Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Recovery

We have just passed the one year mark of our latest recession and by most accounts are on the road to recovery, but what is recovery? Where will we be when we have recovered? People have accidents and medical procedures every day from which they then have a recovery period, but just where are they when to recovery is complete?

Some people are returned to health, but not always to "perfect" health. They usually carry scars and other reminders of the ordeal. Some come back stronger but most do not, some regain full mobility while others need occasional assistance and some regain just enough to press on with life. Some can get back to doing what the did before and others have to make radical changes in their routines in order to survive. Had they made those changes earlier in their life, they may not have been faced with their need to change now.

Lexington, and America in general, has for the last year been feeling poorly. Our economy has been waylaid by a malaise of our own doing, though actually we have been treating ourselves with "home remedies" and "tonics " usually hawked by snake oil salesmen. We, like the majority of the health care and insurance providers of today, have been relieving the symptoms and letting the disease continue unabated. To be sure there are some good doctors out there, just as there are those who realize where and how we went astray-and what we should do to adjust our lifestyles to prevent major surgery or even a terminal illness. I believe that James Howard Kunstler is one of the better ones.

Kunstler's blog piece of the other day gives good focus on the very symptoms of urban life that I wish to deal with on a daily basis. Living in an urban area, be it a densely populated city or a mid-western farm town, has its good and bad points. Nowhere is ideal for every occasion, there are always trade-offs or a price to pay to balance the scales.

History tells us that Americans have been enticed to reach for that "something better" either by those telling tall tales or those wishing to get rich by selling the dream to unsuspecting souls. Kunstler looks at the post World War II era as it pertains to the immediate recession, but these things have been going on since before the discovery of "The New World". What we did not learn from the Depression of 1893, we foolishly repeated right up to the Crash of 1928. Then following some painful withdrawal work and a surgical reconstruction of our manufacturing sector(WWII), we took off again with our intoxicants and cavorted like giddy schoolboys and girls. This time even radical surgery(the big reset) may not be enough to stem the cancer that is now raging through America, and chemo(quick-fix engineering solutions) will only mask that a problem still exists.

I, in my younger years, bought in to this "go out to where the air is cleaner" attitude until it was time to buy a house. Then, what I saw being built for "the masses" was not what I wanted to live like. I did not learn to drive(or own a car) until I was in my 40's and Mrs. Sweeper was with child. I wanted to be able to walk most places, or bike. It was for pleasure that I rode long distances into the surrounding subdivisions and suburbs. If I went out for a dinner and drinks, then I could walk home. Being a life long Lexingtonian, I still live within 3 miles of where I grew up and within walking distance of downtown. It is only now that, with grey hair and experience , I see some of the folly in pursuing the now entrenched "suburban model" of development. We should be planning for communities that allow for all age ranges to live in comfort and that includes sending "little Johnny" to the corner store for a loaf of bread, or the park, or to school.

As it is now, society says that Mom and Dad cannot stay in the house that they worked so hard to afford. They saved and did without so that the kids had something better. Now the kids have to have the better things and Mom and Dad may have to go somewhere where they can be looked after, all because of our "better stuff". Retirement homes and nursing homes are not the natural way nor are they the better way(just look at the lawyers advertising about how you may qualify for judgements).

The snake oil salesmen are still out there but we cannot go back to the same place that we were and call it recovery. It would be like giving an alcoholic free rein in a liquor store or a meth-head the run of a pharmacy. The free rush of getting there is just not worth the pain of coming all the way back down.

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