Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Prescription for the economic jitters

A Prescription for the economic jitters

It appears that fear has become our constant companion these days. You turn the TV on and here comes the dreaded red arrow of the stock market taking yet another precipitous dive. You switch the computer on, same Friday the 13th scenario. And as you watch one business after the other being axed and friends losing their jobs you fear that the bells will toll for you next. It is evident that fear has overtaken our brains.

Now, the thing with fear is that although it has consistently saved our you-know-what through our evolutionary struggles to survive as a species, when it overtakes us it leaves very little space and time for anything else but saving our skin. Fear breeds avoidance and retreat both of which are serious obstacles to progress. So, now that more than any other time we need our creativity, inventiveness and thinking out of the box all we can do is fortify our box and make sure that we keep what we have.

Fear and pain are neuronally very closely linked in our brain. It has been shown that when our brain senses pain or anticipates loss, we tend to hold tightly onto what we have. Have you ever noticed how when you see in the news that a kid was harmed or kidnapped you want to hurry back home hug your kid and never let him out of your arms? When it comes to the economy when everyone holds on to what he/she has at the same time the result is the economic paralysis the whole world is presently gripped by.

This brings us to the prescription for the fear jitters: Pessimism is contagious, so avoid people who are overly pessimistic about our economic outlook. Turn off the media’s incessant talks about economic solutions (just remember what all these brilliant economists got us into), and unless you make a living trading stop watching the Dow’s impressive acrobatics.
I am not suggesting total denial just a healthy dose of it. I am not advocating blissful irresponsibility just a little less paranoia. No, now maybe not the time to buy that red Porsche but letting your hair turn white or walking around with holes in your stockings maybe taking it a bit too far.

When I first came to this country and I was trying to adjust, my mother in law gave me a very wise advice: when you feel blue go buy yourself a pair of stockings. The other advice comes from History: Americans have from the get go overcome inordinate obstacles on their way to becoming the greatest power on earth. They said that the settlers will never survive the wilderness of the new world. They said that they will never beat the Brits. They said that they will perish during the great depression. They said that we will never beat the Germans in splitting the atom. They said that we will never get to the moon. Yes, we heard it all before. And they were wrong!

In the words of our wonderful poet Maya Angelou;

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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