December 12, 2009 Recession’s Silver Lining
Coming of age in what has been dubbed the country’s worst economic crisis since the depression has its frustrations. It is no fun graduating from college with a newly minted degree worth $20,000 in rising debt and no job prospects in sight. That pristine vision of hightailing it to a new condo in a new city may be compromised by the reality of moving back home with mom and dad while continuing that part time stint at starbucks.
It’s crazy but it seems like right now, everybody’s broke. Even the Housewives of Orange County are barely making ends meet. The only one on that show doing well is Gretchen, the housewife whose 90 year old fiance died and left her some money. Now, I’m keeping my eyes open for my own sugar grand-daddy on life support but the reality is like many impassioned millenials out there, my first encounter with adulthood may not be very pleasant.And truth be told, there are many people out there dealing with a lot more than the embarrassment of having to explain to their mom why they’re coming in, high as hell, at 2 in the morning.
All different kinds of people are facing financial problems that they’ve never had to encounter before. The illusion og security is being rooted out by long stretches of unemployment, dwindling retirement funds, foreclosed homes…no need to reiterate all the ways our society is suffering as a result of this recession. The media does that at length already. What interests me are the tiny silver linings behind these huge depressing financial clouds. One of them being a new found appreciation for food stamps. This NYTimes article discusses how food stamps are being used by surprising new demographics of the country who had probably never even considered government help before. I’m not saying this is a good thing because I’m malicious and enjoy hearing that many financially comfortable Americans are scraping to get by. I say it’s good because it may open up a new degree of compassion for those who have traditionally been expected to rely on government programs.
The stigma of Food Stamps had much to do with the people we assumed use such programs. The Welfare Queen archetype that Reagan so aptly imprinted in America’s mind has created this strong association with government assistance and cheating, tax evading, cadillac riding ghetto fabulous women who had more government sponsored money than they knew what to do with. Now that men and women with homes in the Hamptons are being put in positions where they are seeking help from the government too, perhaps these sterotypes are being surpassed by the striking reality that even people who work very hard can be in situations where they still cannot afford to feed themselves and their families.
I believe that experiences like this, paradigm shifts like this, are the things that enable social enterprise to grow. They set the stage for neocapitalism and encourage a movement of people who are looking for systems that will help them maintain their dignity and survival in the best and worst of times. The silver lining of this deep and dark cloud will hopefully be hardships that create a more compassionate community of Americans.</blockquote>