Archive for August, 2012

Too grown up to dream
August 29, 2012

Thanks to the London Olympics, I recently re-aquainted myself with the music of my youth – eighties brit pop (turns out I might have been cool in high school after all). Among them, Bryan Ferry of Slave to Love fame. His line – too grown up to dream – has struck a chord with me this long and humbling summer of floods, closures, compromise and concerns for the future.

Throw in a Presidential election and a Euro crisis for good measure and you can see why a teen from the eighties where there was quite literally nothing to lose might have occasion to worry now that’s she’s closer to retirement and literally, everything is at stake.

I’ve always been an idealist. I was born that way (thanks to my Mom and Dad). But it comes at a cost. My optimism and enthusiasm have often been mistaken for naivete or an offer of free services for a good cause. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not naive. Nor can I afford to work for free (but sometimes I do because the cause is too important to pass up).  I am not rich, or elitist (as some would like to call me). I am just getting by. And that’s a difficult position to be in when you’re from a generation where the world was yours for the taking (and some did more taking than others). In fact, it’s more than a difficult position, it’s just plain scary.

Income disparity scares me. It was more fair when I was a kid. We all had what we needed. We all wanted what we wanted. Occasionally, someone would luck out and we would celebrate their success. But there were no super rich and super poor. We were all somewhere in the middle. And if someone was in a tough spot – we’d find a way to even it out, quietly, among neighbours and friends. Wealth was not a matter about which you would boast – unless you were a jackass. And jackasses were rarely invited to neighbourhood get-togethers. They always had something better and more jackass like to do. If anything, public displays of wealth were frowned upon. A bit like public displays of affection are these days. Ugh. Get a room. Count your money in private, loser. Seriously, that’s how I remember it. Play down wealth. Don’t brag. Don’t show off. It’s rude.

It’s not like that anymore. In fact, it’s the total opposite. We celebrate wealth like it’s a dangly charm on a bracelet. Gold rims on Cadillac Escalades. Pick up trucks with accessories worth more than the average family’s annual grocery budget. Tattoos whose cost would rival that of commissioning a modern Mona Lisa. Parties on yachts (after republican conventions, for example). Boob jobs, botox and liposuction. Every superficial imperfection can be fixed with money, it seems.

I’d go as far as saying that multi-nationals are liposuctioning all the money out of the economy because they can. It’s dead money and it’s killing us. No wonder some of us feel a bit “flat” as it were. Not every business owner is a greedy money grubber. Some of us do it because it’s our only choice. We work in towns where there are no full time jobs that can provide gainful employment. So we take risks. Start businesses that will afford us a half-decent living and might even employ another person or two with a decent wage. But I’ll tell you this for free. It ain’t easy and it ain’t cheap. So next time you slam a local business because their t-shirts or thing-ma-bobbers aren’t as cheap as the same ones you can find at WalMart or some other gigantic retailer – don’t expect a sympathetic ear because your taxes have gone up or nobody sponsored the community cause that’s so important to you. I don’t want to hear it. And I’m not alone.

It’s a tough time to be a business owner. There is very little confidence in the economy. And it wears a person down. And if you don’t believe me – try running your own business. Good luck. If banks aren’t lending, you’ll need your own capital or that of your loved ones to get it started. And if customers aren’t buying because they think your goods and services are cheaper down the road, you’ll need to cut prices to get into the market. This isn’t about having your pencils sharpened to offer the best deal, it’s about still having a pencil by the end of the month.

If I can offer any advice, it would be this. Don’t take the businesses that are there when you need them for granted. Ask them how things are going. Ask them how sales are going. Look them in the eyes. If you see desperation, disappointment or despair, give them a break. Thank them for what they do, buy a little extra something if you can. And tell your friends. Believe me, that act alone will bolster the economy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’re all in this together. You are the single most important economic power our local economy has. So use your power for good.

In the words of Bryan Ferry
“Tell her I’ll be waiting in the usual place
With the tired and weary and there’s no escape.
To need a woman you’ve got to know
How the strong get weak and the rich get poor.”

If your usual place is Salmon Arm, and you love it, please consider this, it needs you now more than ever.