Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Did the media in the 1930s obsess over the Great Depression the way we obsess over this current recession?


Talking out of school here, but are you as tired as I am by the echo-chamber of media commentary on the current recession, on how long it is going to last, how deep it will be, how painful it is for so many people, how we can cope with it, and so forth?

Not to minimize all these serious matters, but sometimes it feels like a sore hurts much more and lasts a hell of a lot longer if all you ever do is obsess over it, dwell on it, pick at it, bandage it, unbandage it, rebandage it, comment on it, apply various treatments to it, worry that it's cancer, and the like. The queasy middle ground between prudent attention to one's own health and self-fulfilling hypochondria.

Did people in the 1930s, crappy as that era was, regard that particular business-downturn slump as the existential apocalyptic horse latitudes that seems to frame all current discussions of the current period? Or did they dub it a "great" depression only in retrospect? Just curious.

Culture has changed a lot since then, and our expectation of self-regulating economic cycles makes us more nervous and less risk-tolerant than ever. Great Depressions nowadays seem like they should be amenable to Great Anti-Depressants, and/or Great Stimulants.

Prozac Culture. Viagra Culture. Starbucks Culture.