Like everyone, I'm starting to freak out a little about the state of the economy. Many of my good friends are out of work — and some of them have been out of work for a longer period than I would have thought possible. It seems like every day, I pass another closed store or cafe on my way to the office. And of course, the suggestion file here at Boing Boing is full of stories of the collapsing property bubble in Dubai, the implosion of the South Chinese manufacturing cities, and a million indicators, large and small, of a crisis that is global, deep and worsening.
How do you keep your spirits up? I wrote before Christmas that this is the best time in history to have a worst time — the time at which our capacity to do things in a way that's outside of traditional economics is at its highest. It's never been easier to come together to have fun, to make stuff, to change things.
I keep reminding myself of that, but it's not easy. My little family is probably OK — we have a diverse set of income sources, from a variety of countries and industries — but nothing's certain. In the past two recessions, I was a young kid with bottomless energy and no responsibility. Now I'm 37 and responsible for a child, and my boundless energy has been replaced by discipline and systems that let me get more done with less effort.
I lived through the dotcom boom and bust in San Francisco, arriving in 1999 and departing in 2003, and the two things that stand out for me were 1) how fast it fell and how deep the bottom turned out to be and 2) how quickly the unthinkable became normal and people started to have fun and do cool stuff even without the stupid amounts of money sloshing around the city, like Whos having Christmas without all the be-Grinched trees and trinkets.
For me, I think it's the suspense that's the killer. What institutions will survive? Which ones are already doomed? Which of the items in my calendar are likely never to come to pass? Will my bank last? My favorite cafe (the one near the kid's day-care shut suddenly one day with a "Closed for Refurnshment" (sic) sign in the window, and now the window is plastered with signs for the second-rate cafe across the street, which gets points for cheekiness, if not coffee; if you're reading this, Coffee At Goswell Road baristas, I miss you!)? The burrito stand in Exmouth Market? Will the publisher of that half-finished series of books I love last long enough to finish it?
And then there's the environmental question: how bad? How fast? Will the Thames estuary flood? Will the Gulf Stream stall? Is it insane to contemplate buying any house at sea level, at any price?
What are you telling yourself? How are you all sleeping at night? Are you hedging your bets with canned goods and shotguns, or plans for urban communal farming? Are you starting a business? Restructuring through bankruptcy? Moving back in with your parents?
My favorite Spider Robinson aphorism is "Shared joy is increased, shared pain is lessened." Jump into the comments and tell us about your plans, dreams, denial and successes.
(Image: Pay us what you think our food is worth sign, cafe, Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, London, UK from my Flickr stream)