Today’s post is the featured article from the September 2008 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.
It was as if the recent extreme weather patterns had been preparing us for the ultimate storm on the East Coast.
I was speaking in New York last week when the economic hurricane came ashore. The outer bands of the storm brought news of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a US Government bailout. By that point, it was too late to evacuate. Little did we know, the stronger bands of the economic storm were just off-shore. The winds leveled Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch — and everyone and their sister was running around like crazy, sandbagging in the hopes of saving the levee called AIG. It seemed as if the levee broke, all was lost — worldwide! I never did hear if this was a Category-5 storm, but it sure sounded like it.
It seemed like a flashback to the awful economic storm of 2002 with Enron, WorldCom and the ultimate implosion of Arthur Andersen.
I learned a few things back then. I learned the media can be as irresponsible as those they report on — yet no one seems to hold them responsible for reporting only half the truth. I learned all is certainly not as simple as it looks on the surface — the real truth lies much deeper. And I learned hurricanes level the innocent along with the guilty.
But I wondered more about what we weren’t learning — or if we had really learned anything truly meaningful. My biggest fear was that we were just trying to get back to normal. It looks like getting back to “normal” is going to cost us a cool $700 billion dollars this time. I hope they at least went to Tiffany & Co. to get this version of normal!
In this political season there has certainly been a lot of talk about change. Both parties agree (imagine that) — there needs to be some change in Washington. Yes, in Washington. As usual, it is someone else who needs to change. I am not in disagreement that there needs to be some change in Washington. Political parties working together would be a refreshing start.
The problem is there will always need to be change in Washington and on Wall Street and on Main Street as long as we think someone else is the problem.
In 2002, I consistently said — “in the end, the problem isn’t Enron or Worldcom and it certainly isn’t Arthur Andersen.” It would have been nice if it was all so simple. I said the problem is all of us — an economic system stretched to the max and a culture addicted to needing what we want rather than wanting what we need.
It was this deep conviction that inspired me to write my book, Silent Alarm. I have been humbled by hundreds of emails from readers of Silent Alarm. They share what they discovered deep inside as they read the book — and every one of those emails have only inspired me to look deeper into my own mind, heart and soul.
Washington may need to change, but not near as much as each one of us. There is no Presidential candidate, Senator, Representative or CEO that can fix a problem for a collective nation that isn’t up for changing individually. Nor will $700 billion dollars. I believe we live in the greatest nation on this earth, but I believe we are better than this.
Leadership clearly failed on many fronts. I have heard a lot about the “mortgage industry” that made irresponsible loans, but I have heard virtually nothing about individual borrowers who took loans for which they should have never applied. Again, needing what we want rather than wanting what we need. The American dream is no dream when it becomes a nightmare.
My biggest fear back in 2002, was we would hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. It certainly would appear that is just what we did! The snooze button on my alarm clock resets the alarm for 7-minutes. This one was almost for 7 years. Once again the alarm is ringing.
ACTION IDEA: Go get a mirror and look deep inside. You may just find the real hope you were looking for.
Our personal alarm is ringing. Can you hear it?