The price per barrel for oil is up $2 from what it was the other day. It's $108 and some change today. Remember the last time oil went above $100 per barrel? There were trucker strikes, and dozens of truck drivers went out of business because they couldn't afford the increase in the cost of gasoline. That linked article shows a gas station sign with gasoline at $3.79/gallon, and it was considered a lot. I looked up today's gasoline prices for Portland, Maine. BJ's members can get gasoline for $3.69/gallon. The rest of Portland is paying between $3.74 and $3.79.
And then, there's the story about Detroit. What about Detroit, you ask? Oh, not much ... the city filed for bankruptcy. Seriously? Like, what does that even mean? A CITY is bankrupt? They won't pay their employees, and if the employees had a retirement pension fund, they don't anymore. Will Detroit no longer pick-up the trash, fix the road, pay for the library?
But I don't live in - or even anywhere near - Detroit. So, why should I care? Because Detroit is not the only one. It's not even the first. It's the largest, so far, but it's not the first, and it won't be the last. The headline in our local rag paper last week said Last-minute budget hikes taxes. In the zero hour, my town councilors passed a budget that included a tax increase. Nice, right? At some point, they are not going to be able to raise the taxes, and then, what? Guess I better figure out what to do with the garbage ... and maybe invest in a snowmobile in case they can't plow the roads in the winter.
Greece is imposing new austerity laws, because they still haven't figured out how to balance their budget ... after how many years? Two years ago, the Guardian ran a story about Greek parents, who are giving up their children because they can't afford to feed them. It's reminiscent of stories from the 1930s. People over there are really suffering, but we don't really hear that much about that sort of thing over here on our side of the big pond. Probably, not very many of us really care, either, right? I mean, we don't live in Greece, and most of us don't even know anyone who does. It's not our problem, right?
Actually, I think it is exactly our problem, because we don't seem to be so very far from there ourselves - even as much as we want to pretend. The most recent unemployment figures show that unemployment rates have increased in 28 states. We don't have any jobs to offer these people who are looking for work. What are they going to do? Oh, there's a Market Basket opening up in a town south of us ... oh, wait. They're having problems with their CEO, and so who knows if that store will actually open.
Most people are still trying to just get by, just do their thing, just live like they've always lived, and aren't paying attention. Most people still have a job, which they may or may not like, and while we grumble about price increases and such, we're not really believing that things are that bad, right? We might even be a little distrustful of these guys, who've suddenly made a pretty big showing on the streets of Maine's largest city, but there is a lot of questioning as to whether or not these folks really are homeless or whether they're just scamming us good, honest, hardworking, job-holding individuals. The problem is so big, in fact, that Portland recently voted to ban panhandling on traffic medians. To write a law like that, there first has to be a significant problem.
Most of us, though, most of us have still not been severely affected by the economic downturn. We're paying more, but we still have homes. We still eat every day, most of us two or three times a day. We still have clothes to wear (and extra money to buy more - even if more clothes are second-hand, thrift store finds), and we still have cars to drive and enough money to put a little gasoline in them.
One of the reasons most of us, here in the US, have yet to feel the full impact of the growing worldwide economic crisis, is that our dollar is still the world's reserve currency, but that seems to be changing. It might get really tough when our US currency bond holders decide they want their money back - ASAP.
Are we living history right now? I wonder what the people who are alive 90 years from now will think about us. Will they look at our Facebook statuses and wonder what in the hell we were doing? The world is collapsing around us, and the "news for you" section of Yahoo lists eleven headlines, half of which are about the recent trial in Florida and the most recent cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
Because those two things are really so much more important than the fact that our economy is collapsing; the price of food and gasoline are continuing to creep upward; big corporations like Merck, Monsanto, and Nestle are controlling our health, our food and our water supply, and our government is letting them; our Constitutionally guaranteed rights are slowly being stripped from us in the name of keeping us safe; our President is considering opening up drilling for oil in Alaska rather than helping us transition away from our oil addiction; we are in the midst of one of the hottest summers I can remember here in Maine - so much so that the Grid operator for New England is telling people to take it easy on their electricity usage, because the grid might not be able to handle it (and then a huge thunderstorm knocked out my power for ten hours - that was fun ;); and Big Brother really is watching us, and we've really pissed off some folks in Europe, because they don't like that our government is spying on them, too.
Maybe it's just that there are too many really big issues to choose from, and so rather than worry about any of those things that are kind of important, and that we should really be thinking about, and deciding how we're going to protect ourselves against, we worry about stuff that won't even really matter - except to the very few people who were directly affected.
I'm thinking I need to spend more time in the garden, because out there, planting food means that we won't starve even if we can't afford to buy food; out there, I can control what goes into our food and protect my family from corporations who only see dollar signs; out there, I am becoming acclimated to the warmer temperatures so that I'm not so bothered by the hot weather (not that I have an AC anyway); and out there, I'm not online, and so Big Brother can't follow my movements.
Huh? Who knew that gardening was the solution to so many of the world's BIG problems?