Monday, January 19, 2009


One podcast I always make time for is Dan Carlin's Common Sense. Sometimes I vehemently agree with Carlin and sometimes I want to yell at him while jumping up and down, redfaced. But in either case, he is always smart and always worthy of his audience. He offers a different point of view.

I was listening to show 143 "Black Dog" over the weekend. He opened with a monologue on why his optimism has failed him, that the country's future is dismal and that he just had nothing to offer otherwise.

Mr. Carlin, I have optimism.

Between the plummeting Dow and the skyrocketing unemployment rate, there's something that's easy to forget: Our greatest resource and strength is the American people.

No, I am not about to start waving the flag. Instead, I'll offer up a recent example. When gas prices soared to four dollars a gallon, Americans tightened their belts at the pump. A lot. We started driving some 10 billion miles less a month. Ten billion!

And gas prices responded. I don't know what portion of the total fall in the price of a barrel is relative to decreased consumption, but remember when it fell about 30 cents last summer? We did that--you and me; and the move to conserve looks like it's sticking. When Americans do something smart in the face of rough waters, it restores my belief in them.

With shrinking job markets and pocketbooks, everyone will need to conserve and they will, just like they did with the gas. I might be a liberal, but I'm very conservative when it comes to conservation. I conserve energy and water and space and time. I have deep respect for my every resource. Hence, I won't miss the have-to-have-it-all-right-now attitude that's prevailed from coast to coast for decades.

Sacrifices? Maybe people will dine out less and eat ham sandwiches at the kitchen table more (put a couple of potato chips right on the sandwich between the mayo and lettuce--kicks total ass). Maybe the fabulous resort vacations will turn into roadtrips to state parks or stay-at-home celebrations where the focus is on fun. Maybe we won't be able to afford those elaborate personal electronics and we'll start talking again. Instead of scattering across the land in search of bigger, better, and more, maybe families who've fallen on hard luck will band together and help each other. Maybe this toxic bubble of greed will pop along with all the other bubbles.

When it does, we'll come out on the other side smarter and tougher. We'll be wise to the fact that the phrase "I want better for my kids than I had" does not mean a bigger house or salary, but a better quality of life wherein one's time is spent not only with people they love, but working a craft in which they take pride. I believe the American people are going to make it through the next couple of dark years and emerge with the sort of values that will make us true and gentle giants.

President Obama believes in the American People too. He believes in all of us, red or blue or any color in between. His belief is powerful enough to diminish the deep-rooted fear swirling around him. Why look here, it's already started.


philbilly said...

Two words;

Chesley Sullenberger.

And his flight crew.

That's the kind of guys and gals we have, in spades.

I'm starting a business, got more lawyers than Carter's got pills, I can't wait to get the legal bullshit in the can so no unemployed Wall Street ho's can get a run at us. Then I'll be gettin' dirty full time, no effin' tie, making real things in the USA for USA'ers. No other place in the world lets a couple smart guys start a big ass corporation so easily, with so much legal protection. China, India et al are figuring it out, very smart guys there too. This financial blowout was just Nature's way of abhorring a vacuum of ethics. Be frugal and unafraid, the best is yet to come.

I got yer Al Qaeda right here.

Erin O'Brien said...

Philbilly, I like you. I like you a lot. You are what the good guys look like. When you start making those USA thinger-dingers, email me and I'll buy some up even if I don't need any.

Anonymous said...

Happy inauguration, my American friends! Erin, as I watch from Australia I share your sense of hope in the face of economic recession. Just over a year ago we too had a change of government - from the conservative Liberal Party to the more progressive Labor Party. Our former prime minister, John Howard had slavishly followed George W. into the whole 'war on terror' debacle and his administration has been a dark chapter indeed. Anyway, it's a new beginning for both our nations and hopefully the start of a more peaceful and just world.

Erin O'Brien said...

Hi Timothy and thanks for reading/commenting. Here's my best wishes that your bon mots ring true.

Mojito Libre said...

I'm not gonna come back into this comment thread because I know some jackass is gonna try to rain on your parade. But, thanks. Thanks for making my day a little bit brighter. As far as recovery: my grandparents and their brothers and sisters did it. They didn't have the luxury of ham sandwiches, they had butter sandwiches growing up during the Depression. But they busted their asses to make sure I grew up in comfort. It can and will need to be done again.

The world needs ditch diggers too. And that ain't a bad thing.

Zen Wizard said...

During the approx. 2.5 weeks in September when there WAS NO GAS in Atlanta, mahy people took public transportation for the first time in their lives.

You wonder how many people said, "$3.50 per day? No insurance or ripoff mechanics? I will just keep doing this I guess..."

Erin O'Brien said...

Mojito, I'd have a butter sandwich with you any day of the week.

Zen, That is a good report. I took public transportation for years. I don't understand why people get so freaky over it. I know many who would never consider taking a bus. Fine. Let them pay $200 a month to park at work, the tools.

Kirk Jusko said...

The American People: To believe or not to believe, that is the question...

More to the point, should we BLAME the American people for the pickle this country is in? I say no, and that includes the folks that voted differently than I did. Who knows for sure which is right (or left)? Incidentally, I really believe that is what's at the root of voter's apathy. Those people know that they don't know, and fear finding out. I think they should vote anyway--if nothing else it gives our leaders a few more hoops to jump through. Uh-oh, the old cynicism is coming through. Give me a second to compose myself.....

OK, I'm better. Look, I don't expect miracles from our public servents. I just want them to try. I think the whole "100 days" thing is silly. And that goes double for an "Iraq timetable" The reason I chose Obama over Hillary, and then Obama over McCain, isn't because he knows a better way out than those two, but, because he was against the war when it mattered, I know he'll TRY.

Sorry, I'm running off at the keyboard, Erin, but it's your own fault for being so thought-provoking

Kirk Jusko said...

Oh, man, talk about have-it-all-right-now. I was just checking out the Hufffington Post when suddenly a box appears on the left telling me it's my lucky day, as long as I click the "click now" I clicked. Then, it told me I could have my very own Blackberry or I-phone if I just clicked again. So I just clicked again.

Now, I've got so much spam in my email box I feel like the guy who handed out food packets to the troops on the eve of the invasion of Normandy!

Don't follow my example.

Erin O'Brien said...

Hi Kirk, I think people believe Obama cares about them. Bush failed miserably in that department. Remember the "fly by" inspection of Katrina? Arguably one of the worst moments in his entire presidency.