the cuts seem to be coming hot and heavy now, after months of doom and gloom breathing down our necks. the downturn is crossing class lines, impacting manufacturing and media and corporate finance alike.

the shit from an inflated, entitled culture that fed on bogeymen and retail therapy is hitting the fan. now the bogeymen appear to be closer to home, bankers and polluters, a different kind of us & them than we’ve grown accustomed to stressing over in the past decade. it’s change, at least. we’ll see about hope.

i am looking hard for hope, peering around corners and down the decolletage of all the pretty girls tarted up to distract me from cultural dissolution.  ooh!  Olympics!  food porn!  mommy bitchfests!  my hands dip into the pop culture well and come up empty, grasping me and mine to me all the closer. i am looking for work in this economy, and i have kids i want to provide both a home and a healthy world for in the midst of this hysteria. i do not want to be the Joads, fleeing the dustbowl in our jalopy. i do not want to go up in flames or fourhorsemen.

part of me tires of hearing it all, wants to close in on myself and hunker down with my backyard tomato plant and my babies. i want to say, i feel helpless.

but a little voice that speaks an old, blood tongue deep in my familial bones says, don’t.

yes, there are terrible things going on.  yes, there is insecurity.  fear is eating at us, as a culture.  this is not a fear we can wall ourselves away from…this fear chews at all the fat we thought we’d socked away, untouchable. this fear makes us angry and protective and shrill, seagulls from Finding Nemo.

it’s easy to be transfixed by the sight of our ship that was a-comin’ in going down instead.   but the voices of my grandmothers, who lived through the Great Depression young and poor and Scots Protestant proud whisper, if we live as islands, we will die as islands. i think they mean at least metaphorically, but they were fierce and a wee bit harsh, those grandmothers. plain speakers, they hiss, stop yer whinin’ and get out and DO. grow. help. share. use your talents, use what you got. or helplessness in the face of this recession will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

the human interest stories i used to hear on the news don’t seem to be getting much play lately. we’re all downturn all the time, visuals of houses foreclosed upon our Dorothea Lange equivalencies, unemployment stats riveting us. these things matter. but if a magic wand fixed it all tomorrow, our world would still be a place of hurt, with cancer and hunger and loneliness.  helplines still need volunteers.  kids still need recess monitors.  seniors and their caregivers still need support in the face of dwindling health care and mental health resources. places like the Greater Good Network, where you click ye olde mouse once a day to accrue sponsored donations to causes like literacy, breast cancer research, rain forest preservation, animal shelters, and hunger are finding their clicks have dropped significantly. but all it takes is a computer and two minutes.  will it save the world? nope. will it save your mortgage? nope. but as long as you have a computer, can you do it every day? yep.  and you can buy fair-traded products from their sponsors for everybody’s birthday gifts, too, for less than you’d often spend at Walmart. the habit of considering the greater good, even in something as simple and surface as clicking a daily link, may help all of us begin to reconstruct our society as the place we’d like it to be.

hope won’t hurt. the lovely and talented shutter sisters are vying for the grand prize in Microsoft’s Name Your Dream Assignment – $50,000 plus the glass & technology to travel the world. they want to photograph stories of hope, focus our eyes on hope. you can vote for them here, if you like. check out the contest, at least. if you use Microsoft products at all, and even the most open source and Machead-inclined among us end up doing so almost inevitably at some point, you may as well direct a little of what the company is doing with its profits. beats what banks seem to have been doing with theirs.

there is an old adage of questionable origin that an ancient Chinese blessing and an ancient Chinese curse merge in the words, may you live in interesting times. we do, unquestionably. whether we make of them a blessing or a curse is, at least in small part, up to us.

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what are your hopes, for your self and your family, for your culture and your world?  what do you feel you can and can’t impact?