Notice: Recession Billboards

There’s a billboard near by home that says, “Recession 101: Interesting fact about recessions…they end.”

What is this billboard trying to tell me? Why is this message worth someone spending a lot of money on?

I discovered that this billboard is part of a national campaign that has been going on since June, all apparently funded by an anonymous donor who “wanted people to realize the country has been undergone recessions before and made it through.” The “Recession 101″ lesson series includes other billboard versions:

  • Self worth is greater than net worth.
  • This will end long before those who caused it are paroled.
  • Stop obsessing about economy, you’re scaring the children
  • Bill Gates started Microsoft in a recession.

I’m very suspicious about the intent behind these messages.

If “they end”, does that mean I should just be carrying on as usual? By “as usual”, does that mean taking out loans I can’t afford and piling up debt in order to pretend that I’m winning? Who would pay for a billboard to help convince me that consumer debt is good for me?

And who am I supposed to be happy about them being in jail? Were people actually jailed over this recession, or is that just wishful thinking? If anyone was jailed, I’ll bet they were anomalies who were tried over very strange, obvious things, like Bernie Madoff. Everyone else – the politicians, the CEOs, the loan officers, the bank tellers, the guidance counselors who sell the dream of home ownership before you’ve even gotten a job – are all still at their jobs, doing their thing, same as usual.

Self worth is greater than net worth? Well, yes, I agree. However, I’m still suspicious of the implications here. Strengthening my self worth doesn’t help the economy, so I don’t think that’s what this billboard wants from me. Instead, I think it means, “Don’t worry about the economy. Just be happy.” Which is a really stupid thing to say to people who are losing their jobs and houses.

The messages inherent to the billboards in this campaign really disturb me, and these aren’t the only “spend money, ignore the economy” messages I’ve been noticing. Have you noticed any?

Rewind – You’ve Finally Arrived

On rewind days, I bring you a post that has previously appeared at one of my other now-defunct blogs. If you’ve read it before, skip on by, or go ahead and enjoy the rewind.

This one is from August 16, 2008, when I was living in a van.

You’ve Finally Arrived

I heard a commercial on the radio the other day for a car dealership. Usually, I don’t listen to commercials. I change the station as soon as they start. This one caught my mind wandering though, and managed to sneak in a line. Here’s what I heard the moments before I got to the dial:

We have every car, from entry level to the car that says “You’ve arrived!”

I don’t like the sentiment behind “entry level”. Usually this is applied to jobs. An entry level job is the job you’re settling for until you can get something better. It’s seen as a hardship you must endure in order to gain greater advancement. Fuck that. What if it’s just my job? Maybe I’m not interested in gaining “levels” as if life is some elaborate D&D game where if you don’t hurry up and advance you might die any minute. With houses, you get “starter home”. Same sentiment. You’ve apparently not done well enough to have a “real” home, so you get this starter home thing where you’re biding your time until you can get into a house that counts. How about being happy where you are? Ugh.

Then, at the other end of the spectrum, apparently, is the job/house/car that says “You’ve arrived!” Where is it exactly that you’ve arrived? You’ve arrived at debt? You’ve arrived at the top of some gross competition? You’ve arrived at pretension? You’ve arrived at using more resources for more worthless stuff? You’ve arrived at loneliness, where your family is all isolated in their own suites? You’ve arrived at stress? You’ve arrived at clutter? You’ve arrived at committing more hours a week to a job that sucks you dry?

Where exactly are you, when you get to this place? I’m not an ascetic or anti-money. But I’ll take where I am, even with worrying about how to pay for van repairs now and then, over getting to any of those other places.

Edited to Add:van350

I no longer live in a van, and I no longer consider myself poor, but I still feel very strongly about the sentiments expressed in this post. I have purchased a house, but it is neither a starter house, nor some magical goal that’s meant to say something about my station in life. I have a job, but I’m less concerned with how much I’m making than with whether or not I’m enjoying myself and am happy with what I do. I do feel like I’ve “arrived” somewhere in the last year or so, but that place is happiness. I’ve arrived at happiness, and it’s tied up with being true to myself rather than acquiring certain things.

The picture I’ve included here is a shot of the inside of the van I lived in, which was one of my favorite homes in which I’ve ever dwelled.