Are We Being Too Complacent About the Economy Crumbling Around Us?
A New York Times headline Friday horrifyingly screamed "651,000 Jobs Lost in February: Rate Rises to 8.1%, Highest in 25 Years."
And according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, almost all sectors of the economy are affected: retail dropped 40,000 jobs over the past month, and 608,000 since December 2007; jobs in leisure and hospitality fell by 33,000; the financial sector lost 44,000 jobs in February, and on and on.
Yet, according to an article recently published on AlterNet, one-third of Americans aren't worried about losing their jobs.
Do they know something we don't know? Is the stat a testament to that vaunted American optimism? Or have Americans been fattened into complacency by years of relative wealth (for some)?
Our readers had much to say about the shocking statistic:
davy writes that it's hardly surprising that people go into a deep state of denial in difficult times. "As a retired therapist, I can safely say, that in my experience, denial is what people are best at."
Many readers agreed, arguing that Americans are overly -- and unwisely -- complacent:
Jay Randal writes:
Years ago, I worked for Builders Square in Florida, a rival to Home Depot, and at that time I realized the company was going downhill into bankruptcy. I told some of my fellow employees to start looking for other jobs. A few of them laughed at me and said their jobs were secure. I was proved right, when all the Builders Square stores closed in Florida, and everybody lost their jobs.
Some Americans live in a bubble of unreality and refuse to believe the economy is sliding into another depression. They will continue to believe their jobs are secure until the very day they receive pink slips.
kegbot1 points out that aversion to reality is a characteristic shared by all Americans.
Virtually all Americans live in a bubble of unreality. It could be the sine qua non of Americanism.
But some readers point out that complacency will end when there is no more food on the table:
More specifically, no one is asking the question of what happens when tens of millions of adult Americans with no serious job prospects at all, and can't feed their families, start to turn to rage -- in the best-armed country in the world.
I bet they think about worst-case scenarios at the White House (perhaps this gives Obama night sweats), but no one is talking about the possible conclusion of all of this.
Maybe Americans will go like sheep to live beneath the underpasses and quietly expire out of sight and mind of the elite.
But maybe not.
and_abottleofrum has a different interpretation for why many Americans idly stand by as the economy crashes around them: an abiding faith in the God of capitalism:
For some Americans, saying the economy is going down is tantamount to saying God is dead. The infallibility of the economy in the good old U S of A is an article of faith for many people. To think the economy is mortal, and now mortally wounded, is too much of a blow to the basic assumptions on which they've led their lives and planned out their futures for them to handle.
Blue Heron agrees:
I think maybe the problem is that Americans have venerated corporations for so long, with slick fantasies of stocks, shiny new cars and bonuses, that even now they are afraid of criticizing that culture. I get the feeling that the denial is all about protecting this delusional little fantasy.