“I never like hearing distressed anecdotes but here’s another. Imagine some slightly more severe distressed situation and instead of daycare being the casualty of rebudgeting it’s the mortgage into an illiquid housing market.”

“I never like hearing distressed anecdotes but here’s another. Two teachers (full time, part time) with 3 pre-school-age kids, mortgage, car broke down and they bought another (more expensive) one. Now grandmother is on 5 days/week (up from 3) daycare duty because 1) they lost a few days from the strike 2) the part-time teacher converted to full-time to make the difference. Gran’s in her late-60s, and she’s feeling the stress. This was because of a single random foreseeable event.
I do not wish hardship on anyone but hardship is going to happen and this was, luckily, a manageable case. Imagine some slightly more severe distressed situation and instead of daycare being the casualty of rebudgeting it’s the mortgage into an illiquid housing market. The lines of defense will be increasing earnings (more hours), borrowing from parents, borrowing from the bank, liquidation of assets, and finally…”

jesse at VREAA 11 Jun 2012 8:48am

15 responses to ““I never like hearing distressed anecdotes but here’s another. Imagine some slightly more severe distressed situation and instead of daycare being the casualty of rebudgeting it’s the mortgage into an illiquid housing market.”

  1. I was having a conversation with a friend a few days back. He is from India and has been here for a year now on a special assignment. Out of the blue he began to recount all the similarities he saw between here and his home near Bombay.

    “Well, we have all the same products” he asserted. “When I look at the advertising, most of it is familiar. The same companies like Colgate, Coke, Proctor and Gamble and Dove soap are all the same. Disposable diapers are common there too. Even the packages are identical. And we have American cars and Marlborros and the same computers. But the prices are much lower for most things”.

    And then he said something that really surprised me. “When we get married we don’t always live with our parents anymore. We all try to get our own places. It is the same as you people in Canada”

    And then it struck me. One of the failures of our society, (like the old fashioned notion of a nuclear family), are now being reproduced in the developing world. They have imported the idea of living alone away from family just as readily as they have embraced our consumption habits and products. My friend seemed proud of the acheivement. As if this was a milestone in the development process of his region and a symbol of India’s growing wealth.

    They can afford to live alone just like us now.

    So when I read a story like this one (above) I have to pause and think of where we went wrong. The stress faced by this couple would have been less of a burden if the family was closer to begin with. There might have been fewer homes stretched across the same number of people but there would also have been a built in support network of family to help carry the financial load and share the tasks around. Gran might be less dependant on a slim pension. The kids would enjoy family daycare, not a government funded program under threat of canellation some day in the future.

    But you know how it is. Everyone in this country wants to live alone with a dog or a cat (after they get divorced). They don’t want to visit or care for their sick parents. Some shun their children. Sharing is for poor people, the elderly in hospital beds and prisoners. Mostly we are selfish and that may be the lasting hallmark of the Boomer generation who grew fat on the extraction of the best of the worlds wealth.

    But now it is all running out. Tough break for the kids.

    Weird how the poor are often happier and better able to socialize though isn’t it? They learn sharing and cooperation early in life. Everything does not come so easy. I still think that the breakdown of family in North America was the key failure in our Western style economic development and is what lies behind the massive bubbles, social dislocations, anti social behaviours and some of the bizarre crimes we now see.

    The desensitization of people has now gone global. This can’t end well.

    • “They can afford to live alone just like us now. ”

      That’s because we’ve been buying Asian made goods with our credit cards!

    • I don’t think this is anything new, some families prefer their own space. In many family situations it’s more bearable, also this is done for practical reasons where places of work aren’t always close to where the parents are.

    • I have the feeling that your friend may have been expressing himself somewhat poorly – most Indians (I have spent time there) don’t live with their families after marriage unless they are too poor to live elsewhere or are rich enough to have plenty of space. People all over the world are more alike than not and the notion that everyone in the past cared for their extended families is somewhat of a myth. There always has been and always will be people that care and those that don’t. My heritage is Mennonite – plenty of myths about that particular group – and I truly believe that when we just accept that everyone has their own path to make and quit judging the actions of others through our own filter life will be better.

      • Living alone has always been a luxury, Observer. It is the same in most cultures. A marker of wealth is the ability to keep a separate apartment and to be able to sustain all the extra costs of the necessary duplicated resources. If you looked at the differences between rulal life in India versus the experience of an urban environment where millions have been drawn just to earn survival wages you will see the differences more starkly. Not so surprising, most of the transplanted city people I met while in Africa wanted to be back with their families in the communal home. It was just a better life.

      • Well, any Indian planning coming to Canada that saved in rupees just lost 30% of their Canadian purchasing power since 2008. http://postimage.org/image/kdpcjw7ej/

        That’s why many of them save in gold.

    • Percentage of American (sic) households made up of just one person;
      in 1950: 9.3
      in 2012: 27

      – from Harper’s Index, July 2012 edition

    • “And then it struck me. One of the failures of our society, (like the old fashioned notion of a nuclear family), are now being reproduced in the developing world.” – Farmer

      Bingo. Otherwise known to DarkArts Practioners as atomization and particularization…

      Hint:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fasces

    • “Weird how the poor are often happier and better able to socialize though isn’t it? They learn sharing and cooperation early in life. Everything does not come so easy.” – Farmer

      It always seems to come down to relationships and social connections doesn’t it?
      In a related vein, there appear to have been a recent slew of work/talks on income inequality, and how lack of wealth disparity within a society is more correlated with overall population satisfaction than absolute income level itself (over and above subsistence wages, of course). Which is not to be misinterpreted as a radical socialist comment. But humans do appear to be far happier living under systems that feel fair… and the developments of the last 20 years (or more?) have pushed us away rather than towards that arrangement.

      • Having lived in Central Africa for 2 years myself, and been more than 15 countries, I can confirm that people seemed to be happier, especially in the “villages”, despite all the hardship they face daily. It stroke me how they had a hard time to understand basic things such as “why you white people not looking after your old folks and send them to retirement home instead?”.

        The definition of family is also quite different from what we commonly define here. A brother or a sister is not only the “real ones”, but also the cousins or even long term friends. I will always remember what my admin assistant told me about her sister that couldn’t have kids: “I made a kid and gave it to her”!

        They were all living under the same roof so even the notion of mother was not as similar as ours. Over there, it is common to have more than one mom! One thing for sure is that nobody, except under rare circumstances, is feeling lonely over there. We do have to learn from them. Happiness is not about accumulating stuff or trying to impress people, but more about looking after each other…

        My 2 cts!

      • I have heard a little about that research, Vreaa, and found it quite interesting. I am a proponent of social equity actually (despite my obvious Conservative leanings which might suggest otherwise) and would agree that we face difficulties ahead as the disparity between incomes has grown quite large in the past few years.

        Taxation, transfer payments and subsidies usually adress the gaping imbalances but we, like the Americans, might have gone beyond the point where public policy can flatten incomes while raising others out of poverty without there being a political backlash and risk. Sharing and social equity is not a popular idea right now which I am sure everyone has noticed.

        Isn’t it interesting how a similar set of circumstances was present just before the stock market meltdown of 1929. Every time I read about the period that led up to the great correction I am amazed at the commonalities between then and now.

        Income disparity for sure…but also very high levels of education, a broad class of dewy-eyed and well fattened middle class just awaiting the axe to fall and of course a high level of personal indebtedness. Like then nobody was listening to the warning signs of trouble. They had a live for today philosophy and carefree attitude while they set about trying to outdo each other with brilliant investment schemes that took as little effort as possible. The stock market euphoria of the day was very similar to the madness for housing lust we see now.

        Just some examples but there are hundreds more which makes me wonder if we are not in fact bordering on another great correction of equal or greater magnitude.

        Actually, in my heart I believe we are now close to the day of reckoning.

    • “Weird how the poor are often happier and better able to socialize though isn’t it”?

      all around great post Farmer – but the comment above struck me as especially keen. Try taking public transportation vs driving for more of the same differences between have and have-nots. Folks on the bus are generally polite, respectful and cooperative…on the roads it’s quite the opposite – lawless in fact

  2. And isn’t it amazing how it all just seems normal after a short while, Makaya? That was how I felt. So many people asked me if it was difficult living where there were so few services. I assured them the shock was coming back and remembering how hostile everyone seemed to be by comparison. No connection at all to anybody.

    • I too have never been able to quantify the fulfilment you get by interacting with people and building meaningful relationships that go beyond satisfying immediate needs. Its much different when it feels unconditional and genuine.

      We have defiantly lost our way here, trying to find fulfilment in all things artificial. The truth is, all we need is a little less of stuff and a little more meaningful social interaction.

      The ironic thing about Vancouver is that I always thought it was a centre for social progressives and quirky people with unconventional ideas. Look to the real green movement in the 70’s and the start of Greenpeace. This the character we have lost in the last decade as the city looks to “mature.”

      What I think is incredibly ironic with this “greenest” city by 2020 movement the mayor is on is that the single biggest issue that dictates our lifestyles here is housing. Pushing people out of the city and into the suburbs, thereby encouraging long commute times is the exact opposite of what a green city should look like.

      Its constant reminder that government are excellent at missing the boat and going about issues in most backward way possible.

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