Over the years as a visual artist I have painted countless pictures from photos of the Great Depression. I wanted to document the effects it had on the Black community through the arts. Many of the photos I found revealed the devastating losses and hopelessness of many across the country both White and Black. The overall mood of the country was the start of the depression and times of disparity. The Depression received its name due to the emotional over spill it had on Americans coming out of the roaring 20’s and the Jazz Age. America went from great hope to an intense national crisis. The economical crisis in this millennium has caused many to feel depressed and to despair. However this current period in American history will be known as “The Angersession” in my eyes. The Angersession as I call it is different from the Great Depression because many are hurting from their losses, but there is more anger than sadness that is hitting the American family.
The housing market and Wall Street scandals combined with the last decade of a pattern of devastating economical descent have created a new period in history. I am basing these off of the mood of the country and not the crisis (defined as a recession). The similarities between the 2 time periods as far as what caused them are very close: bank failures, stock market crashes, supply and demand, business cycles, and failures of the free market. But it is the response of the people that leads me to define this current period as an “Angersession”. The anger, murder, killing, and hate that have spilled over into the economical, emotional atmosphere are an alarm sounding off loud in the news daily. The losses of houses, cars, jobs, and stability are causing many to murder, kill and commit suicide at alarming rates. The Great Depression saw a rise in crime also due to suffering. However it was gambling, alcohol, and syndicate crime. They functioned off of what they knew they could get away with: basic human sin. Family still held great value.
In our generation we have access to more information than any other generation before us. The ability to problem solve, create incomes, resources, and develop ways to survive is at an all time high. However what we are seeing is the pressure and overwhelming effects of economical losses causing many to kill themselves and take others with them. During the Great Depression of 1929 – 1939 the suicide rate increased from 14 to 17 per 100,000. The myth of suicide being rampant during that time among the Wall Street executives was not quite true however. Many people felt hopeless, despaired, and empty. Homelessness and shantytowns were the only few options people had for their families. The poor were hit the hardest with an unemployment rate of 50%. The Dust Bowl out west also caused farmers to lose land, families, and livelihoods. The government created relief programs, work programs, and rebuilt the national infrastructures to try and lift America out of the crisis. The stage that led to the 1929 crash is not too far from the reality of how Americans in 2009 experience the same economical state. It is not quite the same as far as the attitudes that people are manifesting which is why I think it maybe is very difficult to call this the Second Great Depression, and instead call this the Angersession.
Almost every day the greed that is in the corporate structure is paraded on the news. The high salaries and embezzled funds have become staples in the diet of discussion among the news personalities. In between the stories of the greedy you will find breaking news stories of events that seem to happen daily of mass killings, men killing their families, women killing their children, and angry employees shooting their bosses. The Angersession does incorporate the mental side effects of depression. It uses depression as the foundation for wider destruction. But the anger at losing everything and the unfairness of that is causing many to just flip out. I am not a psychologist or a mental health worker. I am an artist who observes the world and history through my art. We do not just repeat history but we are also making it with our reactions to crisis and to the world. I had to think about how such “anger” would cause a person to kill their whole family because he lost his house or truck? How valuable are your loved ones when you feel a loss of things and all you have left is family? Does this pressure of not being able to buy them more things make you angry enough to stop the feeling of death and the voice of materialism that rings from their desires to have their things back? We live in a society where just wanting food and shelter has become more entangled with things. The perceived need for the best cell phones, iPods, TVs, Internet access, and video games has become a lifestyle that cannot be maintained when you lose your job and house.
It is a lifestyle where losing one paycheck and having to pawn material items could cause the whining, fussing anger, and fighting to begin. The Angersession is causing people to get angry and silence every voice that is in demand and to demand economical stability when it is being challenged. Men and women are sad but violent, angry, and self-focused. The Angersession is causing many to respond with hate, bitterness, and contempt for anyone and anything that is taking away the life they once had. During the Depression most Americans did not have the level of things we have. The loss of house or job, if that is all you had, was hard enough. In our generation the void of losing the house, the SUV, the iPods, video games, flat screen TVs, cell phones, etc. is talking its toll. The wisdom of “I lost everything, but I have my family” is not a hopeful thought as it used to be for many. Families are hurting and sitting in separate rooms watching TV, and living independent lives. When they are faced with a challenge of losing everything, the person in the next room’s life is not as valuable as it once was but just a part of the problem they have to fix.
It is a sad state that we are enduring right now as a country. I run across so many unhappy people that will fight to the death to keep what they have and value their dogs cats, houses, trucks etc. more than family. The Angersession is a good time to rethink our values and pull together instead of pulling apart. The Depression brought forth hope and prepared the country for the war that came in 1941. FDR was in office 12 years dealing with the moral fiber of the country and trying to give hope. This is a good time to reflect on our values, spirituality, and what is really a priority in life. Life is too short. It should not be made shorter out of anger of losing what you have. I have been homeless before in 2004. It was a short time of being without a place to stay. It tested our family. We had to draw close to make it. We had to pray and have faith that better days would come…they did.
We had to work together as a family. We were eating one meal a day and staying positive in the midst of despair. We prayed our way through.We got through it. I learned to value love and life, and not things after losing everything that year. It is not a lesson I wish upon anyone to have to go through. Just having my family safe and okay was more important than anything. Holding it together on the inside was hard and I had to turn to my faith. It was not time to be angry, but to be humbly thankful each day.
This Angersession may last as long as the Depression did… a good 10 years. I hope that it will be labeled and dealt with as a period of anger and greed in America. I hope that as we look back in history the losses will be few. We can learn to value each other and not the things in our lives. The materialism that exists in our society is the root of anger that is causing so many murders, suicides, and mass killings. It is the root of Angersession when gangbangers kill another kid for making money on their block. Or an angry co-worker goes on a killing spree.
It is the root of Angersession when Wall Street executives embezzle money from family and friends. It is the root of Angersession when a dad kills his family because they had to sell the vacation house. It is the root of Angersession when a woman drowns her own kids because she might have to sell the car and take the bus to get to work instead. It is the root of Angersession when a dad kills all five of his family because he could not find a good job to keep the material things in the house. You can buy houses, cars, boats, and clothes. They can be replaced. But in this Angersession, you cannot replace the family. This is not a time to be angry, but creative.
We can use all that is left to start all over and do the new thing life is requiring us to do. It is time to invent from the heart and hold on in our heads. This Angersession is not The Great Depression. But is going to require addressing the anger, releasing the material things, and reaching for the new…reaching for family and not for violence. The Angersession we are in now will only last as long as we let it. When we define this Angersession for what it is as with the Great Depression, we will be half way there in over taking it! Addressing it and healing families. Allowing our values to be examined and reconstructed. We must ride out this storm with hope as an umbrella. Life is more important than things. Love is more powerful than guns. God is more faithful than money. He cares. Turn to your faith, pray, and believe. The sun does come up every morning. You made it through another day. Hold on!. America, world, people everywhere…. keep your head to the sky happier days are on the way!