If our culture can be thought of as a single human being, it would be in an intensive care unit hooked up to an IV dripping money. To a consumer culture whose identity is defined by money – both making it and spending it – the remedy for illness seems to be more money, and more consuming. Unfortunately, we can't spend our way out of this crisis, since it is only a symptom of a deeper disease. Our culture is actually having a nervous breakdown. As a people, we are now drugged-out, porned-up, ripped-off, freaked-out, dumbed-down, screwed-up, … and we don't trust anyone anymore.
There is nothing more paralyzing to a culture, or to its citizens, than a lack of trust. Trust is the glue that binds us. It is our deep belief and faith that we are all in this together. To be mentally healthy, we need to trust that people are not out to hurt or kill us, that our leaders are not corrupted, that we can truly trust one another. Without trust, we cannot function as a culture, and our system fails.
It would be hard to define when our national trust began to fail. Over the past decade, we have had 9/11, WMD's, Enron, mailed anthrax, the Patriot Act, water boarding, phone taps, corrupted officials, tainted food, failed banks, investment fraud, and more. We trusted, but in vain.
As our old world becomes replaced with a new one we now fear, our trust in the very future itself is being shattered. As a nation, we would not have embraced candidate Obama's message of hope had we not already felt despair.
We trusted that the last bailout would work, but it did not. We are supposed to trust that the new bailout will work, but it can't. The cure is not more money. If our system is corrupted, if greed and dishonesty and lack of trust have so tainted our system that the entire world's economy is on life support, then we can't trust the same corrupted system with more money.
To deal with the disease, we need to invest in virtue, and learn to again trust one another. We need to get over our consumer identity and instead become human beings who hold honesty, integrity, compassion, and trustworthiness as the cornerstones of their character, rounded out with some tolerance, intelligence, and a host of other virtues all but lost in these alienated , distrustful times.
As a culture today we have a right to be depressed. But we don't need more money to recover. We need a cultural epiphany, and a reawakening of our higher humanity.