The numbers add up to zero on the economic front and yet we’re all smiling as we grit out teeth. The reason may be lack of experience. Most of us have never had to lick the bottom of disposed paper plates or recycle coffee grains. It is beyond our comprehension that we can’t have most of what we want when we want it.
As an artist I can live very well in this country for under $10,000 a year- because there is so much waste to forage. Gallery openings, cocktail parties, happy hours in hotel lobbies keep me fed without spending a dime. Thrift stores, friends with beach houses, a yoga video tape, Orbitz bargain flights, roommates, bogus car insurance and registration cards, the emergency room, cutting my own hair, – It doesn’t take much ingenuity to survive in a Disney Land of plenty. But what happens when the goodie shoot shuts down?
My many friends who have lost their jobs are, at the moment, relieved and giddy. They’ve got a car, a computer, a cell phone, clothes, often a house- and, more critically, severance pay. They’ve got a few months of freedom – They don’t have to go to work and yet they are getting a paycheck every friday. Why NOT be giddy? Worried? Of course not. This is an opportunity to do something they have always wanted to do, get a job that rewards their abilities. They don’t have to put up with that middle-management asshole anymore. Suddenly, all the angst of a lousy job is gone and they have plenty of time to get a better job or restart their youthful dream of being a surf bum, Bohemian or artist like me.
If they played it straight and have been less than successful they can delight in the leveled playing field. They don’t have to hear that Johnny and Betty’s house is worth ten times what they paid for it or that Ken and Barbie are thriving in their new holistic life-coach business. The economic Tsunami has wiped out a lot of bullshit. This isn’t upsetting to Barbie, Ken, Johnny and Betty because they believe that, around the corner, there’s another playbook list of potentials–bullshit jobs, bullshit opportunities, bullshit bargains and a magic carpet ride out of this mess and into another American Dream.
It’s like this. Months will go by. People will trot their resumes around the country, call old connections and friends for recommendations, spend their severance, enjoy their “vacation” — and it WILL seem like a vacation even though they can’t go shopping. Having shopped for thirty-odd years, they own storage sheds full of shit as well as the simple necessities: a computer, camera, car, barbecue grill, CD player, underwear, ketchup.
What could be better!? They needed a vacation! And the future looking so bright with adventure.! Finally a chance to use their neglected creativity and forge ahead, in gym toned bodies, with a renewed pioneer spirit!
The cream, finally allowed to rise to the top! The riff-raff corporate slobs, middle management thugs, inept peons riding the coattails of mandate, ferreted out in a down-size.
But they don’t get it, yet. As I said, they’ve got a TV set, unemployment benefits, new tires. They’ve got a dream and they’ve been miserable, anyway, with too much junk and too many parties. Life could get good, really good. Good and simple and spiritually acceptable.
In a few more months, severance and unemployment benefits will run out, health insurance will end, the miracle job will not appear, the car will need a clutch, the computer will crash. Barbie and Ken will have to sell their beach house at a loss, so the weekend mooching will end. The hotels will no longer serve shrimp and dip at the happy hours, galleries will close, and then, well, people are not going to be smiling anymore and that includes yours truly.
We are all apprehensive about our ability to withstand real discomfort- and yet, at the same time, excited about the possibility of living a life less boring and predictable. As creatures of the jungle and cave, a part of us yearns to prove ourselves in the arena of despair. It is the myth of Odysseus, John Wayne, and, in the back of our minds, Bonnie and Clyde. We’ve been devouring survivor video games, adventure films, cliff hanger auto-biographies, TV shows. Packing ourselves into World Wrestling stadiums, Burning Man and rock Festivals – addicted to the voyeuristic adrenaline rush of a packaged predictability.
Maybe we’re going to like the future after all. Maybe this WILL be the best thing that ever happened to us.
See you at the dumpster.