Tuesday, March 3, 2009
My Article In Today's New York Daily News
"Economic crisis a good time to reestablish real priorities"
New York Daily News, March 3, 2009 (Brooklyn Edition, Page 6)
Nearly 2.6 million people nationwide loss their jobs in 2008. Roughly, that’s equivalent to every man, woman, and child in Brooklyn. In this economic crisis, people are losing more than their ability to make ends meet, they are also losing their confidence in the things that matter, but that might prove more rewarding than one could imagine.
Funny thing, this word confidence. Normally, it’s defined as trust or self-assurance but to economists, retailers, and government agencies, confidence is about science. The Consumer Confidence Index, for example, is a survey that samples 5,000 US households. It plays a key role in communicating the health of the economy. It follows that when people don’t trust that they will get or keep a job, they don’t spend money. When money circulation slows, confidence in the economy drops, resulting in job loss. In New York City, we’re told that by 2010, approximately 165,000 private-sector jobs could be lost. That’s Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, plus more than half of Bushwick.
Job loss, the accompanying shame, and the social demotion are profoundly damaging. In many cases, its deadly. Increasingly, reports indicate that people are robbing banks to pay back rent - or worse, committing suicide because of the pressures mounted from this crisis. Some people have taken the lives of family members, as well. In New York, two months ago, a wealthy money manager cut both his wrists and bled to death in his Manhattan office. Apparently, he “could not cope with the pressure” from the Madoff scandal.
No person’s loss is ever what it seems and what drives a person to extreme measures as these should not be judged on news reports alone. It does make sense, however, to question the general context by which we live our lives. These tragic happenings seem to speak more to the unforgiving pillars upon which society is built, then to people’s ability or inability to survive their crisis.
In the background, media and popular culture do an excellent job of bombarding us with the idea that we are more “consumer” than ‘citizen;’ no…more “product” than “human beings.” We are “products of our environment” or “target markets.” This language (and the mindset that births it) is part of the reason people are grounded in material things and not in the more enduring elements of life.
But if approximately 7,000 jobs were lost per day in 2008, where do the intangibles, like hope and confidence, fit in?
As someone self-employed for the past ten years, I volley between “feast or famine” often, irrespective of this Consumer Confidence Index. According to my bank account, I am among the working-poor, but my bank account is not how I identify myself, nor the people around me.
At forty, I am learning that I am more than what I can prove. Now, life at a premium includes knowing that success is less about what matters and more about appreciating and making the distinction from who I am, what I do, and what I have.
April Silver is a social entrepreneur, activist, and writer. She is Founder and President of AKILA WORKSONGS, a Brooklyn-based, nationally recognized communications agency focusing on arts & activism. Her first book, "Be a Father to Your Child," is the critically acclaimed anthology on black fatherhood. Her blog, aprilisms, can be found at www.aprilsilver.com
blog chapters: Life Lessons