Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hanging On, Or, How to Get Through a Depression and Enjoy Life

I've just come across an article about the experience of the Great Depression as seen through the eyes of a young middle-class man from Flint, Michigan in the USA. The article is a review of a book which is now out of print (available second hand) but nevertheless it makes some very interesting and useful points. It gives a picture of what people were thinking as the depression developed and how they adapted and changed as time went on.

We tend to look at events in the past as having a certain inevitability and therefore predictability, but of course they are often not like that at all. The people going through them often regard them as a temporary aberration and generally try to keep their normal life going until they can do it no longer. Then they either adapt or they fail.

The name "Great Depression" is something which was assigned after the fact. People caught up in it, at the beginning at least, thought Business As Usual would resume shortly and often saw their economic failure as a personal failure, not as something produced by forces beyond their or anyone else's control.

By the time the Great Depression was over people's attitude to life and society had undergone some fundamental shifts. The article is particularly interesting talking about how attitudes to government and to big business were very different. But there are many other fascinating insights. Here is a list of section headings:

Impact on most vulnerable
Communities and families
Plans and Dreams
Unions and the workplace

Read it here.

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