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It’s a free country and I can do what I want! Cri$is Managment for you and me.

Crisis management applies to the financial and business systems as much as to our own personal health support system. It's important to reclaim your crisis management skills and system!

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I come from a family in mid-America who tend to support that individualistic sentiment, "It’s a free country and I can do what I want!".

And I have too, in my younger years. But I've become more observant over the years and realize that simple things in life illustrate how interdependent we are. Things like cooperatively obeying traffic signals to prevent accidents. Paying reasonable prices for goods so producers can stay in business. Supporting women who rear the next generation of workers ... largely without an ROI.

What I often find is that radical Americanists are also those who rail against extremism in other cultures and countries.

But "radical individualism" is also an extremist view. While I don't believe that total socialism is feasible, I also don't believe total individualism is feasible.

A middle ground of "commuitarian" values help us live side by side in urban areas. We don't scream at the top of our lungs. We don't keep vicious dogs. We support rule by law. We elect representatives to watch out for the collective good vs. special interests.

But where did this extreme individualism arise? Some say it is rooted in European "Enlightenment" in the 1800s during which the common folk were educated into literacy and awareness of psychological self-determination so they could access knowledge and contacts and self-govern. Some place the roots of radical individualism in the American West with cowboys and ranchers who had to develop self reliance.

And some don't think that far back and see the roots of individualism in the 60s in which youth rebelled against the establishment, and their parents and their communities. The irony is that these rebels resorted to communal living and are often today's corporate and community advocates.

As a product of the sixties, but far removed from the rebellions that swept the country -- I lived in rural Arkansas, need I say more? -- I grew up with a moderated view of rebellion and flower power. I thought flower power was about organic farming! And that rebellion was about choosing which college you wanted to attend when your parents didn't want you to attend college at all. Those kind of personal life choices for a better future.

Those are my roots for a moderate American ideal. I believe that "Most people want to do the right thing; they just need to know how", which is a merger of my father's "Live a simple life - be in the world not of the world", and my mother's "Necessity is the mother of invention" philosophies of life. Oh, and she had a few more, one of the more prominent sayings being, "It's all in knowing how."

Warren Buffet, in a lengthy discussion with Charlie Rose on October 2, 2008, when asked about American approaches to finance that got us into the problem, identified three types of people: innovators, imitators, and idiots. Ouch!

Our financial system tsunami is the result of all three of those "types" of people going out of control at the same time. The innovators created derivatives that had no solid financial or tangible footing. The immitators saw their neighbors profiting and thought they could too. And the idiots took on way too much debt for their circumstances, being pressured by the first two groups to believe in the feasibility of extreme, individualistic greed.

Now we face the aftermath of so much extreme individualism and the question is whether we still know how to work together ethically and productively.

With Congress and our President sinking to very low approval and trust ratings, who do we look to for wisdom and true democratic leadership?

Our answer, if we truly believe in democracy and a free society, is ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our colleagues.

Us. The people. But a morning-after, sobered up people.

The communal watering holes are our true, self-government halls and our financial infrastructure is the "mainstreet" in which we talk things out, make personal deals based on respectful compromise, barter for a better tomorrow and a rebuild a stable community.

Now isn't the time to play hardball and put the screws to people who are down. This is the time for "Necessity is the mother of invention" kind of thought and action.

Hardball is predatory, and a sign of what got us here in the first place.

Buffet shared a very human analogy to the economic situation we are in. Our financial system is like a prize-winning athlete that has collapsed. We must resusitate the athlete ... and not waste time debating about where to put the paddles.

But my concern is that we first properly diagnose the root problem before we apply paddles or oxygen or a necksplint. Disaster economics comes to mind, in which shock therapy is rushed into for the sake of change and profiteering! We must use proper caution (and skill) to keep from making the situation worse.

Diagnosis takes expertise and time. And application of the solution also requires different expertise and different skills. In terms of the sports/care analogy, most medical professionals aren't experts in both stages of the solution. But emergency medicine pros are.

The question we need to resolve is -- WHO is trained for financial emergency care?

And the timing of the emergency care package we face is definitely immediate, but not to be hurried inappropriately.

If our government representatives and our market leaders and our investors all rely on their "crisis management skills", we might pull through this crisis with good chances of recovery.

If we have no crisis management skills and/or don't apply them appropriately...well... we will be subject to negligent care by those unqualified, but well meaning souls who stop by to help.

What financial management skills apply to crises such as these?

  • Belief in our own "body's" capabilities to recover.
  • Patience to let things heal.
  • Observation of symptoms and knowledge of the "system"
  • Realistic expectations for timing, costs and recovery ... and then rehabilitation
  • Determination to work hard to recover. Yes, hard work.
  • Learn new skills of recovery
  • Change our lifestyle to balance realistic health and a support system -- called sustainable communities.
  • Give more than we ask for. Be local citizens who weave a strong, supportive community around our families.

Isn't it amazing how all our manmade systems are really "man writ large"...all based on an organic system of life support and interdependence? Just like the earth's communitarian systems.

October 3, 2008

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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