Frustration Friday: Here There Be Dragons

As  you've noticed I do check political and economic news a lot – a lot of the economic news makes it into this blog, and politics does at times as well.  As I noted previously, it's a bit frustrating since intelligent, sane discussion on politics and economics is rare, and thus I avoid things to keep sanity.

Well, it may be frustration Friday, which gets a little irrational, but there is one thing I want to note – when it comes to jobs, the economy, and so on a lot of people don't know what the hell they're talking about.

We're in unknown territory economically these days.  I kind of wish economists, politicians, and, well, more people would acknowledge it.  Instead, we get a lot of flip answers like:

  • Obvious historical comparisons, such as "oh this is like the Great Depression" or whatever, that, when made, seem to give people the excuse to stop thinking.  For every Richard Florida who can actually make these comparisons, there's a lot of others making them lazily.
  • Moralistic brushing-off.  I'm seeing this a lot lately where politicians and pundits still keep bashing the unemployed.  A massive global socioeconomic and cultural shift is brushed off as people being lazy or needing to take lower-paying jobs (that aren't there).
  • General apocalyptic panic that seems to sounds like the same apocalyptic panic we've heard .  . . well for a long time.

Notice anything in common?  Yep, all of these reactions to the Great Recession are cases of people taking very familiar positions that have nothing to do with realities.

Guess what people, it's not working.  The flip explanations don't work and probably never worked.  We're off the map.  Here there be dragons.

I think if people could just acknowledge the sheer unknownness of everything going on in the Great Recession we'd be better off.  Pretending we know what's going on may comfort us, or others, or sell books, but it's deceptive and keeps us from facing what's going on.

The world is changing.  Stop acting like nothing has changed and everything fits nicely onto the map.

See the dragons before they eat you – and others.

– Steven Savage

Frustration Friday: Blame and Responsibility in the Economic Ruins

It's time to talk about whose responsible for the Great Recession.

Note I'm not talking about who to blame.  Who to blame is obvious – the economic hacks, ignorant pundits, corrupt politicians, and greedy sociopaths in finance.  They're to blame, and they deserve the scorn, the shame, and in some cases fines and prison time.

However, though they're to blame and indeed shoulder some of the responsibility, they are not the only ones responsible.  Whose responsible for this?

Us.  You and me.  Bloody well anyone over 35 in the US, Canada, EU, etc.  We're responsible.

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Are You Suffering From Learned Helplessness?

I was introduced to learned helplessness in my psychology studies many years ago, and it's one of several concepts that made a deep impression on me.  To sum it up simply, animals and humans exposed to situations where they have (or don't think they have) control eventually act helpless, even at times when they can restore control.  In short, people and animals can  be exposed to experiences that make them act and be helpless even when things change.

This is an incredibly important psychological finding because it's a reminder of how experiences – and approach to handling them – affects our ability to take control of our lives and deal with stress.  Many is the time I've witnessed people in the throws of learned helplessness, and I'm sure upon reflection you've seen it too.  In fact, chances are you've experienced it now and then yourself.

I also see it a lot in people's careers, especially in this economic climate.  I would go as far to say that I think learned helplessness is making the Great Recession far worse for many people.

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