The radio news reports make it sound like everyday is a new step to financial turmoil. It’s as though nothing else is going on in the world besides the financial collapse.
But I see another reality on the street. On Saturday, I was around Union Square in San Francisco and was surprised to see two clothing stores, H & M and Forever 21, completely packed with young female shoppers. It was almost as bad as shopping the day after Thanksgiving.
On Valentine’s Day, I was in Los Gatos and the boutiques and cafes were also quite busy. Los Gatos is an expensive town near the Santa Cruz Mountains. There have to be day traders and other financiers there who are hurting from the economy.
Financial crisis? Where?
This is not to say I don’t believe the reports about the massive foreclosures and bank collapses that sound like a tsunami on the radio every morning. Yes, I live in Silicon Valley, in an area with high home prices. But companies here are laying off people too and I have yet to see this reflected en masse.
Airlines are cutting prices so much that I wonder how they can pay their bills. Lufthansa wants us to go on weekend jaunts to Paris. Who can afford Paris these days? The student baguette and cheese diet gets old very fast, especially when the Mercury is low during the winter.
Obviously a portion of the population is still spending money on clothes for the new season and mini-sejours in the Old World.
It as though we are all living in separate realities that may not have anything to do with the supposed “news” on the networks. These “news” reports don’t seem very new as they repeat the same horrors of yesterday.
One of the difficulties I encounter when returning home from a very poor country or war torn country is that I can’t process both realities at once: abundance and misery. I can see the destruction in my rear view mirror while my surroundings point me to a happier or more serene life. When I came back to the Bay Area on a visit from Bosnia, where I worked in 2000-2001 (after the Bosnian war), I was horrified to see red paint on the sidewalk in SF. Red paint on the sidewalk in Sarajevo signified the location of a shell that killed a person. Each time I saw one of these “Sarajevo roses”, I was reminded of death. This same hue of red in San Francisco just pointed out a construction worker’s sloppy painting job. Though in my head, I could logically make out the distinctions of life in Sarajevo and life in San Francisco, the red paint still startled me when in California. I was feeling the pain of the Bosnian war with the spectre of the Golden Gate Bridge in my horizon.
When the recent Gaza crisis broke out, I was in Qatar, one of the richest countries of the world, where money was as plentiful as sand. Children had gem studded pens and cuff links and no car looked like it was more than five years old. My eyes grew sad as I remembered my own trips to the Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank when I watched the massive bombings while my brain tried to process the contrast of the people around me wearing gold everywhere they could possibly show it.
A multifaceted world may strain our senses. How do we cope?