Taking a deep breath, and the long view

I came across Kurt Andersen’s “Reset” at the bookstore the other day. After sifting through polemical, shock-inducing titles that heave on current affairs shelves — “Catastrophe,” “Arguing With Idiots,” “Whores” and “Shut Up, America!” — I luxuriated in deeply humane reflections about making sense of the economic recession, as well as the profound cultural and technological transformation that it’s accelerating.

I found “Reset” so sensible, so rational, so remarkably sane — especially as Americans hyperventilate over their president winning the Nobel Peace Prize — that the paragraph below seems rather exceptional to point out:

“Plenty of quintessentially 20th century businesses that have been sickening will now, finally, die. A generation or two of managers in those industries coasted along in denial, behaving as if the dark horizon would remain perpetually a ways off. With this recession, many of them are arriving at the abyss. However, people will still want to buy cars, still need to buy houses, still want to read quality journalism, watch TV series and movies at home, listen to recorded music, and all the rest. And so starting now, as some of the huge, dominant, old-growth trees of our economic forest fall, the seedlings and saplings — that is, the people determined to produce and sell new kinds of transportation and housing and media and other merchandise in new, economically rational ways — will have a clearer field in which to grow.”

As an important weekend for me looms — a sports media startup I’m involved with is finally taking some operational shape for a forthcoming launch — I’m trying to maintain some big-picture, long-term perspective. Keeping these thoughts in mind helps, as does this additional sequence from “Reset.” The fate of displaced journalists might have been determined long before the recession, but we’ll have plenty of company, prompted by horrible economic consequences, as we move forward:

“The post-bubble, post-crash dislocation and pain will be irremediable. But multiply these hopeful starting-over stories by a hundred thousand or a million, and you’ll have sense of how, in the new America, necessity can be the mother of reinvention.”

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