I am reading a riveting memoir by Binyavanga Wainaina, One Day I Will Write About This Place. It is a coming-of-age story that chronicles his life growing up in East Africa (on the heels of Jomo Kenyatta’s death) and South Africa (on the heels of apartheid). Mr. Wainaina writes like a visual artist, painting a vivid, colorful collage of words that describe not only what is going on around him (politically and socially) and within him (as he searches for his identity), but that connect the dots of how the worlds “outside” and “inside” collide.
Based on the above, you may be preparing yourself for a book review. It is not; I still have more than 200 pages before I reach the book’s conclusion.
Instead, this is me inviting you to take a journey with me as I share how a sentence in a memoir brought about thoughts regarding our economy and current political climate. Here’s the sentence that stopped me in my tracks, prompting me to draw seemingly unlikely connections. At this point in the book, Mandela is now president of South Africa, but the change is not welcomed by all.
“What if change comes and we find ourselves unable?”
When I read that sentence this morning during my subway ride, my first thought was, “Wow!” Immediately followed by thoughts of Greece, what I call the “austerity” movement, and the 2012 presidential election season here in the U.S.
And then, of course, I thought of you and me and how we:
- respond (or don’t) to change, and
- what does stimulus or austerity look like on a personal level.
You hear the adage all the time, “the only thing that is constant is change.” Yet, how often do you truly embrace change; how often do you resist it; how often do you wish “reality” was anything but?
Regardless of your political leanings or economic philosophy, there is no escaping the fact that something needs to change. In fact, this is just what the G-20 were discussing earlier this week: What is the best way to bring about global financial stability and fuel global economic growth; is it by way of more stimulus programs or austerity initiatives?
Clearly, the verdict and consequences thereof are still out, but there is also no escaping the fact that what happens across town affects your prosperity just as much as what happens across the Atlantic Ocean. In theory, you know this; in practice, the question becomes what should be given up, by whom and to what degree?
In my opinion, we are looking for a neat, singular, sound-bite answer. Which is pretty tough given that for probably the first time in our our history, we have to take into account the ripple effects of any decision upon four generations!
So, back to the sentence that inspired today’s post…”What if change comes and we find ourselves unable?”
A poignant question, no doubt. Easier to ask and reflect upon when you are looking back on history. But how about when you are living in the moment of history? It seems that evaluating your relationship to change is particularly acute when you find yourself unable to change.
What do you think? Leave a comment in the comment section!