Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tipping Over

We have seen some of the top ten drops in the stock market in the last couple of  weeks, leaving many an investment conscious American’s head spinning.  People are panicking, feeling the urgent need to SELL SELL SELL!  Gold has skyrocketed to record highs, oil has descended on the worries of a drop in global demand as the world economy slows.
A passenger in an English cab was killed, shot by police in what was supposed to be a routine stop on the suspicion of gun-possession.  At a vigil protesting what was assumed to be over the top police aggression and mourning the loss of of the 29 year old Mark Duggan, violence erupted, destroying what was supposed to be a peaceful protest.  Now, after days of continuous looting and rioting, sections of London and other English urban centers are struggling to figure out just what happened.  Fear grips the cities as night descends, leaving citizens to wonder if the engorged police presence is enough to deter the disenfranchised youth from taking to the streets again.
The American political system appears to be stuck in deadlock.  Politicians on either side of the aisle have dug in, establishing trench warfare.  They lob grenades at each other from a distance, uninterested in truly engaging the issues, preferring to dodge and feint, hide and watch.  The result is a pensive public, full of individuals who fear they have lost their voice in their future.  The only thing certain right now is uncertainty.
It feels as if the world is about to tip over the edge and descend into chaos and anarchy.  But, it doesn't have to.
I would like to suggest a perspective.  Recently, the New York Times was blasted for including a cover picture of a young Somalian boy suffering from starvation.  The picture is definitely graphic, showing every detail in the small skeleton.  He is curled up, covering his face and his nakedness - here is a link to the photo.  
Why was the Times blasted for the photo?  Because American sensibilities refuse to acknowledge the tribulations others go through on this planet.  We sit inside our windowless towers, ignoring the plight of the rest of the world.  Occasionally we give to an aid foundation or sponsor a mission through a local church, but more often than not we are concerned about mere trivialities in life.  Burger King or McDonalds?  Red Box or Netflix?  Tall, Grande, or Venti?  Paper or plastic?
Our concerns and decisions pale in when compared to the real plight of many within and beyond our borders.  So our stock market is falling.  At least we are eating while this boy is not.
In England, the riots are supposedly attacking the rich, the police,  and the government, as a way to protest their oppression.  While there may be a few rioters with this in mind, many of the news stories coming from London and the surrounding cities illuminate the real cause for the looting - opportunism.  
Many of the youth taking to the streets seek no more than goods to bring home.  They are shopping through broken windows and broken lives.  They attack the stores in their neighborhood simply because the rich might shop there, never giving second thought to the financial situation of the owner.  They set fire to buildings, cars, buses, and whole city blocks, destroying entire livelihoods in the process.  There is no organization beyond the common bond of chaos.  There is no protest.  Many of the youth have responded to the question of why with an extremely hypocritical answer - if the politicians can be corrupt, and the rich can have whatever they want through financial manipulation, why can’t we?
On our own shores, we constantly hear and see accounts of who is to blame for our financial and political situation.  In Washington, self serving politicians take every advantage they can to explain why they aren’t the bad guy.  Many of these politicians started out years ago with a goal to make the United States a better place.  They outlined their hopes and dreams, worked hard to climb the political ladder, and finally made it to the national ladder.  The problem becomes the temptation of power and money.  Washington has corrupted our leaders, causing them to forget the reason they are there.
How do all three of these relate to each other?  They are all symptoms of the same disease - a self-centered existence.  
The recent recession and the budding stagnation of the world economy have been driven primarily by one element - over reaching.  In our attempt to constantly chase the American dream and achieve that life of MORE, the rich strive to get richer, corporations and their stock holders eagerly await higher stock prices, the middle and lower class try to keep up with the Joneses, burying themselves  in debt.  The government of the United States has done the same thing, extending expenditures beyond income.  We are at a tipping point because of our self satisfying actions.
Because of our extreme self-centeredness, we ignore the world beyond us, whining about our own problems as we continue to spend ruthlessly beyond our means.
The English riots are nothing more than extreme instant gratification.  Instead of following the American way and charging the new kicks, they chose instead to break the plate glass and take them.  Their self-centeredness blocks out any concern for who owns the shop, how many workers might be affected by the destruction, and how it can hurt those around them.  They are focused only on themselves and have no concern for anyone else.
Our politicians are the same way.  They have become lost in power.  Their only goal is to be re-elected and gain more.  Through their seat, they have become corrupted, losing sight of the reasons they are there.  They are self-centered and egocentric.
Find a way to break this cycle in your own life.  Learn about the world, help those beyond yourself, behave responsibly, and strive to make the world a better place.  Be aware of how your actions affect others as well as yourself.  Turn your focus outwards, because right now, we are about to tip over and fall into our own greed.  We can change that though, if we just take a step back.

I would love to make September a reader-focused month.  My plan is to build a series on your thoughts and ideas, focusing on issues you see in your daily experiences.  Email me your ideas and I will put together the September plan.
Thanks to everyone ahead of time!

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