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It starts with a need to get out of England because the ruling class was making life hard for them.  It ends up as one of those myths that anyone can insert whatever truth they want into. The story of the Pilgrims is a worth a hard look because we have a lot in common with them right now – a kind of blind faith that is dangerous not because it comes from optimism or morality but in something even stranger.

The Puritans arrived here expecting that their faith in God would be enough to deliver them to the Promised Land.  It took a nasty winter and about half of their number to die before they realized that they were, at the least, going to have to get a little more real about the whole situation.  They even asked the natives for help, a tacit recognition that they might not actually know everything about the strange new world they found themselves in.

This may seem like a cynical read of the events that led to the First Thanksgiving, and it is. However, it’s also well documented that the Puritans quickly figured out that Faith was not something blind and passive.  Rather than be simply given a kind of Promised Land, they had to hope that they were given the skills to create and realize the Promised Land around them.

Let’s take a long look at what we, as a people, appear to have put our faith in.  It’s not something like a deity that will deliver us, but more of a faith in the systems we have built up over the years.  They delivered us a good life for a long time, after all, so what’s not to trust?  The alternative is to either somehow be self-sufficient or know just about everything, neither of which are all that appealing.  So the best thing to do is hold on and trust that, as surely as this is a mild November, we’ll make it through the Winter.

Yes, but if the Winter is a lot longer and harder than many of us are used to?

If you want to really know the nature of the situation that we are in, I urge you to take a lot of time to read this blog post by Mike Shedlock of Sitka.  Go ahead, there’s a long holiday coming up, and it’s better than watching the Detroit Lions, I assure you.  The long and short of it is that the various bubbles we’ve ridden created no more than about 330k jobs over the last entire decade.  We’re now losing about that many each year month.  In addition, about  2,500k more young people enter the job market every year as the Millenial Generation comes of age.  We are unlikely to fall below 8% unemployment (as measured by the best-case scenario numbers we us, U3) for another decade yet to come.

This may seem like a strange situation to relate to the buckle-hatted league that created Thanksgiving for us, but as usual I have a point.  Thanksgiving is a holiday that celebrates not just a faith in deliverance, but a long litany of sacrifices and hard choices made by people who were forced to huddle together just to survive.  If the Puritans had stayed with a narrow definition of faith in deliverance by unseen forces, they wouldn’t have gotten as far as the big meal.

Is the dire situation that Mike Shedlock describes absolutely, for sure, going to happen?  The short version is that no, it doesn’t have to go down exactly that way if we pay attention to what’s going on.  It should be obvious that, without any action, what’s described here is going to happen.  The systems that have worked for us have given us a lot of justified faith, but this is clearly something far bigger of a test than that faith has ever had before.

People who tell me that the Recession is over, or indeed anyone who tells me that there is this thing called a “Recovery” that arrives without a painful “Restructuring”, are living in the early part of the story of the Puritans.  They are the ones who aren’t going to make it through the Winter because their story is one of blind faith and little else.  I don’t really care what kind of degrees or positions they have, either.

The real story of Thanksgiving is how much more it takes than simple faith to get to the Promised Land.  It’s certainly worth noting that, with the right attention to detail, community, and reality that we all can make it.  Our own kind of faith, in all the systems that make up our lives, might be comforting in the depths of Winter – but we can’t eat it or burn it for heat.  We need a little harder sense of reality and community to get through this.  Then, we can celebrate our deliverance together, once we get through this, with a big turkey or something.  Perhaps by then the Detroit Lions will even be worth watching.

12 thoughts on “Deliverance

  1. “…the various bubbles we’ve ridden created no more than about 330k jobs over the last entire decade. We’re now losing about that many each year.”

    Ahem. If you believe the government numbers, we lost:

    – 742,000 jobs in March
    – 706,000 job in February
    – 741,000 job in January

    We slowed a great deal since then, but only because we threw the very last of the countries financial resources in to the flames.



  2. It looks like we are going to have to endure a lot of demagogues in our political culture. It is so frustrating for me who reads the NY review of books abit and then turns on the tv and sees a disconnect.

  3. Walter: I meant month! I do this often. I’m going to correct it with a strikeout so people can see how I screwed up.

    Dan: Yes, that’s very true. It’s the disconnect with reality that is so bizarre. I honestly think that if we dealt with this problem it wouldn’t be so bad – we do have a kind of “free will” to use the Puritan analogy too much. But we just won’t get real about it.

  4. This is another of your “Why can’t we get real?” series. I like the way you return back to this over and over and how you try different angles every time. I hope the message gets through somehow and I guess it has to.

    You said in your platform that there has to be a small amount of money to create jobs. This other post you link to shows that we need them. SO far it’s been welfare for the rich but nothing for the rest of us. That just cant hold up forever if this is what we can expect in coming years. And I believe its true because I see it happening right now.

  5. I do not wish to be hard on America, but all nations behave this way at times. There have been times when Europe was very peaceful and no one would raise the question. This view might be from afar but I thought that the election of Obama was a sign that you are changing. I see reports of people in the streets.

    All nations become this way at times. I have faith in the US to not let the rest of us down. You will do what is right I am sure.

  6. Janine: We’ll get real. One way or another, this has to sink in. It’s been a solid year since I called for a new WPA, and I hear other “mainstream” politicians and “exerts” finally joining in that. The unemployment among youth alone has to be chilling. It is true that the Free Market appears to be good for the rest of us but not for the rich – how did we allow that to happen?

    Anders: Thank you. We will do our part. I keep thinking of the line from Casablanca:

    Rick: Sam, if it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?
    Sam: Uh, my watch stopped.
    Rick: I’ll be they’re asleep in New York. I’ll bet they’re asleep all over America. (pounds table with fist) Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine!

    This time, “she” isn’t war, she’s something far less romantic. “She” is Reality, the need to work together to solve our problems for the good of everyone. We may not like it, but we’ll do our part. Eventually.

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