During the Presidential election cycle, you heard Barack Obama say it at least a few dozen times: “We’re facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the housing market, and recent unemployment figures provide about as much inspiration as the thought of a George W. Bush worldwide speaking tour. (In case you’re wondering, we’re not expecting W’s version of the Clinton Global Initiative to launch anytime soon.)
A feeling of financial panic–encouraged both by our hysterical hypermedia and the cold, hard reality of the markets–seems to be enveloping the entire industrialized world, with no shortage of complaining and begging-for-bailouts going on, much of which is justifiable, but some of which is ridiculous.
To allow this temporary downswing in the financial markets to control your mental well-being is not going to help you during the crisis and will definitely continue to take a toll on you after the economy corrects itself. I say, don’t call it a “recession.” A “recession” is something that happens to you. Don’t let yourself become the beat-up stepchild of Wall Street fat cats and George Bush economics. I say, take ownership of the situation, and call it a “vow of poverty.”
Complaining about rich capitalists getting the best of you is neither graceful nor appropriate when you choose to live in a capitalist society. Conversely, taking a “vow of poverty” is both noble and cleansing. You’ll cut out the fat from your lifestyle, free your mind, and reassess your entire value system. And you’ll probably have more fun and possibly learn some valuable life lessons.
If you feel like you are a little too deep in love with your shopping and dining habits and need a helping hand, check out a few inspirational films, such as:
Into the Wild: A young idealist gives his money to OxFam, cuts up his Driver’s license and walks the Earth alone, meeting interesting characters all over the American West and going to Alaska to live off the land. That’s what I call traveling on a budget. And it’s not just a movie, it’s a true story, so I don’t want to hear you claiming it’s just a Hollywood fantasy. (Yes, the kid meets and unfortunate ending, but surely you can learn from his mistakes and get by just fine.)
Fight Club: Not a true story, but what better way to get inspired to take ownership of your poverty than to watch someone quit his job and blow up his own apartment? AND with his spare time and mental space, he starts a national organization of extremely loyal followers! You won’t see Tyler Durden whining about the housing markets or Dow Jones Industrials anytime soon. (Okay, I know what you’re thinking: this one’s totally fiction, and you don’t want to wake up with a broken jaw, bleeding organs, etc.–to which I respond: stop being a wuss.)
Life is Beautiful: If that Roberto Benigni guy can make a good time out of a friggin’ concentration camp, what are you complaining about?
Office Space: Bummed that you got laid off? Stop whining! Watch as the main character in this classic of American cinema gets himself fired from his office (er, cubicle) job on purpose and discovers the joy of manual labor.
If that doesn’t help, you can always watch Survivor. That should give you some tips on how to deal with the next phase of this crisis.