Journalists and people in the street alike have been quick to blame the banks for the ‘irresponsible practices’ that have created the current financial crisis. But what about our own borrowing and spending habits? Are we taking personal responsibility for our own situation
Pure is certainly an evocative word. It’s a positive word, one that conjures up the innocence of youth, and cleanliness. But has the post-war world just lost its innocence and become unclean?
We’re going through turbulent economic times. Money sages are pontificating that the human race has never seen such global financial turmoil. Could this be a worse crisis than the 1930s Depression, that opened a door to a world war?
When things get this bad, the blame starts to fly. The tabloids are gunning for the banking community and the City, using combinations of adjectives and animals from ‘Greedy Pigs’ to ‘City Fat Cats’. Most people seem to be blaming an ‘irresponsible banking system’ for allowing easy credit and offering subprime mortgages.
But we are not forced to borrow. Like my wife, I was brought up in a Lancashire family with a mantra to keep things ‘pure and simple’. It was ingrained in me to spend money only when I had earned it. With my wife, I have enjoyed earning and then spending. To this day we have never borrowed other than taking on mortgages, and ones that were well within our means to repay, and on properties that required mortgages of 80% or less of their value.
Research regularly shows that people today are unhappier than in previous generations. We have more possessions, more food on plates and access to money. Yet life for many doesn’t appear to be as life for many doesn’t appear to be as satisfying as it was for parents and grandparents. I know that, from running businesses, the only times I ever really hated work were when finances were tight. The worry always impacted on our ability to think creatively.
Could it be that the simple and pure pleasures of a life unencumbered by debt make for a happier recipe? Is the current economic crisis a time to re-evaluate where society is at? It became accepted by governments and captains of industry that those calling for a retreat from overconsumption in the face of global warming were worthy but unrealistic dreamers. That a consumption based, capitalist system le d by ‘the market’ had raised the developed world’s standard of living. In time, it would spread the wealth worldwide. But at the moment we are rightly questioning if indeed a market-led approach is infallible. The financial system has had to be shored up by governments on an international level. A market-led economy has been embarrassed and has left the world in turmoil. If the model of (over-) consumption is making us unhappy, causing environmental problems and hasn’t worked financially, then where does that leave us?
Is this a time to experiment? Is it a time to look back to a purer era, when the real values of work and achievement led to the ability to consume and, if we are to believe the research industry, a time when most humans were happier?
Maybe a return to common-sense consumerism based purely on creating tangible rather than virtual wealth is what we need. Maybe this deep economic downturn has a silver lining in precipitating a return to ‘pure and simple’ values.