SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP
by J.M. Sylvan
American Reporter Correspondent
February 5, 2009
SONOMA COUNTY, CA. -- I'm sad about the state of the world economy - yet happy that the shop 'til you drop mentality is over.
The men and women that I work with were sacrificing their lives while we went about accumulating more stuff from Wal-Mart that we didn't really need.
There is resentment on the part of the young soldiers I work with.
They remind me that we do not act like a nation at war, just a military at war. Many military personnel wonder if the country is interested in what they are doing - are we concerned about them and their families? Are we willing to sacrifice, too? Have we lost interest in Iraq and Afghanistan now that the "shock and awe" part is over and things have gotten much more complicated.
They wonder why we didn't anticipate that this war would lead to adversity for our country and for the people who live in the countries we are at war with? How could we have been so wrong about so many things?
Why did we underestimate the danger and expense of this war? What were we really afraid of? Was it that we are running out of oil? Or that the Middle East was too unstable? How did we loose our bearings? What can we learn from this so that it doesn't happen again?
Many civilian employees, as well as military-personnel are deeply concerned about our values as a nation. They point to the contractors that are paid $350,000 a year (as apposed to the $30,000- 40,000 the military employees make) to "protect" and destroy in Iraq. Many of these contractors have no training in the ethics of war and are not responsible to any authority nor do they work under the rules of armed conflict. Some soldiers believe these non-uniformed contractors are putting them at risk.
I have also heard that they are also disturbed by the amount of corruption and waste in both wars. There have been piles of money misused and unaccounted for. This lack of oversight brings down the morale of our soldiers too. Others complain that they are fighting to support an Afghan government that operates off the money from the opium fields. Soldiers don't want to risk their lives for that nor do they want to support the trade of opium by keeping people away from the fields. How can the United States of America claim to be superior as a nation when all of this is going on?
Now that stocks are down 48% from a year ago and 100,000 jobs were lost last week alone, which will cause the economy to sink faster, we won't be shopping as much to keep up with the Jones. It really is an opportunity to exam every aspect of our democracy and financial system. Shocking times offer us a new way of seeing, and the possibility of an awakening. We are forced to change our thinking and our way of life.
Big changes are happening, and we are going to have to dig deep into ourselves to recover from the destruction. I believe that this requires tapping into core values. President Obama talks often about hope, action and change. In order to actually make these changes we are in need of an overhaul on our attitudes.
The current research on happiness (see, A Scientific Approach to Happiness and Resilience, by Sonja Lyubominsky and Jamie Kurtz, January 2009) indicates that creativity, optimism, nurturing relationships, generosity, gratitude, forgiveness, and kindness are the things that really make us happy. These authors remind us that once your basic needs are met, money doesn't predict happiness.
I have been studying resilience since the 1970s, when I did my doctoral dissertation on coping strategies of terminally ill children hospitalized at a large medical center. They faced serious, painful health issues and were often separated from their family for long periods of time.
Most of the research that I have gathered in my studies can inform us about more key elements that keeps us flexible and strong during difficult times. They are: social support, education, relaxation, working through grief, managing strong emotions such as anger or fear, time in nature and a spiritual practice. These are the changeless things that we can find within the heart of change.
Now that we have had a paradigm shift in our country, as evidenced by the election of our new president, there is an opportunity for renewal, realignment, and restructuring. If we cooperate with this transitional time of change, I think we will be able to take quantum leaps out of this chaotic and challenging time. Crises can be a prelude to design innovation and a chance to get out of tunnel vision.
Get ready to toss the shopping-therapy state of mind and focus on a deeper empathic attitude toward ourselves and others. May I suggest that as we are forced to sacrifice like our soldiers have been doing for the past eight years, we reach out to those among us who have been hurt the most. Among those, are soldiers in need support while they are "downrange" and when they come home ill and disabled or without a job. Their families suffer and because of that, we all suffer.
To be sure that this does not happen again, we need to choose leaders with the values and leadership skills that are not based on profit motives and fear. Look for leaders who are visionaries and who look for compromise and consensus. We need to choose leaders who are a magnet for growth and development rather than repeated failure.
Let's use this crisis as an opportunity.