Cough, sneeze, hack, sniffle, it’s messy and noisy, and that’s how I know that I am getting better. My cold has gone from the “sleep the day away” phase to the phase where my head is clearer and I can get more done, but my symptoms are more noticeable. I wonder if that’s what’s happening in our world now. It was probably at its sickest when we weren’t quite sure what was going on, but now, the symptoms we are experiencing may be a healthy, though uncomfortable, sign of recovery.
There is enough bad news out there to supply every politician and pundit. They are the wealthy ones, with plenty of resources for messages of fear and accusation. It’s always the other side’s fault. Three hundred million cheers for Stewart and Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear“, seriously funny satire. Finally voices that know that things have gone too far, and that the best way out may be through laughter. Because, while the pundits and politicians have taken worrisome words to extreme levels, they’ve also finally taken it so far that reasonable folks can find a lot to laugh at. Maybe now the laughter will have the bigger megaphone.
Most aspects of life take time. Few things happen suddenly. Even those things that seem sudden, usually aren’t instantaneous. They might be quick, but even then they happen within environments that modify timing and impact. Our economy seemed to implode suddenly, but years of deregulation and irresponsibility created the instability that wasn’t sustainable. We’ve given the extremists increasingly more attention, possibly just because we liked the drama and trauma. Editors fed that cycle because they gave us what they saw we wanted. Advertisers funded it because they follow the crowds and play to our emotional rather than our rational selves. Rational people are less likely to go into debt to buy a bauble.
Within the stock markets, the timing of good news or bad is a way to track whether the investors are bullish or bearish. In a bull market, when expectations are high, the anticipation of good news drives the stock price up before the actual announcement. That may sound like a foreign concept, but it happened famously ten years ago. Now, people are bearish. Anticipated bad news can drive down the stock price. The news is priced into the stock, which should mean it won’t go down when the news hits, but expectations are so dismal that prices can drop twice.
In a rational world, things wouldn’t go to extremes as often. A tragedy happened nine years ago, and our society headed off not knowing where or when to stop. But I think we are starting to ask ourselves, “Do we need to be where we are?”. That’s a good sign. Many people are stopping after years of running blindly.
Just like when the body gets over a cold, the recovery can be noisy and messy. Emotionally, many people are questioning themselves, which can be painful; but I’m glad to see that for many it is healthily happening with laughter. Economically, individuals are being wiser with their money, and many institutions are either learning or paying for their errors. Unfortunately, there are more than a sniffle’s worth of foreclosures and unemployed people. The stock markets, which usually anticipate trends aren’t doing as good of a job looking ahead. I think that’s because this time the market is affected by institutions that are in shock. Their world view, and their positions of power, were challenged for the first time in decades.
Personally, I’ve taken time to consider many aspects of my life. A three-week walk across Scotland is good for introspection. I don’t know if the politicians, pundits, advertisers, and editors will pull back from their extremes; but, I know they are more likely to move if we shift our attention. As for the institutions, even with crumbled foundations they continue to control enormous power. I suspect a government of, by, and for the people could challenge them, but I have my doubts that a large enough challenge will be made. In the meantime, my portfolio is down, but I suspect it also means that there are more opportunities for the rest of us. I am heartened by the fact that most of my investments are backed by companies with good news, and that many of them are about to report earnings. For many reasons, I’ll be watching to see how the stocks move if good news is announced.
Good news is good news, nothing more or less. It shouldn’t be ignored, or used to cover ills. Unemployment is high, but leveling, and even decreasing in some places. GDP is low but positive. Housing starts are up in many places. Inflation is very low. Corporate profits are up. Some things aren’t going to turn around so quickly. Global climate change operates on decades and centuries, not news or election cycles. Some elements of injustice may always be with us. But to me, the world is looking better.
And I will be better too. First I’ll blow my nose and then I’ll go for a run, because I know the long term effects are even better than the short term high; then maybe a cup of tea with a lot of honey in it. Getting better doesn’t have to mean waiting and it doesn’t have to hurt.