What can we learn from the current precarious state of the world's financial systems?
A lot of us seem to have taken the lesson that greed doesn't pay. It didn't do the banks any good to try to make lots of money by offering their customers loans which they couldn't afford to repay. Nor was it good for those of us who took them up on those offers.
The situation could also be seen as a text book example of the law of attraction in action. While financial mismanagement lies at the heart of the crisis, the resulting loss of confidence is making it so much worse. People are selling shares because they are afraid that their value is falling, and this in turn is driving down the price. People are attracting the very thing which they fear.
But perhaps there is another yet more important lesson to learn.
About a year ago, I wrote on this blog about the importance of us coming to think of ourselves an integral part of the human race, rather than caring mainly about ourselves and our own selfish needs. Only then, I argued, could we work together to find our way out of the mess we're in.
At the time, I was thinking about the environment, war, terrorism, inequality: all the factors we've come to equate with the state of the world. It hadn't occurred to me that the thing which might actually start to bring us together would be a banking crisis. And yet that is what seems to have happened.
It was interesting to watch the rocky passage of the US government's banking rescue package through the House of Representatives. On the first occasion, they threw it out because they wanted to punish the bankers. But the second time, the bill passed because the truth had finally dawned: people couldn't punish the bankers without also punishing themselves. If the banks went down, then so would the whole economy. We were all in this together. Doh!
And perhaps a lot of people also realized that it wasn't just the banks that had caused this mass. They couldn't have done it without the compliance of those of us who took them up on the reckless offers they made. The public wanted to blame the bankers, but the truth was that once again, we were all in this together.
Perhaps the most unusual and abiding image of the crisis has been the sight of Republicans and Democrats sitting down together to try to work things out. It seems that the more serious things get, the more inclined we are to find common ground.
Over here in the UK, where - as in so may other countries - a similar financial drama has played out, there have also been signs of a coming together of opposing political parties, with the opposition pledging support for the government's efforts to stop things falling apart entirely.
Europe-wide, there have also been efforts at unity, though this has been less successful, with governments pledging to work together on Sunday, then going their own separate ways the following day. The resulting uncertainty has had a disastrous effect on the markets, another reminder that we all have to work together on this if we're going to make it through.
In the previous post, I also mentioned 2012, the year when many of us new-agey type people believe that the world will change, when the global shift in consciousness I've mentioned will come into being: when we will all come to think of ourselves as a part of the whole, rather than as individuals battling for survival. Can this really come about? Some people are saying that we're fooling ourselves to think it can happen in only four years time, while others are claiming that it's already begun.
Well, I don't know the truth of it, to be honest, but it seems to me that the financial crisis is providing an example of how it might actually come about. What if the financial systems do fall apart? What then?
On a personal level, it seems that spiritual transformation often occurs when things get so bad that you 'can't stand it any more'. Such transformation comes about through crisis. So could something similar happen on a global level? The more serious things get, the more we pull together... But what would have to happen to really make a difference? Just how bad would it have to get?
I used to joke that the only thing which could unite the human race would be an invasion of extra-terrestrials. But perhaps our salvation when it comes could be something just as unexpected, yet rather more mundane...
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