Hard times? You ain’t seen nuttin’ yet

A typical Depression-era breadline

Hard times! Recession! Depression! Disaster! As bad as the Great Depression!

Come on, people, where’s your common sense? Where are your history books? I didn’t live through the Great Depression, but my parents did. And based on their stories alone, I can tell you we’re nowhere near the conditions of the Great Depression.

We haven’t seen a total stock market collapse, or nationwide runs on most of our banks. We haven’t begun to approach the Great Depression’s 25% unemployment. We don’t have breadlines forming in every major city, or tent cities and shantytowns — “hoovervilles” — springing up everywhere. And being from Oklahoma, I must note we don’t have farming families fleeing a Dust Bowl to look for jobs in southern California, as in The Grapes of Wrath.

Hooverville in Seattle
1930s hooverville in Seattle

We’ve become a spoiled rotten, instant gratification society with disposable income, disposable possessions, disposable lives. Don’t like what you’ve got? Toss it and replace it. Got a dent or a rip in something? Get a new one. Clothes or car or television no longer fashionable or in? Replace them. Get newer, better, faster, more! Whether you can afford it or not. But of course you can afford it; you’ve got credit!

Americans haven’t always lived like this. There are things called belt-tightening, living within your means, living on a budget, being frugal, saving for what you need, and paying as you go (with cash!). If today’s purchase can be put off until tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or done without altogether, you do it.

I learned a WWII-era expression from my parents: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” It made good sense then; it makes good sense now. Clothing can be mended with a needle and thread, fabric glue, or iron-on patches. Shoes and leather goods can be resoled, restitched, or mended in remarkable ways by a clever cobbler, if you’re lucky enough to still have a little shoe repair shop in your area. Appliance repairmen actually exist and make inoperable things work again.

If the appliances and electronics and cars at your house still perform their basic functions, you don’t need new ones. Sure, you might want the latest features, but you don’t need them. Most people seem to have forgotten there’s a world of difference between “want” and “need.”

Yes, we’re living through some scary times. Not knowing what’s going to happen or how bad things might get is worrisome, to say the least. (And having already reached my retirement years, rest assured this pep talk is for myself as well as you.) So much of it is beyond our control. Not seeing a clear, bright path rising before us is something we’re not used to, something you may never have experienced at all.

Maybe we should all just stop listening to the fear-mongering and disasterizing from Washington and the media. Better minds than ours are working on the problem and all we can do as individuals is all we can do. We keep on keepin’ on. If just for today we have roofs over our heads and food on our tables, friends and family to support us, and health to get us through to tomorrow, then we can hang on a little longer.

5 thoughts on “Hard times? You ain’t seen nuttin’ yet

  1. Well written post! Right on the money. Get out the shovels people, and plant those victory gardens. This ain’t the 1930s, but in some ways we have not learned a thing. We chose the fantasies instead of the realities. Payback is a bitch ain’t it?

    Fear mongering and disasterizing are the latest lurid consumables offered by the media. Death and destruction are the only acceptable pornography. God help us!

    [Thanks for the praise.

    Old habits die hard, but I’m really trying to stop watching TV news. It’s worse than pointless. It feeds my fears and insecurities, something I have more than enough of already.]

  2. This is one of the best blog posts I’ve read on here since I became a fan! I agree with you, but what about our president? He seems to be the biggest proponent of the ‘doom and gloom’. Do you think the only way to get citizens to give up their “instant gratification” attitudes is by making things out to be worse than they really are? FEAR fuels tyranny. Critics of the Patriot Act suspected Bush of extending his executive power beyond constitutional limits based on the public’s fear of terrorism. Is Obama going to do the same thing based on the public’s fear of a depression? Ben Franklin’s famous quote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” still applies today.

    [Thanks, Adam.

    I’m not quite sure what Obama is up to. At the very least, he needed to tamp down the unrealistically high expectations people had for him when he was elected. But he’s walking a very fine line between that and having an overly negative influence on the markets and the country in general. Maybe he will clarify things in tonight’s address to Congress.]

  3. Thank! You!

    i’ve been saying this over and over to anyone who mentions this new “depression”. We are absolutely a people spoiled. Rotten.

    [So much positive feedback on this post. Thank you! I get as discouraged as the next guy, sometimes, but fer cryin’ out loud, this is no Great Depression. And I don’t believe it ever will be.]

  4. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”


    [Really. If the doomsayers don’t put a sock in it, “depression” could become a really nasty self-fulfilling prophecy.]

    1. heck depression they have the drugs to treat that nowdays.the media is really the ones that need to be held responable.,television and radio wellmore tv advertising is the reason for the instant gradification we experience . and also political correctness (that might even become an oxymaroon if theykeep doing the same old thing.hell we should of strung um up when they spent the social security fund.the deffination of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. its a real shame ,the government really doesn’t add to the GDP ,but washington is not aware of that ,big bussiness corperate america is still the minority employer small business has provided the majority of jobs and i dont think washington is in our corner,but i think God has to fix this one ,at least he got my vote.may he bless this country once again

... and that's my two cents