Editorial: Winter Comes To Michigan

editorial winter comes to michigan

I live in Michigan. Not on the Detroit side of things, around here it’s mostly suppliers. I’m an engineer. As I write this, I’m off on unpaid furlough. I don’t work in the auto business; my company is in an industry about 10 bailout levels down. But around here, it all looks the same. Two years ago the Delphi fuel injector plant was shut down; two months ago the big GM stamping plant was stamped for extinction. Winter even came a bit earlier this year. It’s cold, damp, gray, and we got some snow before Thanksgiving. Not unheard of, but not exactly welcome. I think it was P.J. O’Rourke who remarked while flying over the “liberated” but still depressed Eastern Europe, “Communism is the only form of government you can see from 30,000 feet.” This economy is like that. You can see it of course, but it’s also cold and gray and it hangs in the Michigan air.

I sit on the couch and watch the TV news shows. I choose a network based on who I want to be mad at. It’s pretty easy to know what they’re going to say. They easily find experts who can easily toss out solutions based on villains that are easy to find. I can blame the UAW for greedily grabbing as much as they could with no thought to the future. Or I can change the channel, and blame the management for the same thing. It’s easy for me to pick my side and find a commentator or a website to validate my choice.

Feeling validated always makes me feel better, but I want things to be like they were. I’m mad at these people for screwing up my plans, screwing up the status quo, screwing up my life. But way deep down, there’s a quiet voice in my head that says, “this is life… this is how it goes.” Newton may have said, “an object in motion tends to stay in motion”, but he wasn’t accounting for friction. In life, there’s friction.

The voice tells me that maybe I’ve been ignoring the friction. I work hard… I “put in the hours”. But I do the work to pay for silly conversations on cell phones. I watch silly shows on cable TV. I pay credit card bills for too much silly shit. Maybe I wasn’t ignoring the friction; maybe I just focused on the wrong friction. When life is in motion at its usual pace, when there’s no obvious crisis, no worthy antagonist, I lose focus. I get caught up in the silly stuff.

I’d like to believe that the leaders of GM, the UAW, or the government don’t get caught up in the silly stuff. They’ve been vetted and validated. They’ve risen to the top through a series of tests that predicted these problems and revealed their solutions. But again, I hear the voice and it reminds me that just isn’t true. All these organizations are simply made up of people like my colleagues, like my neighbors… like me. And since the fate of the country rests with the likes of me, I look back out the window at the depressed economy and become, well… depressed.

But then, deep down, I’m forced to acknowledge that voice. Maybe it’s Newton again, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” But maybe it’s more along the lines of “we finally have a worthy antagonist…we have something to do.”

I easily conjure up more pundits, prognosticators, and keyboard jockeys that shout down the voice with an overwhelming onslaught of facts and scenarios describing insurmountable dooms. But I can’t quite drown it out. “Sure these guys may be a bunch of ass-clowns, unfit to lead during a real crisis…but it’s the crisis that will produce the real leaders. The vetting and validation can take place now. There can be focus.” I’d like to dismiss the voice as jingoistic pabulum. But still, it’s hard to ignore it.

It’s in my culture. Sure, people like to say “work is for suckers”…but most of them hear a voice too. They don’t respect any side that tries getting something for nothing. They don’t shy away from “putting in the hours”.

It’s in my DNA. My parents were immigrants. You can’t leave your whole life behind and not be willing to take a risk. If you were afraid of the worthy antagonist, you’d still be back in the Old Country.

So I just can’t ignore the voice. I have something to do. I have focus. Despite shouts of what may be the worst economic disaster we’ve ever faced… I can still hear the voice saying in it’s best Ed Harris / Gene Krantz imitation, “With all due respect, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”

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2 of 39 comments
  • RogerB34 RogerB34 on Dec 02, 2008

    Fine article. In 1934 unemployment was 23.2 percent and in Jan 1940 was 14.6 percent. Those were tough times. The current economic meltdown was made in the USA by the People and debt. The Iraq/Afganistan war has nothing to do with the economic meltdown. None of you can say that your pay was cut or taxes increased due to Iraq/Afganistan. If war was the economy killer, how did we survive the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea and the rest? If the proposition is that we are finished, I would agree based on what happened to Detroit, subprimes, Mortgage Based Securities, and foolish debt by the People. Made Proudly in America. Lets see if there is anything left when we hit bottom. No assurance that since the Greatest Generation made it, that USA Century 21 will.

  • GS650G GS650G on Dec 02, 2008

    http://www.detroityes.com/0tourdetroit.htm#The_Fabulous_Ruins Take the tour of the ruins of Detroit. It's pretty sad. Other large American cities could face this fate if they don't get their shit together. But in our society it is everyone for themselves, and someone else gets the bill. I think Detroit is a lost cause and the entire state of Michigan better start thinking about agriculture as a business or recreation (along the lines of Florida without the warm sun) or else we might as well give it to Canada.

  • FreedMike That wagon is yummy.
  • Syke Thanks, somehow I missed that.
  • 285exp I am quite sure that it is a complete coincidence that they have announced a $7k price increase the same week that the current administration has passed legislation extending the $7k tax credit that was set to expire. Yep, not at all related.
  • Syke Is it possible to switch the pure EV drive on and off? Given the wonderful throttle response of an EV, I could see the desirability of this for a serious off-roader. Run straight ICE to get to your off-roading site, switch over the EV drive during the off-road section, then back to ICE for the road trip back home.
  • ToolGuy Historical Perspective Moment:• First-gen Bronco debuted in MY1966• OJ Simpson Bronco chase was in 1994• 1966 to 1994 = 28 years• 1994 to now = 28 yearsFeel old yet?