Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Random Barking

Armed Against A Future Filled With Teabags, Religious Crazies,
Internet And Water Rationing, And Poor Cell Phone Coverage

Both of my parents came of age during the Depression -- my father was fifteen, and my mother fourteen, when the 1929 Crash occurred, and had graduated from High School by the time Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as President in March of 1932.

(If, at this point, you're trying to figure out how old I am -- and you probably aren't -- I was an unplanned, late puppy; very late.)

Both came from small towns, their families barely part of the American Middle Class, whose own parents managed to hang on to jobs and property long enough to send them out into a country and a world marked by twelve years of economic misery -- which only World War Two truly ended.

Storm tides recede, leaving all kinds of things behind -- some interesting, some comic, some destructive. All her life, my mother was obsessed in a minor-key way with stretching every dime, every piece of clothing, saving string and pencils, tinfoil and rubber bands for reuse. Like something out of a Leonard Cohen novel, we had an old, pitted pair of scissors in the far-right hand drawer of the kitchen, always referred to as "the new pair".

My father, whose two older brothers (the ones who emigrated with the rest of the family to America in 1920; the oldest brother stayed behind) had worked in a 'Gentleman's Clothiers', was concerned with dress and deportment; he believed appearances were everything: Clothes, manner, speech -- all of which were to provide you with a competitive edge in life, which was ultimately a brutal and disappointing contest.

Both of them in memory, now, strike me as living with a lump of fatalism at the core of themselves; a child's disappointment with the world not being a more gentle, fair and safe place. In no way were they failures at the basics of living -- but their response to life's experiences wasn't to create light in the darkness, to spit in the eye of the unknown and dance anyway. They carried on; that was all.

They were afraid of tragedy and loss, and while they put as brave a face on the day as possible, in the end they expected rejection, failure, a diminution. Their hopes lived side by side with expectations of the world that weren't particularly high. Catastrophe could occur at any moment, and nothing was certain or stable enough to be counted upon; the tide of fear won out over hope and faith every time.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Random Barking
(Photo [Who Could Have Predicted?]: The Great Curmudgeon)

It was clear they'd been marked by their times. I began to wonder -- that I'm aware of, no study has been published of the effects of so much stress upon a population as in the years between 1929 and 1942.

I'm not sure how you'd quantify it, but there had to have been a rise in all kinds of disorders that we now label Clinical Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive behaviors, psychosomatic illness. However, psychiatry was still a young science; perspectives on suffering and the mind (such as Post-Traumatic Stress) which we take for granted today would have found no support among medical professionals in the Thirties.

And, the effects of the Depression (even for people who didn't suffer the worst of it) was profound enough that artifacts of the stress of those times remained in the lives of most people, like flotsam left beached after a storm. They were things out of place; not serious enough neuroses to keep most people from functioning well enough to raise families, or hold jobs and conduct business.

But, I'd argue that as if they carried a physical scar, people had a mark on their psyches which affected them as long as they lived -- and for those who lived through the Depression and saw combat service in WWII, it was probably worse.

Now? Power being handed to juvenile sociopaths; a horrible terrorist attack, followed by equally-horrible ten-year war(s); the destruction of a major American city in Katrina; a decade of failure to regulate the financial services industry leading to unparalleled manipulation and greed; it ends with wealth and power protected, and everyone else kicked to the curb.

How many families and individuals have been blown apart so far? How many careers lost, addicts created, criminal acts committed; how many homeless children will there be this time? How much human misery will be heaped on our collective psyches -- because The Masters Of The Universe had to dominate everything they could see, and have More?

What's happening to us, to our children, as a result of these days? What kind of hidden marks will they carry? And what will their children passively accept as a sad inheritance out of bad times?

But, I'm only a Dog, and no one listens to me.

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