American Culture

Hold on tight to your dream

Our friend Sara over at Orcinus is one of those people who gets it. Big picture, long view, and a perspective that’s as deep as it is broad. Her latest examination of our collective predicament is a great example.

As long as that core vision holds — as long as people in the group remember who they are and what they’re about — individuals, families, communities, organizations and nations can make and re-make themselves over and over, re-defining themselves to adapt to whatever comes. Leaders come and go. Generations die off and are replaced. Invaders can take away every damn asset they have, sack their cities, pillage their homes, kill their cattle and salt their fields — but as long as their ability to create collective meaning and purpose remains intact, that internal vision gives them everything they need to regroup, rebuild, and carry on.

And, conversely — once they lose that shared worldview and purpose, cultures lose their ability to make any sense out of the world, and dissolve into incoherence. It is, in the end, how they die. As an example, consider the Plains tribes: the buffalo were so central to their culture that when they were gone, many tribes literally lost their ability to order their days, assign significance to their experiences, and define their relationship to each other and the world. Their ability to make any kind of sense of reality died with the buffalo. As Crow chief Plenty Coups put it, “After that, nothing happened.”

Take five minutes and read the whole post.

2008 is going to be an important year in our nation’s history. The more coherently and thoughtfully we examine what our lives are really about, the better off we’ll be down the road.

7 replies »

  1. She seems like a bright person, however misguided she might be. I respectfully disagree with you that she “Gets it.” In fact,I sense a naivete in her idealistic post. Conservatives are not the root of all evil and historical revisionism is done on all sides of the political spectrum. However, some people feel need to lay blame, and I guess conservatives will take it on the chin(we’re pretty used to it by now). The world is changing, and it has nothing to do with the liberal/conservative wrestling match. The world is changing because the world has always been changing. The information highway is just increasing the speed with which people are aware of the changes. I sense a lot of fear of the unknown in the liberal sphere of the world, which is understandable. The world is a dangerous place, and perhaps people would be better off protecting themselves and looking after the welfare of their families. Things aren’t going to get better, and people need to become proactive in addressing their futures. Rhetoric and hand wringing aren’t going to change the course of the economy, world events, China, politics, poverty, Islamic fundamentalism, and the emergent corporate state. Change is happening right now, the changes are going to accellerate, and not for the better. Instead of wasting time trying to lay blame and do a lot of hand wringing, accept the inevitible and deal with it. Refuse to be a victim, attend to your needs, and revisit your 401-K’s. Right now, it’s probably better to be more pragmatic, and less idealistic. We’re in for a wild ride for the next 50 years or so, and fighting windmills is a waste of time and resources. Good intentions are noble, but the reality of the world today requires every person to look out for themselves.

    Things are going to get a lot tougher, and I repeat that everyone should revisit their 401-K’s.


  2. Adapt and survive is what humanity has been doing forever…

    …those tribes, peoples, nations and individuals who do not adapt to change usually wither and die off.

    Man is still red in tooth and claw…whatever cloth of civilized thought he dresses himself in. BUT without a doubt those people who have a common cause, sense of community, identity and belief in something beyond just the family unit are winners.

    Someone turn the lights back on in the UK…

  3. I caught Sara’s truly inspiring post on Orcinus. Just wanted to say to Jeff that if the financial industry would demonstrate just a drop of idealism and toss aside its “abandon all ethics, all ye who enter” approach, the average working person, like me, might have some faith in 401(k)s, IRAs, mutual funds, etc.

    Instead, I’m too suspicious of fund managers’ motives (as well as leery of high fees) to have anything to do with these instruments (right word?) that supposedly replace pensions and, ideally to conservatives, Social Security.

    Also, you can’t have a world where the average person is expected to be a mini-financial analyst. Most people are either inapable of developing your financial acumen or are not interested in the world of finances, however to the detriment. (Though I don’t have much yet, I buy gold.)

    That said, I your input to S&R is much valued.

  4. Just wanted to let you know, Dr. S., that I caught the ELO reference in the title of the post.

  5. Russ,

    I’m very suspicious of fund manager’s motives also. That’s why I’d never trust any fund manager. The average person doesn’t have to be a mini-analyst, but thrift is always rewarded. One doesn’t need a fund manager to retire comfortably. Ideally, if you put $5000 per year in the bank, after 30 years you’d have a tidy sum. I tell my young friends who still smoke that if they quit smoking and put that money in a savings account, they’d live longer, be healthier, and retire rich.

    The only reason I have financial acumen is because, that’s what I do for a living. I would expect anyone who has a profession would have a level of acumen in whatever profession they were in:)

    I recently read a poll of conservatives thoughts on Social Security. Most conservatives don’t want privatization of Social Security. Many do want choices of how their money is invested. I myself, want Social Security to remain independent, with the age raised to 70.

    You’re buying gold….that’s a real good trade. Expect gold to take out the $900 level pretty soon. I’m going to be break even on some physical bullion that I bought way back in 1979…the last time it traded this high. Of course, if I would have invested that money I bought gold with in tax free muni’s, I’d have a lot more money today. But, I’ve gotta say….gold is very sexy.


  6. Thanks for explaining that, Jeff. Also, didn’t know gold reached a level in 1979 that it’s now at. My fundamental lack of faith is in the dollar, however.

    A financial layman like myself watches its decline and wonders what anything, including stock, will be worth if the dollar continues to decline.

    That’s why I keep it simple with gold. Even if it doesn’t appreciate, it’s still worth something. The dollar one day may be worth nothing and, along with it, stocks.

    In other words, gold will survive the total collapse of the financial system.

  7. The financial system isn’t going anywhere. As I mebtioned previously on this blog, a decling dollar isn’t a bad thing. A declining dollar is good for exports, Americn jobs, parts of the stock market. It might cost more to buy a Volvo, or other imports, but I don’t mind the declining dollar. In fact a further decline of 15% would be very good for the economy, the stock market, and the debt market. Part of the run up in the stock market can be attribued to the dollar’s decline.It’s helped companies earnings significantly, esecially those companies that do a lot of exporting. The decline of the dollar has been a bonanza for the US farmer, as it has buoyed the export market in grains and helped grains double in price in the past 16 months.

    Gold is good right now,but not because of speculative hoarding, but because of industrial demand. There have been periods where gold was virtually worthless, such as 1945 Berlin.