This post has nothing to do with being a game designer and everything about me being a … what? Someone with several thousand dollars in my checking account? A home-owner? A worker in the 21st century global economy? An American? A human being? Maybe all of the above: a member of the world’s media elite. I have access to information, opinions, trivia.
Here’s the thing: if I didn’t have access to television, the internet, a radio, I don’t think that I would have any idea our banking system was in trouble; that the government just last week considered giving the executive branch a $700 billion blank check with which to attempt to fix the problem with the banks; that the rest of the world was dismayed that our elected representatives chose not to write this check; that pundits believe we’re on the brink of another Great Depression.
In a weird way, I can’t decide if I’m a bystander to this, or right in the middle of it. Besides that my stock options at work are in the toilet, this hasn’t really affected me at all. (Even as I write this, I know that there are others that are, have been and will be deeply affected by this, but I have only my own perspective on this, and for that I am sorry. I am, so far, one of the haves, and not yet one of the have-nots.)
So, is this real, or is it a media creation? I am reminded of the lyrics to the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever:
“Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.”
How is that I can be both proud of Nancy Pelosi for working so hard to get the bill passed, and also proud of the entire House of Representatives for killing the bill. I’m proud that the markets seem to have rebounded this morning on the news. It’s like they were waiting to see if someone would help, and, when that help failed to appear, they realized they needed to work it out themselves. We’ll see if it works, but I’m guardedly, ironically optimistic.
“That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right, that is I think it's not too bad.”
That this financial crisis came to head should be a surprise to no-one. The housing market was absurdly over-inflated and no-one attempted to do anything about it. Supposedly, 9000 houses have gone into foreclosure every day this year! Where was our Congress then? Why would they expect us to get behind them now when they so clearly didn’t care then?
I believe that the American People (god bless us, every one!) come to the aid of folks they see hurting the most. I believe that every one us has a personal connection to someone that’s been injured by the housing market collapse. If this bill had offered some direct help to the people we see bleeding every day, it may have gone differently. We, as a people, don’t mind seeing Wall Street suffer. And at the same time, we don’t see the connection between Wall Street and our day-to-day lives. Perhaps there isn’t any! While Wall Street made huge gains in recent years, our inflation-adjusted wages have slowly decreased.
“Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout.”
I must admit that there is a part of me, perhaps a part of everyone my age - us middle-class Gen X kids – that have been expecting society to collapse since we were teenagers. Clearly, the society we live in, with our rampant abuse of the world’s natural resources, could not survive long. Harrison Ford’s last line, as Deckard in Blade Runner, comes as voice over as the camera flies over a verdant green forest (the first we’ve seen through the whole film):
“I didn't know how long we had together. Who does?”
He’s speaking about his robot lover, but we got the metaphor: nothing lasts. And Blade Runner wasn’t the first or the last to hammer this point home. How many dystopian futures have we seen, larger than life, as blockbuster movies and as hit TV shows? Maybe I’m not feeling any panic about this financial crisis because I’ve been expecting it, or something like it, for so long now. What will we do now? I am reminded of another of my favorite songs, (Nothing but) Flowers by Talking Heads:
“This used to be real estate / Now it's only fields and trees”
I’ve always gotten a wry sense of hope from that song, as David Byrne complains about not being able to get a candy bar, find a Pizza Hut, or 7-Eleven. He can’t get used to the lifestyle, but he’s preparing us for it. It’ll be strawberry fields forever, nothing to get hungabout.