It is a tradition to spend some time at the end of a year to reflect back on the significant events of the year. For me , that means thinking back on the year in business.
Perhaps it was serendipity that I happen to be reading Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna" while I was struggling to put the year in business into perspective. "Lacuna" is a word I didn't know about until I started reading the book. It is a word that for me, describes the year in business.
While the book is not about business or business culture or business ethics, it is an historical novel and there is a passage in the book that talks about an America during World War II that made me pause. Could/would American consumers and businesses ever rally around a cause again like they did during WWII?
ThIs description is from letter that the protagonist, Harrison Shepherd is writing to famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. In it, he talks about an America that is hard to visualize today.
Sacrifice is a sacrament. How we all cheered when Howard Hughes's new factory turned out a battleship just twenty-four days after laying its Keel![...] The war is on every page of every magazine. Even in the advertisements, which strangely don't encourage buying now, but the opposite. Manufacturers fly the "E" flag to show their whole prodution is needed for war use. Buy nothing but war bonds, give your blood to the Red Cross.
"Follow doctor's advice to the letter and keep appointments brief," my magazine warns because half our doctors are in the forces, leaving the home-front men with twice as may to care for. Travel for emergencies only. After victory is won, they promise us the world: a new model of radio, automobiles with synthetic rubber tires, things yet unseen by civilian eyes. [...]
The new American motto is, "We make do with nothing new, no wristwatches, new shirts, or bedsheets[...] You would not believe how cheerfully the people accept deprivation. It makes them feel brave and important. Rich or poor, the banker's wife and the secretary bring the same ration book to market and leave with the same goods.
I try to imagine the America that is described here and it feels like a foreign land.The one thing that we do seem to have in common from those days is that a lot of people have experienced significant deprivation since the economy crashed in 2008.
But, unlike the days in the 1940's, most of us have felt neither brave nor important because of it. Instead,we've felt like we were living in a lacuna, scared, alone and no way to dig ourselves out.
The experts say in 2011 the economy will continue to rebound. My question is, will American workers rebound with it?