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Violinists on the Titanic

I spent my weekend in a bootcamp learning to do something new. The teacher told us over and over that we would have to work hard to become good at what we were learning. She used this analogy: You are not going to graduate from USC (my alma mater!) on Monday and be CEO of IBM on Tuesday. You have to work hard to get there.

And that got me thinking about something that’s been bothering me for a long time, because I’ve struggled with it myself and because I see it running rampant in our society.

On a small scale:

I know a lot of actors here in Los Angeles at all levels of their careers. I’m friends with most of them on facebook and, for the most part, their status updates fall into one of two categories. Those who are struggling to “make it” alternate between hoping for their big break, thinking that every audition is going to be “the one”  and feeling depressed that it’s not happening fast enough for them.

The other category is the working actors. Their posts are often about the work they are doing on their careers, the classes, the meetings, the work they’re booking. I’m sure you see where I’m going with this: There are those who are doing some hard work and there are those thinking that success should come knocking on their doors.

Having been a member of both camps I can understand buying into the dream that we’re so fabulous it can only be a matter of time until we’re discovered and the reality that we are each but one small fish in a turbulent sea and if we are to avoid the net of despair we have to keep on swimming as fast as we can toward the light/food/brass ring/(choose your own analogy here).

As a nation we’ve grown up over the last 100 years hearing about the “American dream” and how we’re all entitled to a piece of it. Somewhere along the way the notion of working for it has been jettisoned in favor of waiting for Ed McMahon to bring us our Publisher’s Clearinghouse check or Calgon to come and take us away from our worries.

And that brings me to the mindset of our country in general and my sinking (pun intended) feeling that we’re all sitting around listening to the violinists on the deck of the Titanic playing the tired tune, “Things are getting better” as the ship that is the U.S. goes down.

We continue to hear that things are getting better in our economy, that the recession is finally over at the same time we’re hearing that the big banks we bailed out continue to do risky business as usual. As we hear that unemployment is improving we also see that the unemployment numbers continue to get higher. So where is the improvement coming from? The millions of dollars we are printing? I don’t think so – that’s nothing but a bucket trying to bail water out of the Titanic as it goes down.

What’s really going on is that without hard work and a lot of sacrifice on our part, on the part of our government and on the part of the greedy Wall Street bankers, we will only continue to sink. We the people can’t expect that a financial crisis that was years in the making is going to be turned around overnight by a President in the first year of his administration. No matter how good his intentions are he still has to had to sell a bit of his soul to the big banks (namely Goldman Sachs) to get to the White House. No one makes it there these days without greasing dirty palms with promises of favors… you know, in a very democratic way.

In the meantime we can get discouraged that we’re not discovering new financial wealth overnight or we can start doing the hard work of saving, paying off our debts and taking our business away from companies we know or suspect of being corrupt.

And then we’ll all be movie stars. Yay!


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