Owning something or loving someone.

I just read a devastating article on the rise in suicides and multiple murders in the US since the onset of the foreclosure crisis. Not that I hadn’t noticed an increase in stories of this nature over the last couple of months, but adjusting the lens for this view has the necessary consequence of magnification. That, plus the election in the US, and it’s hard not to let the fear creep in, to ask for promises that it’s all going to be okay. That it won’t get worse for people than this.

An emotional time in the United States what with tremendous loss juxtaposed against potential victory – even if it is in the form of just another politician. If that isn’t a sign of psychological desperation, I don’t know what is; steeped in the myth of one great leader hands are clasped beseeching someone to pull a miracle out of the muck. And if this turns the tide away from conservative economics for a couple of decades then that is some water-to-wine I am willing to drink.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am infected with the same false hope as my friends to the South seem to be. All the radicals I know going to the ballot box for Obama and I find myself jealous, as if casting a vote in any system really matters in any fundamental way. But it’s also true that if I allow it to rise in me, there is a real fear lurking down there at the base of my spine. Not just for the financial losses of my family, the possibility that their retirement savings are really gone for good, but for the loss of the potential future I had imagined. That climate change and the economic crisis, fueling social disintegration are going to change even the face of nice, placid Canada – a nation not prone to suddenness or extremes.

On the other hand I know that none of it is as real as the fact we have relationships that sustain us, families which draw together, communities of practice to trade work between – and if we’re smart about it the only losses will be material. That is, things that don’t matter all that much in the context of our closeness to creation. And I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that the fear is as much of an illusion as the system itself, without which no one could continue to profit. Which just makes the above story that much more bleak. That fear which drives people to desperate measures being so unnecesary if we could devalue material “need” just a little bit.

Imagine if rather than deciding whether to just kill oneself or to do the whole family in, the questions were simplified as “Rent rather than own?” or “One car instead of two?” Which is essentially what people are faced with in a United States that is not starving. But trapped in an insanity that says owning something is more important than loving someone, saving face is more important than saving one’s soul, the only solutions are as extreme as our poverty of spirit.

There are a hundred ways to make this crisis better, and while I still hold out hope for a Democratic President to turn the economic tide towards instead of against humanity, I also know that 99 of the hundred have nothing to do with money and everything to do with each other. Want security? Plant a garden and treat your partner with kindness and love. Form community associations to resist foreclosures rather than holing up as individuals. Get to know your damned neighbours!

And don’t forget that people the world over survive the worst things without the obvious means to do so. People survive all sorts of things. They do. They really do. And we will too.

(Just after I published this I came across this more hopefull story on CNN about responses to the crisis.)

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