Oh, come on, people. Pull some weeds. But many don’t. My neighborhood has rules about these things. Curse homeowner’s associations if you will, but I admit that I like some of the rules, like the one about keeping the weeds down. Unfortunately, some of the rules are also frequently broken, like the one about keeping the weeds down. A bright yellow intrusive weed made me think about the community, the election, the stock market, and society in general.
What’s a weed? Enough of them are pretty enough that even the invasive ones get planted on purpose. Ah, a field of yellow. Dandelions are switching from being attacked to celebrated, at least by fans of honeybees, and by innovative foodies. Every yellow flower is not a replacement for sunflowers. Scotch Broom, the dreaded Yellow Tansy, and for some, those pesky dandelions are colorful additions. Many are so bad that the state of Washington requires their removal. The plants I plant on purpose aren’t as colorful as one of the plants in the untended vacant lot across the street.
My yard isn’t worth noticing, but at least I keep it mowed. I have to, otherwise the prickly plants like thistle and blackberry would take over. Until this year, one of the neighboring vacant lots was covered in six foot tall blackberry bushes. They hired someone to knock it all down, carry it away, and then replant with something safe. Yay! And thanks for sending far fewer weed seeds my way. Across the street from it, though, is a lot that’s a wash of yellow fading to tan, brown, and grey in a Salish Sea summer. Clouds drift up from it as the wind spreads the worries.
I’ve talked to neighbors who let their weeds run over vacant lots. They might only own the lot so they can use the neighborhood amenities like the marina or pool. They really don’t care what happens to the weeds because it doesn’t bother their real home, which might be in a neighborhood miles away. They also don’t care about the rules, partly because no one thinks the issue is bad enough to enforce.
They know there are rules, but they choose to ignore them. This isn’t just a style or control issue. Weeds can mess up a suburban lawn, and ruin a working farm. We’re all in this together. Weeds, viruses, injustices. We have rules, regulations, and ways to control these things. We have laws that can be enforced; but white-color crime, corruption, insider trading, stock manipulation, are part of a long list of weeds that society’s gardeners decide to let grow. Oh, there’s some trimming occasionally; but to actually prosecute someone who acknowledges that they’ve broken the rules, the laws, well, that’s so uncommon that transgressions are becoming overt instead of covert. Criminals can admit their crimes in public, not be arrested, and not even lose their jobs
And, I don’t expect the lack of governance and enforcement to change soon. It is easy to drop into a cynical perspective with so much unchallenged evidence on public display. Even a new administration would require years, maybe generations, to unravel the injustices.
Looking at the weeds I realized that the attitude people can take about ignoring the spread of weed seeds is basically the same attitude people can take about containing viruses by wearing masks. (And do they even wash their hands? What else do I not want to know about them?) If their vacant lot doesn’t affect the lawn at their home, they may not care. Besides, pulling weeds isn’t fun. If they feel fine and don’t understand science, they may not care about wearing a mask. Where’s the fun in that? Scale this attitude up to greater injustices and masses of people who aren’t directly affected, and we have a weedy and risky community and society.
Thinking ahead is planning. Personal financial plans benefit from thinking ahead. An election is approaching (or at least should be.) There will be changes, but the injustices have too much societal inertia to suddenly stop. 2021 is getting closer, and will at least change a digit; and maybe that’s all that will change. An inauguration is approaching, and changes, and yet there’s that inertia maintaining traditions.
For the next six months of my financial planning I’m assuming no changes. I expect the economy to swing wildly as the pandemic continues, hopes for a miraculous cure rise and fall, and disruptive politics reaches new extremes. The range of possibilities beyond our current troubles are so diverse that picking one is more like wishing than planning.
We are in an era when fundamental values are being actively challenged. It is messy. It is necessary. We’re probably witnessing only the first few pebbles of a landslide that can dramatically change the landscape. Anachronisms and archaic attitudes look increasingly ridiculous, not to everyone, but to growing crowds. What and who are essential? What is the role of government from health to protection to defense to – every role in the executive branch’s Cabinet? We might finally be able to begin the real debate about budgets relative to each other, and where the money is coming from. That won’t be a quick conversation; but a real debate with real action about the modern reality of government is welcome, necessary, and messy – and will threaten wealthy institutions and individuals while providing hope for those who aren’t wealthy.
But, there are no guarantees. (Can we return or exchange 2020 for another year?)
This is a long way around for me to convince me to assume little is going to change, at least within the fundamentals of the economic system. There’s great potential for a grand awakening; but there’s also the terrible potential for tragedies to continue.
We are in the midst of unstoppable change. We just don’t know what that change is or where it is going. There are more than enough changes to manage: work from home, teach from home, learn from home, mask up, wash those hands, skip the hugs, restock the pantry, and check and check and check with the doctors on a personal level and scientists on a societal level. At least for now, at least for my financial plans, I’ll return to the basic message from my book on personal finance, Dream. Invest. Live.; Spend less than I make. Invest the rest. That hasn’t changed. And the fact that others will continue to proudly continue bad and dangerous habits hasn’t changed, either.
What is a weed is in the eyes of the beholder.