Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hard Times ?

I am noticing a trend amongst colleagues, friends and the public in general to be not only talking down the state of the economy and emphasising the hard times in which we are entering but almost relishing the prospect too.

I find the relishing aspect a little short sighted as if the downturn does become really bad we could all be effected far more than we are expecting. However in London and the south of England despite the news, nothing (for most people at least) has really changed just yet.

People who seem to be relishing aspects of the downturn all believe it will actually have a positive effect on them or their outlook. Examples I can think of include:

- a colleague who predicted (or hoped) that harder times would mean the abolition of the Firm's "Diversity" department accompanied by the bundling out into the street of the "Head of Diversity". I am a little nervous about these sort of thoughts myself. While I would also question the value of such departments as "Diversity", to wish someone out of a job seems slightly unethical as well as tempting fate for one's own position.

- at least one person has mentioned the economic downturn as grounds for buying a reduced value of Christmas presents this year. This is irrespective of the fact of them personally being no worse off than last year !

- Another person mentions that the downturn may mothball or stop altogether a planned development of "luxury apartments" or similar on a school playing field. I guess every cloud does have a silver lining in this case.

In some ways a downturn can have positive effects. In a materialistic time and a materialistic city, anything that stops of the conveyor belt of consumption and consumerism (however briefly) and gives cause for thought about the wider purpose of life, may have unexpectedly positive outcomes.

That is not to forget the suffering of those who lose jobs and struggle to support their families. This is bad. It is just that good can also come out of bad sometimes.

At this stage however, I would question how far these really are "hard times".

A walk around our local town centre this weekend suggested we are still a long way from really hard times. Charles Dickens would not be impressed !

For example, while walking around I observed:

1) A nail salon staffed by a team of thai ladies seemed to be doing a roaring trade in synthetic nails.

2) Boots the Chemist, was promoting such essential items as digital picture frames at £54.99.

3) The same shops was selling bucket loads of aftershave and perfume in advance of Christmas.

4) The pavements were clogged with shoppers.

5) Our local Asdas had horrendous queues. I must have waited a good 10 minutes as a long line of trolleys groaning with produce shuffled sullenly to the checkout. The often obese bodies, sometimes complete with visible tatoos, of those pushing the trolleys suggested we are really far from the breadline just yet. Spare cash for tatoos is also not a sign of outright poverty. (Note to self- try and go to Sainsbury's next time. The shoppers are slightly less obese and have slightly fewer tatoos !)

6) The roads are clogged with mainly new cars using our recently reduced price petrol.

True there are a few more Primark bagsvisible as shoppers economise. However let us not pretend that we are really suffering just yet as it is insulting to those in this world who really are.

As for those who relish aspects of downturn, I would caution in being careful what you wish for.
We could really end up in hard times. However from the looks of things this weekend, we are not there yet.

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