Sunday, September 26, 2021


We Need a Bailout of the Spirit…

January 2, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) The good news is that the Bailout will make a difference.

The Federal government’s response to America’s limping economy will slowly begin to ease some of the pain and hysteria. It’s a recession–we knew that before they told us. We’ve survived recessions. At some point in the next couple of years, the infusion of vast sums of cash and the restructuring of our troubled financial system could even give us the elusive feeling that Happy Days Are Here Again, or at least on the horizon.

However–and this is the real news–there are elements of our current situation that money will not remedy. America’s hurting, all right–we’re ethically, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. And in one way or another, most of us can take a bit of the blame.

Our continued degradation of personal values, our redefining the word “real” for our convenience and our shameless slacking on what is right extends beyond our individual minds and bodies, beyond the walls of where we live and work. What is acceptable in our personal lives not only becomes what we accept in the world; how we feel about ourselves finds a way to shape the world in which we live.

To believe wrongheaded actions as individuals don’t ultimately contribute to America’s ill condition is to tell yourself the gas guzzler you drive doesn’t do its part to deplete the ozone. Or that your default on a credit card a few years back didn’t in some way add to what is happening on Wall Street.

All of us as individuals make up the collective spirit of this country. Bulletin: America’s soul has a gaping hole in it.

The fact is, for a long time we haven’t cared about anything else but getting ours. It is our lack of interest, our selfishness and ego-driven delusion that created a country where millions are homeless, where hardworking people can’t afford adequate health care, where for eight years the Bush administration was allowed to do what it wanted; a country where kids run the parents and the schools.

The America we’ve created is where fast food is considered nutritious, where a grade-A huckster like Kanye West is referred to as a “musical genius,” where plastic surgery is the norm, where people captivated by reality TV hang onto every nonsensical move of celebrities and where Iraq was billed as an immediate threat to national security.

None of this could exist without us either creating it, accepting it or exuding the indifference that allows it to be.

So now the chickens have come home to roost. Only, characteristic of our ever morphing perversion, the chickens have returned as Godzilla, crushing everything in his path.

Billions of dollars can’t save a society where a security guard can be trampled to death by a stampede of rabid Long Island, New York Walmart Christmas shoppers. Likewise, the life lesson for wealthy investors bilked of billions in an uptown pyramid scheme would seem to be more than, If it seems too good to be true….

In the end, the recession has nothing to do with money and everything to do with who we have become as people. We have seen the enemy, and he is us. Forget Wall Street, Main Street, the Side Street and the Dead End Street–our entire nation is collapsing under the staggering weight of our dysfunction as individuals and as a culture.

Even as the bottom has fallen out of an already empty box, many of us either cannot grasp or simply refuse to face the truth. We balk at the taxpayer having to bail out businesses and institutions, as if our systematic, generational reckless behavior had absolutely nothing to do with creating it. That same thinking spanks the CEOs of America’s big three auto makers for flying around in private jets, when their real problem is manufacturing shitty cars.

Despite all of this, there is hope.

The H word isn’t entirely synonymous with President-elect Barack Obama, though his win more than suggests the times they are a changin.’ However, Obama, albeit mighty impressive, is but one skinny man.

No, the change we truly need is within each of us.

Obama himself said as much during and after his campaign. While discussing how America would deliver itself from the mire, he uttered that magnificent, durable phrase, “Personal responsibility.”

No one person, no amount of money or Congress-hatched master plan can alter America’s wayward ways but the people of America. Instead of waiting for the economic bailout to take hold, we must take hold of our selves. As individuals, we have to find a way to revitalize the goodness within. What needs to be fixed is different for all of us, but working on ourselves has to be the mission.

The idea that doing the right thing in our own lives–telling the truth, being good to yourself, embracing reality at all its sharp edges–can change the face of the country sounds awfully quixotic, unless you consider this is exactly what the nation did when it elected Obama. A vote that began as an individual choice, at the polls became an unstoppable force.

Prolific songwriter/producer Curtis Mayfield said it best during the late ’60s Impressions hit, “A Choice of Colors:” “People must prove to the people a better day is coming.” Ain’t that the truth.

We got ourselves into this. Summoning a new spirit of morality and integrity will get us out.

Written By Steven Ivory


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