Sunday, January 11, 2009

The End of An Era

One senses that an old way of life is dying -- while undoubtedly, a new one is emerging from its ashes. That’s the big story seldom written about because the media writers are lost in the petty details and politics that provide them endless employment for speculation while losing the sense of it all.

And that is that life always changes, always evolves, always progresses -- whether one wishes it to or not, and many in Hawaii, choose to live there in the thinking that it is the one unchanging “paradise” in the world, when it is like any place else, while at a disadvantage for much that is going on at the leading edges.

If one isn’t aware of it by now, a lot of the underpinnings of the old societies have collapsed, as represented by real estate and other tangibles that were thought to be the "realities" of life -- that such things can only become more valuable indefinitely, and not that that could ever change.

Those now still heavily invested in such “truisms,” have been wiped out, or are still left holding a bag of liabilities and debts, rather than the assets they recently thought to monopolize and hoard. That’s how quickly fortunes can change. As recently as mid-September of 2008, many of the stocks of the financial institutions that went into free fall before even disappearing entirely, were at all-time record highs, such as Washington Mutual, which was the glowing success for an entire generation ending abruptly in 2008. Until the very end, there was no hint that anything was amiss.

It was among the triumvirate of stocks that led the new age and economy of the ‘90s and beginning of the 2000s, along with Microsoft and Starbucks. Unquestionably they changed life -- and prepared it for the next step, which is beyond consumerism, and the post-consumerist culture and society many are already adapting to.

That will be a difficult transition for some places more than others -- as we shift into a post-industrial age into a more innovative one -- characterized by doing more (or better) with less. Such a concept seems strange and foreign to those culture built on waste, patronage and fraud -- and the thinking that there is no end to the money, and all one has to do is demand it louder and more persistently than the others, and it will be granted.

We are used to thinking about such an approach as the familiar pattern of people’s first impulse being immediately to simply leave the Islands in disgust and not look back -- and for the least productive in society to encourage them to do so -- to increase their own chances for survival, if not eminence among the remaining hopeless “losers” -- who become more desperately exploited by the most ruthless and unscrupulous.

At such times, the possibility and opportunity for change that transforms such societies, were never more fortuitous -- but one has to look and see into creating the future rather than simply rewriting the past. That’s what takes a lot of the old institutions down.