Walking through the neighborhood in the usual quiet of a Saturday morning, with chickens and bird song and barking dogs providing the bulk of the background noise, it seems impossible to believe that the human part of the world is so precariously poised.
On the one hand, we have President Bush — never a reassuring or credible presence —telling folks there’s no need to panic and the government’s big action was big enough to stem the crisis.
And on the other, we’ve got the very same government calling international meetings to save the world from economic collapse as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson delivers such unsettling comments as:
"This is a period like none of us has ever seen before," declared Paulson at a rare Friday night news conference.
If none of them have ever seen anything like this, how can they be so certain they’ll be able to “fix it?”
A friend just back from an Indonesia vacation told of watching the world news — “They even have Al Jezeera broadcasts,” he marveled — at a surf camp there, and seeing well-heeled surfers from Brazil, Australia and Europe digest reports of America’s financial woes spreading across the globe, causing their own investments to nose dive.
It’s kind of like the 21st Century equivalent of the venereal and other diseases that infected vast numbers of unsuspecting persons at the onset of colonialism, causing entire civilizations to collapse.
My favorite comment of the week came from Bush:
"In an interconnected world, no nation will gain by driving down the fortunes of another.”
Since when? Isn’t that the basis of all the war-mongering that made the 20th Century the bloodiest in human history? Isn’t that why the World Bank has crushed the economies of developing nations with debt? Isn’t that the purpose of NAFTA and other trade agreements?
Meanwhile, Larry Geller at Disappeared News is wondering, where’s the public outrage over the meltdown?
I think a lot of folks are numb, or just don’t know what to think. Then there’s a sizable group that figures the government will fix it, because that’s what the government keeps saying it’s going to do.
And then there’s the misplaced outrage, like the anger expressed toward the Dems at recent GOP political rallies. That leads me to my second favorite quote of the week:
“I’m mad; I’m really mad!” the [Republican] voter bellowed. “And what’s going to surprise ya, is it’s not the economy — it’s the socialists taking over our country.”
Ironically, he was referring to Obama, not Bush, the President who orchestrated the biggest government intervention in the financial sector in history, and whose Treasury Secretary is now talking about nationalizing banks.
On a local level, I haven’t seen any outrage or even much overt concern, although folks are definitely aware of what’s happening. A friend who works construction said some guys are really crying because work has dried up, although it hasn’t for him, while another reported that North Shore condos aren’t selling, with some on the market for over 700 days. Meanwhile, a local charity cancelled a planned fundraising ball because it feared the tickets were too pricey.
So things are obviously decelerating on Kauai, but some people are viewing it like a hurricane, without the damage, imposing a slowdown that’s somewhat welcome after the frenetic activity of the past six years. All of a sudden it’s possible to easily make a left turn onto Kuhio Highway in Kapaa in the middle of the day because the traffic has eased. And folks opposed to the massive Kukuiulua development in Poipu are smirking as it stalls out just as it’s coming on line.
I don’t know if this attitude will persist if things get worse, but Kauai has weathered tough times in the past, in large part because there’s still a sense of caring here. Despite our differences, folks are generally willing to help one another, local-style.
That makes me think of an exchange I witnessed the other day while sitting with some guys at a picnic table by the beach at Pine Trees in Hanalei. A Lakota named Black Fox came by and joined us. He got to talking and said he’d met a girl who asked him: “Are you a local?”
He had replied, “I don’t know,” which set us all to laughing and prompted one of the guys, from a North Shore Hawaiian family, to say: “There’s no way to tell by looking who’s local in Hawaii. It’s, do you act local?”
And on Kauai, fortunately, a lot of folks do.