To begin, I don’t know what to say about the crisis. But I do
know that this is not a time for ‘idle’ opinions or mouthing platitudes
and ideological dogma. I know the seemingly ‘sudden’ emergence of this
situation is mostly the fact that the media and government pays
attention only after something happens and doesn’t bother to listen to
thoughtful commentary before the fact—perhaps because so much of their
business is about who to blame.  

A few things are clear. One is
that we’ve been living off borrowed money and resources for a long
time. Sooner or later, we need to pay what we owe. That time is now.
Secondly, this is the latest example of the larger breakdown in our
consumer-driven, infinite-growth, “science-will-save-us” fantasy. Our
collective worldview is flawed and has been for a long time. The
Cartesian notion (of which capitalism is one manifestation) is
predicated on the idea that human beings are independent ‘actors’,
separate from an objective world, and capable of understanding and
controlling their circumstances to the benefit of themselves and

Over the past few decades, the financial world has
consistently added complexity (called derivatives) to the extent that
no one understands how it all hangs together. And, as we’re seeing now,
it is obvious that we’ve lost control. We can point fingers at each
other all day long. The fact is that the cause of this mess doesn’t
matter. What matters is whether we can recover, and if so, when can we
expect to restore trust and confidence in our government and our

As someone who has faced personal crises, unmanageable
complexity and loss of control, I know that nothing much changes until
we ‘hit bottom’ and acknowledge that we cannot recover by
ourselves—that only a ‘higher power’ can save us. In the case of the
U.S. economy, the ‘higher power’ might be the American taxpayer but
only if those in power are willing to ‘surrender’ and accept
responsibility for the condition we’re in.

I don’t know how this
might look, but surrendering and accepting responsibility would restore
the ideal that this is a “government of the people”. The people will
also need to acknowledge their responsibility as well, since we’re the
ones living beyond our means (even if motivated to do so by greedy
merchants and politicians). If we could do this, then the experts might
design a way to ‘soften’ the crash and allow us the time to start
saving, paying off our debts and investing in real assets that can be
fairly traded.

I don’t need an economist to explain to me the
nature of the crisis. I can see it in the endless malls and the super
size meals and the luxury designer stores. I can see it in the obscene
house prices in virtually every market in the USA. As an elder, I have
compassion for all of us, and I say that it is time for us to wake up, grow up and accept responsibility for having lost our way and forgotten who we are.

© 2008 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.