Ron Kaye: Say 'hello' to the new normal

Hang on, everybody, for the wildest roller coaster ride of your life.

Wall Street is gyrating crazily amid gloom and doom over America’s downgraded credit rating. The Italians and Greeks are dismayed and perplexed that the bills for living beyond their means are coming due. Things are so bad in England that young people are rioting in the streets.

I don’t care who you are or what you are, rich or poor, black or white, or shades in between, man or woman, gay or straight, young or old, you had better be ready for a world that is becoming far different than the world you have known. What was “normal” now is gone.

Things will never be quite the same again.

You can cry. You can panic. You can rail against the gods or fate. You can keep on burying your head in the sand and covering your eyes. But the world as you’ve known it is changing, has to change, will change, no matter what you think or do.

It has been three years since the global economy tumbled deep into the worst recession since the Great Depression, and yet we are all continuing to behave like nothing has really changed — unless, of course, you are among the millions who have lost their jobs.

Luxury goods are flying off the shelves, the New York Times reports, with a waiting list at Nordstrom’s for $9,010 Chanel sequined tweed coats, and Neiman Marcus selling out of $775 Christian Louboutin “Bianca” platform pumps.

The pathetic in-your-face reaction of our political leaders shows how obsolete they are, whether left, right or center. They are living in the past, irrelevant and disconnected to the moment, fighting battles over issues that ceased to matter years ago.

We cannot sustain a consumer-driven economy based on planned obsolescence and endless incremental reinvention.

Blu-ray won’t change the quality of your life; a Lexus won’t make you any happier than a Chevy will, once the shine wears off.

We are facing a crisis of the spirit. We have lost our faith in our institutions, in each other. The bonds of family, religion, ethnicity, race — all are weakened.

Honesty, integrity, decency, fidelity — all have been cheapened by a runaway culture exploiting our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Young people are growing up on a diet of apocalyptic movies and video games, with alien monsters and vampires competing for their attention and affection.

Like never before in our lifetimes, the winds of change are blowing, and blowing hard.

We’ve been living in a materialistic rat race, measuring our lives by the size of our houses, the number of toys we’ve accumulated.

We consume too much of everything in a world of increasing scarcity, where the gap between rich and poor is becoming as unsustainable as our consumption levels of oil, and even water.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s time we stop clinging to the way things were and embrace the opportunity to reinvent our society and our way of life.

Fundamental economic changes are occurring that have put the First World countries under economic stress and created booms in China, India and Brazil. Their middle-class populations are soaring, while ours are vanishing.

The economic forces in play inevitably will force dramatic changes in the U.S. and Europe. It’s only a question of how much pain we will endure because of our unwillingness to look into the face of a changing reality.

Sooner or later, we will come to terms with the new reality, the new normal. When we do, we just might find we’re living healthier and happier lives in a society that itself is healthier and happier.

RON KAYE can be reached at Share your thoughts and stories with him.

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