I grew up with stories of The Great Depression because I was lucky enough to be very close to my grandparents on both sides. Although my mother's parents refused to discuss it, my father's parents had many 'entertaining' tales, such as:
1. The fact that my grandmother owned only one bra and one set of panties, which were religiously washed out the night before and hung up to dry for work the next day.
2. My grandmother had 7 siblings and two parents. Her father was the town drunk, who drank away any wages he got for the little work he did. That left it up to the rest of them to find money somehow. My great grandmother, Nana, raised chickens and sold the eggs for a little extra money, and my grandmother was the only one of the children who was able to find work.
3. Grandma was a telephone operator in New York and that was considered to be a plush job by Great Depression standards. Her bosses insisted on perfect diction, so the women would hold pebbles in their mouths and learn to speak clearly around the pebbles. If those standards were applied today, most telephone operators would be on the streets.
But what really stuck in my head was the great deprivation they all suffered. And it scares me, because I truly do not believe the American people are equipped for The Great Depression Redux. And although experts weren't sure before, they are now: We are in it. The job statistics and home foreclosures prove it.
Did I say it scares me? I should have said I'm terrified, because we have much farther to fall. No matter how much deprivation they faced in The Great Depression, they were never used to all the luxuries that we are. Think of how many things we have made "standard" since The Great Depression that were unheard of or luxuries at that time:
2. Vaccinations and health care
3. Cable TV
4. Computers and internet
5. Electric Appliances such as microwaves, blenders, electric stoves, electric 'iceboxes'
6. Reliable and cheap food supply
7. Reliable and cheap clothing and shoe supply
I'm sure there are more: This is just off the top of my head.
Can we forgo all these 'necessary' items? Some of us may have to. And although I'm typing this on my computer in the comfort of my warm(ish) home while it's 34 degrees outside, I realize that I cannot fully appreciate the horrific impact should I lose it all. And I know that others are thinking the same thing. For a very bleak view of what the UK is seeing, read this article in The London Telegraph.
Is there any hope? Experts can't agree, so I cannot really say. But as long as we keep glossing this over and vegging out by watching mind-numbing TV, we will not be able to do anything at all about it.
My statistics professor once told us that our chances for winning the lottery are not nearly as good as our chances of being hit by lightening. But what he didn't tell us is that you can't win if you don't play: You have to get involved.
It's time for the American people to get involved. The current administration is busy ignoring this and we must wake them up. Although Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Obama is fiddling around, too.