Me, Myself, and Writing

I’ve always believed in the power of writing; whether it was to share my thoughts on some ‘serious’ so-called ‘intellectual’ issue, or to pour down personal feelings, which is apparently something I can’t do IRL. Seeing letters come to life on a blank space, letters and words that are far from being unique, but that for that space only, can and do become solely yours, is both rewarding and comforting.

Writing to me is a safe space, which ironically makes it personal and detached at the same time. It’s personal because unlike spoken words, I put a lot of thought and time into it, going back to my sentences and my choice of words, and the end product will depend a lot on my state of mind, not on the consideration of how my interlocutors will think or react. Not that I blurt out whatever passes through my head when I talk, but I don’t exactly spend more than seconds on my spoken words, whereas I could spend days on end on a single post. There are things I would never say out loud or share directly with friends, even close ones; not because they are fascinating and complex revelations about my personality, but… well, I guess because I’m not much of a great talker to start with.

Yet as personal as they can be, I know the number of people who will actually read what I write is limited, and words on a screen are still far from being my actual face, with my instant reactions and facial expressions . The medium of blogs and the computer screen I imagine people will stare at provide a shield I can safely hide behind, with no fear of judgment or ridicule, or even total disinterest.

For the past year however, I have had a hard time managing the delicate ‘personal’ and ‘detached’ equilibrium, mostly because I have come to realize another power that writing provides. Putting your innermost thoughts and feelings in writing is quite a compelling and vulnerable process, if you think about it. It’s admitting to the world, but first and foremost to yourself that you are feeling helpless. It’s not just about knowing that it’s wrong to feel certain things, but acknowledging it. Once the words are written, there’s no going back. Your doubts, feelings, and anxiety become truth. And there are certain things I don’t want to admit even to myself. No, especially to myself.

I don’t want to admit that I can’t do this on my own, that feelings of loneliness engulf me more times than I can count, that at least once a week I want to drop everything and disappear in the farthest, smallest corner of my existence, and not care about how others will feel.

I don’t want to admit that my heart rarely lets my head control my life, that I’m doing so many things against my belief and conscience, that I’m a more emotional being than a rational one.

I don’t want to admit that I need, that I want, help. I don’t want to admit that it would be nice to feel loved from time to time.

Because I’m a fucking 21st century strong woman, for god’s sake. Because I have so many things that should keep me strong – I’m not starving, I have pretty shoes, I have good friends and a supporting family, I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do. Because there are so many other people who are struggling daily with so little. Because, theoretically, I should be happy.

But maybe happiness is not about being thankful for every single day. Maybe it’s not supposed to be easy. It’s a process, it’s a journey. There are ups and then there are downs. It’s about learning how to maintain your ups for a second longer than your downs. And maybe, some day… my ups will be there for a minute, an hour, a day, longer than my downs.

I am slowly learning that it’s okay to feel vulnerable – it sucks, but it’s okay.

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“End This Depression Now!” by Paul Krugman

What I absolutely love and admire about Paul Krugman is how he makes economics, my worst and strongest enemy so far, so easy to understand. He uses simple analogies and explanations to discuss about complicated matters. On the downside, because economics always get more complicated as you further advance your way into it, when I don’t even understand his easy prose and illustrations, I feel like a complete fool.

My extent of knowledge in economics - I know I want to flush it down the toilet.

My extent of knowledge in economics – I know I want to flush it down the toilet.

Nevertheless, his book has been the most concise and clear-cut work that has finally, albeit mildly, explained to me this whole financial crisis and depression we’ve been slumped into since 2008. I’m not sure if, asked to explain in my words the genesis of this crisis and its solutions, I would indeed be able to, but I think I can answer some simple questions, now that I’ve read Mr. Krugman’s book. This is therefore a small attempt at summarizing and getting the main idea of the still rather complicated book, because let’s face it, it’s on economics, so there’s a limit to how easy it can get. (One other fact I like Krugman’s works – his books, those that are destined for laymen, at least, are never too thick, and therefore encourage the readers to take on the grand and daunting intellectual journey into the world of economics, numbers and charts.)

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Krugman explains the beginning of the financial crisis (in the US) from the deregulations that occurred in the 1980s, during the Carter-Reagan era in the United States. Having had a rather ‘successful’ time after the Second World War (wars, unfortunately, are often financially beneficial to some countries, especially when war is not happening on the physical grounds of said country), the US government allowed for a series of deregulations on banks, giving them the freedom to pay any amount of interest or to have any kind of loans, especially in regards to business and financial firms in the private sector. Whereas banks had so far been a place where individuals deposited money for safe-keeping, banks were rapidly becoming places that lent cash they didn’t have to private investors. The differentiation between commercial banks and investment banks disappeared with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and commercial banks were as free as investment banks to lend to private business owners, thereby leading to the birth of the top 1% or even the top 0.1%.

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Then comes the Minsky moment, a sudden and major collapse of asset values, and suddenly, people realize that they’re in a deeper debt than what they thought, and there is no way of getting out because everyone suddenly decides not to spend money because of such debt. It’s a vicious circle where A needs income to pay over his debt, but since B is also in the same situation and unwilling to spend money as well, there is no way for A to even have the income in the first place.

The fact that people are unwilling to understand that my spending is your income and vice-versa and only see their debt growing naturally steers them to cut their spendings and save money, money they unfortunately don’t have. The cash flow is stopped and no one’s willing to be the first to start it again.

Therefore Krugman argues that the current austerity policies most governments are taking, are only making matters worse. Sure, the tantalizing number of 16 trillion dollars in national debt is enough to scare off everyone and remind them it is time to stop ‘wasting’ money away. But sitting on the debt without anything is even more dangerous and will lead to nowhere. Moreover, the government is unwilling to borrow more on top because it’s afraid the interest rates will soar, thereby adding even more to the debt.

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But, in the words of Krugman,

“in a depressed economy, budget deficits don’t compete with private sector for funds, and hence don’t lead to soaring interest rates. The government is simply finding a use for the private sector’s excess savings, that is, the excess of what it wants to save over what it is willing to invest. And it was in fact crucial that the government play this role, since without those public deficits, the private sector’s attempt to spend less than it earned would have caused a deep depression.”

Since the private sector is unwilling to spend more when the economy is at risk and we all know that private businesses will do nothing that undermines their benefits, it is up to the government to start spending, even if it means borrowing more (the current interest rate is nearly zero, so worries about high interest rates should be null).

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What could and should be done?

More stimulus, for instance. The Obama government did in fact initiate a stimulus package in 2009, but it is Krugman’s opinion that it was insufficient. This insufficient stimulus pushed state governments to cause severe cuts in education, laying off school teachers and thereby making education worse than it already was. Many may ask, where should the stimulus or creating new jobs focus on? Should the government suddenly finance a brand new project, like building a new highway? No, there doesn’t need to be a brand new project to create jobs and re-boost the cash flow again. Investment in infrastructure, as in maintenance and upgrades, can be enough (the New York subways could use an upgrade, in my honest opinion). Help people in distress and those with enormous mortgage loans. Put money in people’s hands and they will spend it (not waste). But most importantly, do something, be aggressive. Don’t just sit on your debt and cut on spendings.

Why isn’t the government doing this? Among many reasons, one is political. This Keynesian policy, allowing the government to step in when necessary and not let the free market work its mojo until it finally gets it right, regardless of the countless jobs and homes lost in the way, is often seen as ‘socialist’, and thus contrary to the great American values, to many politicians on the right spectrum. (Although the Obama government has also been following the advice of rather anti-Keynesian advice.)

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It is indeed unfortunate that even when seeing the numbers of high unemployment and other tragedies this depression has brought, the people that indeed can make a difference are unwilling to see past their disagreements to do something that actually matters and changes. Stop talking about ‘limited government’, there is a reason why we have a government in the first place.

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