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Op-Ed: Apocalypse When?


What survival may look like, if the worst comes to pass.

Editor's Note: Annette Solyst is a longtime Minyanville reader. This is her second op-ed for the site.

Leaving the Lincoln Tunnel, one emerges into view of one of the world's most beautiful skylines: Manhattan. The sight was not lost on my husband, sitting next to me in the driver's seat. We were quiet for a few miles, watching the light dwindle into darkness.

"It's really sad what's happening," I said. "All the potential this city has, all it has created, all the energy here... It's all just gone overboard, bringing the whole financial world to its knees."

It's hardly necessary to elaborate. Reverberations of the financial meltdown had touched us, as they had everyone else. A certain nostalgia -- maybe even a strain of bitterness -- was clearly palpable beneath my words. Who hasn't benefited from the liquidity and easy money of recent years, the jobs created, the wave of optimism that seemed to be the city's birthright? And who hasn't been hurt in some like manner recently, regardless of diversification?

The Sunday afternoon outing had taken us into the city to watch All My Sons, an Arthur Miller play written some 60 years ago. Joe, a successful factory owner, is implicated in knowingly having sold defective airplane parts to the military, causing the death of 21 pilots during the war. His partner, whom he frames for the crime, goes to jail, but is later exonerated.

Joe's son and heir wants to marry the ex-partner's daughter. As the truth about the past comes to light, Joe's life is exposed as a lie. His pursuit of wealth for its own sake, his avoidance of responsibility, his decision to frame someone else for his own crime, are all revealed - and everyone loses in the end.

The play is a haunting reminder of what comes of pursuing profit at all costs, regardless of the consequences. In recent months, with the financial system coming apart at the seams, I am reminded of something else: The value of basic survival skills. When the old framework collapses and a new order has yet to materialize, many of our basic assumptions and accepted ways of living are challenged.

So far, the crisis has made itself felt in our personal bank and investment accounts and in the shrinking value of our property, and has already expanded into the commercial arena: The bankruptcy filings of large chain stores, plummeting consumer confidence, and warnings from businesses in every area of industry. Will we soon see the day when shelves normally stocked to the brim are bare - when the imports usually sold there are no longer available?
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