Thursday, May 26, 2011

Left Behind

Article first published as Left Behind: For Many, World Ended in 2008 on Blogcritics.

You may have breathed a sigh of relief this weekend when the world did not come to an end as predicted by the so-called "Doomsday Prophet". This was the good news. The bad news is that apparently Mr. Doomsday has revised his numbers to say that the world will actually end in October.

I agree with him that his dates where a bit off this weekend. The problem however is not that his prediction was too early but that it was way too late. The world actually ended in 2008. Remember that little financial meltdown we had back then? For many Americans, that was when their world ended. In this case I'm referring to what some psychologists describe as a person's "assumptive world", their mental map of how the world is supposed to work. Traumatic experiences often turn a person's assumptive world upside down and inside out. This is exactly what has happened to those "left behind" by the Great Recession.

Their world before the financial crisis was one where if you worked hard you got to keep your job and if you lost it, you could easily find another one. Where you could assume that you could send your child to college and if that child got a degree, he or she would find work. Where foreclosures, homelessness, and hunger were things that only happened to other people. Where no one was "too big to fail" and no one was too small to succeed. Where people who destroyed their companies would not be rewarded with bailouts and bonuses of biblical proportions while everyday folks lie awake at night wondering how to pay their bills. For the left behind, that world is over. They are left to face an economic Armageddon while the architects of this disaster have been lifted to a financial heaven paid for by their victims.

Will that pre-recession world ever return? Or might something different, perhaps even better arise from the ashes those American dream that have turned into nightmares? One way of understanding all end-times narratives is that an old world must be destroyed so that a new one can be born. In biblical terms, that new world is one in which God's Will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Might the spiritual, psychological, and material trauma of the Great Recession hold within it the seeds of an American Spring? 'Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), Head of the Baha'i Faith from 1892-1921 put it this way:

"In winter come the storms, and the great winds blow, but then will follow spring in all its beauty, adorning hill and plain with perfumed plants and red anemones, fair to see. Then will the birds trill out upon the branches their songs of joy, and sermonize in lilting tones from the pulpits of the trees. Erelong shall ye bear witness that the lights are streaming forth, the banners of the realm above are waving, the sweet scents of the All-Merciful are wafted abroad, the hosts of the Kingdom are marching down, the angels of heaven are rushing forward, and the Holy Spirit is breathing upon all those regions."