October 03, 2008

Nucular Winter

I was pretty much permanently wiped out financially by the last US recession (the dot.com bust, which indirectly destroyed several businesses I was part of and damn near bankrupted me as an individual); but for most of the people around me who weathered that whole time without too many problems or down years, it all probably seemed (and seems) a curiously distant sort of experience (even as it was happening), a time that seems easy to understand (all that dot.com bullshit! Even though that had little to do with the recession itself…) at the same time as being a little mysterious in the way it actually affected life. People (like me) just quietly dropped out of sight or disappeared without trace (or at least without making too much of a fuss); most people seemed incurious, unconcerned; few people seemed personally much affected, at least directly. Many who didn't go under then still seem to have no real idea what it was like or what happened to many of us.

It all feels a lot closer and more urgent this time around, but there's still definitely that air of unreality and distance. I don't know, but I guess that it'll start hitting a lot harder for most of us in three to six months' time, maybe further down the line — and the effects are going to be much (much) longer-term and deep-seated. Many of us will be paying for this for the rest of our lives, one way or another, but the winter's going to be long and cold, that's for sure.

But who to blame? The populists are already figuratively putting the administration, the bureaucrats, and the Wall Streeters up against the wall, but W was reelected twice in popular bursts of belligerent nationalism and anti-intellectualism, and after eight years of doing exactly what he said he'd do, the results have been predictable, a definitive end to the American Century. Fire the people, maybe.

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