Sunday, January 25, 2009

SURVIVAL WITH MALAYSIAKINI: going through economic depression

Over a recent breakfast with the boys, discussion turned to economic depression – what each of us might do for a living if worse comes to worst. Some of the great strengths of human beings are resourcefulness and creativity, without which we would never have scrambled out of the savannah and invented the Chevy Nova.

When the economy is strong and many jobs are available, our creativity is often put to rest. We find out what other people are offering, and shop for jobs like we shop for apples. When we find one that looks good, we choose it. When the economy is weak and few jobs are available, our creativity is heightened; if not, we succumb to mental depression and visions of Hooverville. So keeping an upbeat attitude is not just half the battle, it’s the whole shebang.

Our Friday morning, post-yoga breakfast group consists of aging men who love to talk, but not about sports or cars. This group, as a post-yoga group would, talks metaphysics, personality disorders, recent surgeries, the benefits and liabilities of bacon, the humor of tragedy and – based on the jokes that are told – the tragedy of humor.

As to the depression survival ideas, they flowed forth in abundance. “Dumpster diving for pizzas outside Pizza Shack,” said Michael. “Growing bean sprouts, the super health food,” said Scott. “Writing financial bailout applications,” offered George. “I plan to be a beggar, and pray,” Ed said, bowing his head. “I’m moving to the jungle and going naked,” Mike pronounced. I suggested, “Selling Danishes from a pushcart, also roasted chestnuts and pretzels.” “I already have my depression job,” said Ira, “I teach school in Vallejo.”

All of us have things we know and things we can do. Some can cook, some know how to plant a vegetable garden. Others can fix a motor, build a table, wire a lamp, make a birdhouse, climb trees, whistle, recite poetry from memory, train dogs and so forth. Some of these things are useful in predepression jobs, but all are useful all the time to someone. In a depression, all these things form the deep pool of human talent that overcomes famine, war and disease. As the monetary system shifts and changes, it’s human talent that always saves the day and rescues humanity from the clutches of disaster. Except on Seinfeld.

Money, after all, is just a token for objects and activities. It has no intrinsic existence of its own, which is why it has any value at all. As a token, it can be used for anything, and thereby assume any form. This magical quality has made money the biggest celebrity of human culture. We think nothing of throwing away a dollar’s worth of leftovers, but would never throw away a dollar bill. This is because we know that leftovers are just leftovers, but a dollar bill can be anything.

In a depression economy, talents and ambition matter all the more. The talents don’t have to be extraordinary, because we simply need what others can do and others need what we can do. Our common humanity becomes more obvious, our need for each other more plain. Like Kramer tells Jerry, “I’m your buddy!”

[larry barnett]