THE STRUGGLE FOR NORMALCY

I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday and that, despite the challenges we face, 2012 proves to be better than the year before.

Having said that, I must admit I observed with some confusion the reports of an upsurge in the economy with a reported decline in unemployment to 8.5% and a significant uptick in consumer spending for the Christmas season over last year. At first it made no sense to me, but after going inward for the answers (since, despite my dogged quest for objectivity I’m subject to the same emotional contortions as everyone else) I realized that our behavior is driven by a strong human impulse—the desire for normalcy. The more uncomfortable the news and terrifying the consequences, the more we seek to perceive stability. It’s a psychological defense mechanism we’re all familiar with and employ liberally—denial. Then it occurred to me the stages of grief described by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross applied quite nicely. They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They don’t necessarily occur in order or even in their totality, but the analogy is quite apt. To use myself as an example, while it is clear to me on one level that the economy cannot really improve unless we take real steps to heal it (i.e., reduce the size and spending of the government, balance the budget, correct the tax code, stop crony capitalism, etc.), I spent as much on gifts as I would have in any normal year—perhaps even a bit more. Yet logic tells me I should be adopting more of a bunker mentality. I also have a healthy dose of anger, as readers of past rants are abundantly aware. There are also components of depression and even acceptance.]

We’re all in different places with our own mix of the stages. For example, I see the Wall Street occupiers and the Tea Party, although on opposite spectrums ideologically, as sharing anger as the predominant emotion, while perhaps 40-50% of the populace seems mired in the denial stage, following the day-to-day prognostications of the myriad analysts as they report the minutiae of this and that index, or ignoring the news entirely. Obviously, those unfortunates already hit by the broadsword of unemployment or bankruptcy have necessarily progressed beyond this stage.

So, to begin the New Year on a positive note, I choose to focus on and cultivate the last stage, that of acceptance. Because I believe that after any storm, no matter how bad or how long, the cloud cover ultimately breaks. And as I’ve stated in an earlier rant (if I may be permitted the indulgence of a mixed metaphor this once), when a flawed system fails something new rises out of the ashes.  I have confidence that we have a better chance of it happening here than anywhere else.

In the meantime, keep your family and friends close and have a very happy, healthy year going forward. God bless.

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