Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Living next door to Calvin

Recently, I invoked the ire of a fellow South African with a blog post about the declining state of things in that country. One of his/her comments seemed to imply a belief that the economic decline in 'the west' was not going to have an impact there. I beg to differ. My view is that the world these days is so interconnected, we no longer live in national siloes, where the (mis)fortunes of one country stop at its borders.

Earlier today, I found myself choking in disbelief at a view expressed by a pregnant, unemployed English teenager living on benefits (welfare). She was being interviewed on a radio programme together with former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. The host asked her her views on the economic downturn, to which she blithely replied, "It doesn't affect me." To give him his due, the interviewer remarked that she was then the only person unaffected by the situation.

By contrast, some of the Indian people I follow on Twitter report that they are watching the western economy with a cautious eye. Apparently they have seen little evidence of the downturn there, thus far, but they expect that it will hit. Particularly in the massive off-shore outsourcing market.

I recently posted a rather upbeat post in which I declared you all to be local. This has its downside, too. What affects you, affects me. Never did the passage "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15) have more relevance!

I know that things are probably tough for you, right now. They're tough for me, too. And they look set to get tougher. Just today, I was chatting with a lady I met as we were out walking our respective dogs (I've mentioned before my tendency to talk to any and everybody, anywhere, anytime) and she told me that the school which is almost next door to my house has just laid off 10 full time teachers, four learning support assistants and 10 cleaners. Unless the school has adopted some creative methods for taking up the slack, that's a whole cohort of kids whose education has been negatively impacted. And believe me when I say that this high school has the sort of catchment that can least afford it!

I don't understand much about finance and economy. If there is such a condition as dysfinancia, I have it. Severely. But from the little I do understand, I would say that it will be another 18 months or so before the economy starts to swing back up again, and another decade before we recover from the effects of this recession.

In this space we can alert one another to opportunities. We can empathise with one another. We can mentor one another. We can provide guidance. If the rope really hits the rudder, we might even find ourselves reaching out to some of our number in material ways.

So let's keep it real. No denial here, okay?

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