Hard Times: Bitter Reality

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Earl Griffin
Activist Post

After the Second World War things were rosy in America. We’d won the war. We possessed fearsome weapons that made the world fear us. We thoroughly bombed Europe so that she had nothing. They owed us big time. It made sense to Americans that the Europeans would buy everything they could from us for a very long time after the war – which they did! As a consequence our economy raced along for years; decades even.

Eventually unions became very powerful. The cost of labor soared. Corporations began off-shoring jobs to other countries. Unions became less powerful. Corporations saw that in off-shoring jobs much money could be saved. These days many of your jobs have been off-shored. Most of you know someone, a friend or a family member who has gone through it. Perhaps you’ve had to train or help train the nice people who took your job or the job of a friend of yours.

I don’t mean to say that unions are solely to blame – they do bear some of the burden, but they also fill a valuable roll. Where do you think the health insurance that we enjoy comes from? Desperate people who worked in intolerable conditions organized and made this happen. Of course all that is about to change thanks in part to the fervent dedication of organized labor in getting Barack Obama reelected – Irony.

Globalism is largely to blame for this predicament. However, one may argue that Globalism got at least some traction from corporations looking for cheaper labor.

So here we are.

We live with high unemployment, low wages, decreasing benefits and increasingly difficult working conditions. Who are you going to complain to? There are millions of Americans who would be very happy to have YOUR job!

Meanwhile things are getting tight.

The government says there is little or no inflation – LIES!

The cost of food and gas is going up.

Despite turning the air up in the summer and the heat down in the winter and changing all my light bulbs to those awful swirly things, my light bill continues to go up.


I’m listening. I hear my family, my friends, and associates talk in muted voices about how hard things are. They are afraid they will lose their jobs. They are afraid their children will have hard lives. They are slowly coming to terms with the idea that they will not be able to leave a better world for their kids than the one they lived in. Oh there are still optimists, God love them. But I see the optimists of two years ago joining the ranks of the realists daily.

It’s interesting to me to see people bemoan (rightfully) the cost of gas while on their cell phone.

We are caught in a trap. We are all spread out and usually can’t telework. We HAVE to buy gasoline to get to work and home again. Our light bills go up even when we use less or worse – even when the utilities go off!

Where can we save?

We can cancel our cell phones.

I hear the incredulous “WHAT” in my mind as I write this. But wait – I’m not finished.

Now cancel your cable, FIOS – or whatever paid television services you have.

XBOX Gold? Cut it!

World of Warcraft? Cut it! That goes for any other video game with recurring fees.

Spending money on digital music? Stop!

Netflix? Cut it!

Don’t buy produce grown in another country. Grow a garden for pity sake. Use organic growing practices. Don’t have a lot of space? Grow a couple tomato plants and some lettuce or whatever you like in containers. I’ve done it and it works brilliantly! Learn to can the produce that comes out of your garden so that you and your family may enjoy the fruits of your labors all year.

Here’s the thing. I’m not opposed to people enjoying their cellphones, WOW, and FIOS. But there are people in the United States who are not just struggling – they are suffering. Since the Great Depression most of us haven’t had to go through anything like what we are seeing today. Cut your costs so that you don’t become one of them.

It is going to get worse.

Many of us believe that we NEED a cellphone – we don’t. Nor do you need a corporation locking you into a 2 year contract because you wanted a better price.

You don’t need some corporation locking you into a 2 year contract because you “bundled” your phone, television, and Internet sources so you could save a few bucks a month.

These contracts are bondage!

When times are good enjoy the prosperity.

Here is the “bitter reality:” These are not prosperous times. We must do what the Federal Government appears to be unwilling to do – cut spending.

A friend of mine who is extremely worried about providing Christmas for his kids broke down in front of me recently. He said, “I want to provide some normalcy for my kids. I don’t want them to do without.” I felt awful for my friend. However, the man doesn’t have a job and hasn’t had one for weeks. Things aren’t normal. Increasing his debt bondage to provide “normalcy” for his children is entirely abnormal.

Maybe this is the year to sit the kids down and talk to them about the reality that we live in. Spend some of your December volunteering at a food bank or a soup kitchen. Let the kids see that there is real suffering in the world. Some of the kids just won’t get it – some of them will, and it may make a lasting impression on them.

My great Uncle Carl lived through the Great Depression and served in the South Pacific Theater of the Second World War. He never threw anything away. Not even used wrapping paper or empty Cool Whip tubs. He wasn’t a hoarder – not by a stretch. He found a use for everything. For instance all of his drinking glasses were old jelly jars. He saved and reused aluminum foil (he called it “tin foil”) until it was so far gone it really couldn’t be used anymore. He had a television hooked to an antenna and a clock radio in the kitchen. That was the extent of his electronics collection. Every day he spent his day outside: Walking, sitting on the back porch drinking coffee, working around the house, etc. He came inside to watch “The Price is Right,” and “The Guiding Light.” Then back out till dark. He was really something. Uncle Carl lived on three thousand dollars a year. Not in the fifties mind you – in 1990! He owned fifty acres of land, had twenty five beef cows, a handsome (though not fancy) pickup, a good cattle trailer, and wanted for nothing in part because he made a point of being happy with what he had rather than being unhappy about what he didn’t have.

I think that more of us need to adopt some of Uncle Carl’s ways in preparation for the harder times to come.

This article has been entered into the Activist Post Writing Contest – Solutions. 1st place receives a $250 cash prize & $250 gift certificate to Offgrid Outpost. 2nd place receives a $250 gift certificate to Offgrid Outpost. Additional details and submission guidelines can be found here: http://www.activistpost.com/2012/11/activist-post-writing-contest.html

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