Saturday, February 21, 2015

Life and Times

These are interesting times, but then I suspect all people say that at some point in their life.  But as I watch from afar it seems to me that a town like Hyde Park is reflective of the lives of those who make up that town.

There are the young with their energy, zest and supreme confidence that they know more than the older generations.  They want so much from the town yet can’t understand why it is the way it is.  For the kids in High School seeking escape, or the recently returned looking for work, where is the nightlife, the social scene, and the place to be?

The middle-aged 30 and 40 something parents struggling to make ends meet, raising children, wanting more, but not wanting to see more of their income demanded from the town.  They see the decay, decry the ineptitude, and condemn the old for their resistance to change.  This group controls the future, but do they have the time or desire to do so?

Then we come to the elderly, they have seen it all and want to be done with the mess.  Let someone else worry about things, I have what I have and want to be left alone.  They remember the shining town of the past, the “remember when” or the “we had it great” times.

Clearly these stereotypes do not represent all.  There are vibrant members of all groups, people committed to change, people with desires for a better common good, and people wishing for a different future. 

The strength of a town is also drawn from its economic health, just as a family is.  If the family struggles to make end meet, is always on the verge of financial ruin, or uncertain that the future offers hope, they close in, they shrink away from the future, unless they have something greater to believe in.  I’ve seen men and woman who despite illness, poverty, or tragedy rise up to show the best of the human spirit.  Why is that? 

As a society we have voiced our concern for those living on the verge of financial collapse.  We’ve elected people who provide our money, or borrow more, to help those people to feel less threatened by the lack of work, or the cost of living.   Those elected officials will spend those funds on helping the people and helping the town but at the end of the day will it be sustainable.  When all the jobs dry up, when all the banks are drained, when all the rich are gone what will be left?

What keeps a town vibrant and rich?  Is it the largess of the multitude of governments and their programs, or is it the industry of the people?  History seems to suggest it is the latter.  In the last half of the 20th century we saw the garment mills that lined our east coast from Maine to Carolina close and move away.  Were those closures caused solely by the greed of the owners, or by the economic realities of competition?  Each of us will have an opinion, but at the end of the day the reality is something changed, or perhaps it is a natural evolution.  Regardless the causes, in each case when the work leaves - the towns become hollow reminders of a time past.

Just as with the human spirit, some pick themselves up and find a new future, others seem trapped in the past.  For those trapped in the past, it seems no matter what they do each new project is doomed for failure.  Cities seem especially ripe for this problem.  If there is not manufacturing industry, nothing to create the wealth upon which service industries and governments draw their revenue than they will struggle to face each day.

From afar this seems to be the basic issue for my hometown.  How does it encourage an industry to start?   Something that will turn raw materials into products to build jobs that offers a future, a career, and a potential for growth?  Economists talk of America becoming a service nation, where we deal with ideas, and advanced technology that will set mankind free.  Are we all prepared to live in a state where the individuals’ purpose is defined solely by the technology around us?

If we are, I wonder what becomes of the town?

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