Saturday, May 09, 2009

Living The Recession

We finally see the green shoots of life! Newspapers exclaimed recently, as stock markets around the world moved North. Our policies are working - governments crowed! It is just money thrown at the problem, the opposition said, and this was bound to get fixed anyway. We went out and shopped for a new TV again. Before the new figures came out, traders booked profits and stock indexes went south again, and everyone went home to our natural pitches.

Is that what one should keep doing in the middle of a recession? Hope?

Hope is indeed God's gift to Man. But then, one should remember the context that gift was given. I shall repeat the story [imprecisely] though one would know it already. Prometheus stole the fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, which made it equal to gods. So, Zeus, the king of gods, was worried. He needed to bring the mankind back into subservience. He then sent a splendid box of gifts, with the instruction that this is never to be opened, to Pandora, the beautiful first woman of the world. Being a woman, Pandora could not hold her curiosity [the political incorrectness was Zeus' idea, not mine] and indeed opened the box. But as she opened the box, she realized the Zeus has sent all miseries - disease, corruption, greed, violence - to mankind in that box! She tried to close it, but could not, and immediately the mankind became corrupt, disease prone, greedy, violent lot. Pandora knew what she had done, and was crying when she saw one last fairy coming out of the box. She looked fair and kind, so Pandora asked - who are you? The fairy answered - I am Hope, I shall keep mankind alive when they are submerged in misery, so that they can suffer even more!

But the mind that help us in a recession like this is not built on Hope, but what we made out of it - inspiration!

Mankind had the innovativeness to turn a bad thing into good. For example, from hope, we discovered inspiration. Read the story of Susan Boyle in this beautiful essay on the TIME, from which I got the idea of this post in the first place. A forty-something who has never been kissed, who was spurred on to enter Britain's Got Talent because her dying mother told her to pursue her ridiculous dream for musical stardom, is our poster-lady of this recessionary time. That's mankind's answer to Zeus, in a way, that we shall not go down just like that.

And, yes, indeed, our history is full of those stories. I keep talking about J K Rowling, the unemployed single mother who wrote while her daughter slept. For that matter, so also did Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln and Swami Vivekananda, who started their lives only as ordinary men and women, but distinguished their lives with service. I am reading with interest The Audacity of Hope, the story of Barack Obama, the symbol of our time.

Every phase in our history has its heroes, and these people serve the perfect models for recessionary times. I shall also include Hitler and Stalin, because some people will indeed draw inspiration from their terrible legacies and vent their anger on the humankind. That's the persistent story of humankind, we seem to invent new monsters every time we go through such bad times. [One could indeed argue that Stalin was a product of post-war European turbulence as Hitler was very much a Great Depression creation]. Anger, indeed, is one of the miseries that Zeus sent in the basket, and it has always proved handy for making bad situations worse. So is hatred - small and big - Hitler made it his claim-to-fame, but Jews got persecuted over centuries in Europe and every recession, they were singled out for a special treatment. Yes, tables have turned now and they are now on the hating side rather than the hated, but this whole hatred thing keeps coming back.

So, no anger, no hatred, even no false hope; the mindset that can help us in recession is to think that times can be bad as they can be good, and persistence really really pays. I was reading a book on In-and-Out burgers, a rather unknown fast food chain outside California and a few other American states. I picked up this advise from Harry Snyder, the long dead founder of the chain, 'Do one thing, and do it the best you can', a very useful advise for the times like this. So is, be persistent and never, never give up, whoever said that. And, finally, I think we should take the lesson from the recession that good times can quickly turn bad and next time things started getting rosy again, we should all remember that.

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