Point of No Return

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The Article

Recession, recession, recession. The news headlines these days are all recession, all the time, with Natasha Richardson’s tragedy occasionally thrown in. And like most bad things, we’re partly responsible for this economic downturn. In our personal lives, when things go sour, it’s usually because we’ve taken the wrong road. You don’t just “by mistake” have an affair, or “catch” a drug addiction, or “accidentally” go bankrupt. These things happen because we weren’t focused on responsibility; we were focused on short-term gratification.

And that’s what happened with this recession. Consumers wanted to buy stuff they couldn’t afford, and financial institutions wanted to lend to them so they could get the commissions and the profits. Unfortunately, too many went a step too far, and now we’re out of money.

Our governments are trying to borrow their way out, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to, nor am I sure this is a good idea. As bad as things are now, they’re going to get worse in about ten years when Baby Boomers retire in large numbers. Those Boomers will need Old Age Security, and health care, and lots of government services, but they’re going to stop working and paying large amounts of taxes. Where will the money for these programs come from if we wrack up too much debt now?

I don’t mean to sound too bitter to my parents’ generation, but they voted in all the deficits which have led to our federal debt, and they will likely still enjoy health care and pension plans. My generation won’t. The Boomers bankrupted the rest of us, because they voted what was best for them, instead of what was best for the country or their children. Today, children are born already owing massive amounts of taxes that their grandparents and great-grandparents spent.

But this financial ticking time bomb isn’t the only crisis that we’re suffering from right now. Britain passed a milestone this year: for the first time, more babies are born to single parents than married parents. And Canada’s catching up. That leaves us without fundamental human resources that can help us weather the storm.

In previous financial downturns, people got back to basics. They clung to family. They learned how to save, and even scrimp, rather than buy stuff they didn’t need. They learned how to entertain themselves by just hanging out together. They cared for their neighbours.

I desperately hope that’s what will happen this time, too, but I’m scared. We just don’t have the cultural resources that previous generations did, nor do we have the same morals. Perhaps those growing up today, even if they wanted to, simply don’t have the life experience or values to turn things around. Too many haven’t been taught how to claim responsibility. They haven’t been taught how to make a commitment and stick to it. They haven’t been taught how to sacrifice, or how to be generous. And what are the repercussions then for our country?

The same inner strength that brought us out of the last few periods of economic turmoil can bring us out of this one, too, but only if we face reality. We are responsible for caring for ourselves. Commitment matters. Family matters. Responsibility matters. When we have these things, we can weather a storm. When we don’t, storms can knock us over. So are we going to turn back to our families, honour our commitments, and act responsibly? Or are we just going to turn on plasma TV and tune out life? The answer to that question, I think, will determine far more the future of this country than anything our government can do.

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