is the sky falling yet?

i’ll be the first to admit that i’ve been apprehensively awaiting the end of the world (as we know it, heh) since about 1993. not really sure why, just one of those things that comes with growing up in the 80s and being “inspired” by the bellicose rantings of our petrified hair-laden leading man — you know, republican jesus — ronald reagan.

people tend to forget that we did literally have the threat of nuclear annihilation present every single day; and no, i don’t think i’m conflating the feeling due to some overdeveloped red dawn-like stigma. furthermore, we were reminded of it constantly in the news and in films like the day after, testament, wargames and even “comedies” – spies like us come to mind. so by the mid-90s, maybe it was just pure nostalgia that gave way to the sense that some calamitous event was absolutely headed down the pipe.

but then it never happened. we even had a most promising scenario with y2k, but still, no dice. over time i suppose the feeling subsided a bit (probably during the years i was living in australia and generally became a happier person), but it has always remained even in some latent form.

all that is, no doubt, an interesting preamble to my thoughts on our current situation. but here’s how it relates: when someone today talks about a financial crisis, my mind usually goes back to when i was in college in the 90s, just formulating my disaster hypothesis. one vivid memory i have is being in the student center at middle tennessee state university and seeing the tables set up there by credit card companies hawking their false promise of free money. because that’s what it is to an 18 year old just out of the reach of their parents’ influence – free money.

it doesn’t take a nobel prize in economics to deduce that this won’t end well. back in 1993 i didn’t even know what a credit score was…but i did know that we had become one nation, under debt. and now, the earliest financial lesson many newly independent american teenagers were going to learn on their own was it is the american way to worry about it later. put it on the card, throw the unopened statements in a drawer somewhere, and ignore it until one day you get a call from someone who wants their money.

and you have a crisis on your hands.

well, the phone’s ringing and the bills are due, america. we’ve had a congress, financial system and almost an entire population living the american way — put it on the card…worry about it tomorrow. well, guess what? today is tomorrow. or at least it had better be. we can’t act like teenagers with brand spankin’ new shiny plastic credit cards any more. we have to learn a new american way. cash is king, baby, and it’s the only tomorrow-proof economy there is.

the solution to today’s crisis can’t be about finding some way to keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them. the longer we try that, the worse the outcome will be. the sky will fall and there will be no tomorrow.

the great farce of our society is that we actually have the means to provide for everyone — food, shelter, medicine, and even plenty of the non-essential distractions that we american consumers tend to enjoy so much. alas, we’ll even spend money we don’t have to give the appearance of strength and stability, rather than take the steps necessary to be truly strong and stable.

so…are we going to change? do i get to go down in history as yet another rube in his day prophesying the end times? there was an era of my life when i had a perverse semi-interest in the coming of calamity. at least it would be interesting. for a while. but then, i realized, it would get old. really fast.

these days — i hope i’m wrong.