Unnoticed, Unrecognized Grief

Parents feel it, as they think about their children graduating into the world of work. “What will they do? Where will the jobs be?”

People feel it, as they think about their later years. Their savings earn nothing, their investments are stalled or falling, their property unsalable. “How will we live?”

Citizens feel it, as their governments slash away at services, repairs go undone, much needed new infrastructure is deferred, yet taxation remains high.

There is an unnoticed feeling abroad today in our society.

It is an unrecognized grief for the world we thought we had.

You see this play out in Kübler-Ross’ stages of death and dying.

There are those in denial (and no, I’m not pointing to the “1%”): somehow — whether it’s by technology coming to the rescue, political party in power being changed, or “whatever”, things will be reversed and our old track re-established. All will “be well”.

The bargaining to try and make it so is also going on all around us, whether that is portrayed by occupations, protest marches, or negotiations for trade deal after trade deal to somehow resurrect prosperity.

Let’s not overlook the implicit bargaining of low rates and quantitative easing programs: “we’re making money cheaper every day, so that you will go and spend, spend, spend”.

At the same time, people sink a little further into despond. Little of this has any meaning for them.

What does have meaning for them are the millstones they feel around their necks. The mortgage, the line of credit, the credit cards, the tools of consumption that still demand their monthly pounds of flesh though there is no capacity to engage in retail therapy or vacation shocks any longer.

The job, and how long it will last, and how little empowerment one feels to deal with a growing nastiness in bureaucracies and management. The feeling that one’s voice must be stilled for the sake of employment.

The little signs all around that things are decaying, getting worse. The feeling that “ho hum, there’s nothing to be done” that underlie the final pushes to destroy opponents if possible. Drivers frustrated by gridlock pushing to have streetcars removed and buses curtailed; transit users frustrated by slipping service standards demanding lanes be taken away to “make transit move”; cyclists riding roughshod over sidewalks and pedestrians to avoid being mown down in the streets.

The sense of being trapped, that there is no exit, no way out. We remember being able to just “up and move” freely and easily; when a property is underwater, with more owed on it than it will fetch, there is no escape.

We have not yet — not in a horribly visible sense — gone to the place the former Soviet Union went when it collapsed in 1991. As Dmitri Orlov notes, most of his high school class is now dead, and he is just approaching fifty years old. Alcoholism, drugs, suicides, losing the will to live, each left this world one at a time, unnoticed.

We need to notice. We need to pay attention.

This — not what’s in the news, not what lies ahead in terms of “peak capital”, “peak energy”, this shortfall or that, and not in terms of the second wave of the global financial crash that began in 2007 starting to mount near the shore as a second debt tsunami — is what will matter.

The continued unwinding of the lives we thought we were living, but which were supported only by racking up the bills, will happen regardless. Indeed, it needs to happen, painful though that be, in order to clear the way to a future that is not grindingly downward.

Rather we must break our moulds, our habits, our thoughts and begin again, in order to build.


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