One of the things I like seeing about this economy is the spirit of resistance and, often enough, of triumph that is coming in response. You can see it in the blogosphere. There’s a lot of BS out there, about how it’s going to be ‘over’ in a few months. I don’t think so. We’re never really going back, folks. It doesn’t matter what people will say when they feel it’s safe to go back into the water of gratuitous waste, dishonest lending, foolish borrowing and general overextension of everything. It won’t be ‘over’ – it won’t be ‘recovered’ – it’ll be different. And I believe different is already here and here to stay.
One blog I found recently really turns me on: Man vs. Debt. It’s written by an amateur and that’s one of the things I like about it. Not every post is a winner, any more than it is here. Some are stellar. It’s real. My favorite is the one on how he decided to sell anything in his house that wasn’t nailed down – from diaper pins to soap dispensers – on ebay and in garage sales. A family member told him that surrendering their possessions would feel like “going backwards”, but he said that being in debt is being backwards – getting out of debt is moving forward, and they can always buy the things they really want again with cash once that happens. What a radical break that is with most of society in the West!
Aside: I live in a part of the United States where the value system is to get as big a house as you can (almost everything centers on the acquisition of a house), on the most land you can own, and then spend the rest of your life shopping at Pier One Imports or Walmart to fill it with as many things as you can (no empty space – it’s not allowed), and then die and give it all to your kids, so they can have an estate sale, and use the money to rinse and repeat.
It’s Noah’s Ark syndrome. Build or acquire a really big structure and fill it with your own copy of everything – two of each. You need a dining room table, and a little kitchen table too. You need two cars. You need at least two TVs. Two telephones. And so it was that all the Noahs signed mortgages, as if theirs were the true ship into which two of every kind of possession must go, and they filled it with two of everything, and closed the hatch. And one day they died in there, and I bought their TV at an estate sale for $20, watched it for a year, and then sold it for $10 in a garage sale.
I don’t think the rain is coming to wash away all our possessions. I don’t think we’ll never see furniture again, if we don’t acquire more of it. And what I like is neither do people that write blogs like that. They’re busy casting things out of the Ark! Swim! Swim, you useless curios and pieces of fiberboard crap! Swim back into the stream and be gobbled up by people who are building arks for the end of the sale!
Another example of some amateurs going at it is the spunky, youthful Five Girls Ditching Debt. Might as well be Spice Girls in my book. Ooo la la! No sooner do you click on these babes’ site than you see pledge #1 – follow David Ramsey’s Baby Steps. Darned straight. Those rules got me out of credit card debt. Think of it like an exercise journal where you maintain the will to victory by the sheer chutzpah of posting your goals and your progress on a public wall for all the world to see. It’s like talking trash to yourself. Yeah, I’m going to kick debt’s arse! You hear me debt? Watch me! You got something you want to say? Yeah, I’m telling the whole world how I’m going to take you down after school. You’re mine, debt. What, is that a tear in your eye?
No, these girls aren’t bullies. Bullies are just pussy cats who can’t deal with their inner softness. These girls are gym-kata fighters with the foo of debt erasure. They’re roller derby debt erasers. I wouldn’t bet against them. The five are keeping it real. Gutsy gals, all of them.
I love what people are doing to revamp their lives, hack society’s assumptions, and rethink the world of excess. It’s a revival of sorts, folks. And you can see the little conversions, the little salvific acts appearing all over the place. There’s a revolution goin’ on. I’d like to see Thomas Friedman shocked one morning to wake up and have to amend his friggin 37-CD set on the “Flat World” by saying that the US is starting to outdistance Japan as a nation of savers and investors. Not because I’ve got a flag up my butt and I’m waving in the patriotic wind, but because it’s good for us, man. The times they are a changing.
The new wind is get up and liberate yourself from the bondage to debt. Paul Simon should make a new version of his song – call it “50 Ways to Leave Your Banker” – “Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free.” These guys (and at least five girls) are the drop outs from the economy of economic serfdom – the burn your credit card anti-debt protesters of the new economy (today the draft card is your credit card – it sends you off to Sam’s Club for a three year stint facing down the enemy of interest). These are the radicals. Don’t underestimate their potency. Hear them roar.