"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Model for Our Economic Phoenix

I think the whole world’s run amok, and I don’t have much hope anyone will come up with a solution to save it from the poorhouse. Down the road a ways, after this bailout and that FDIC guarantee, long after the pols and the pundits have done their postmortems on this failed rescue and that useless intervention, we’ll still have to start all over. I think that’s what’s going to happen—we’ll limp along, trying one thing and then another, until we’ve no choice but to start again from the ashes of our financial system.

In the meantime, let’s look at some of the things that have happened so far. The government bailed out AIG, the big insurance company. AIG executives celebrated with a big party at a swanky spa. “Previously scheduled,” they claimed when the “fit hit the shan,” while the homeowner with a mortgage to pay and kids to feed watched in incredulity, pink slip in hand. A large bank was bailed out with federal money, but instead of using that money to make credit available to get the economy moving, it tucked it away and loomed like a vulture, ready to snap up smaller banks in trouble.

The three top wheels from the auto industry, which employs tens of thousands of people, went to Washington to ask for money to get this vital industry back on track. Did they drive? NO. In what would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase their fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles of the future, they chose to fly instead. Not commercial, mind you, but by corporate jet. And, no, they didn’t jet-pool. They flew in three separate jets, arriving in comfort with their satchels open, expecting Uncle Sam to fill them with greenbacks.

Then, some other big guys rode in to the rescue: delegates to the G-20 summit on the world financial crisis met over cheese, crackers and ginger ale to …. NOT! They dined at a luxurious banquet on quail, lamb and five hundred dollar bottles of red wine. About the only thing appropriate in that scenario was the red color of the wine, because that’s the color we’re bleeding.

Executives of failing companies make salaries and perks of multi-millions of dollars, and get golden parachutes that keep them in quail and fancy-shmancy wine for the rest of their lives. I’m sorry, there’s more, much, much more of this idiocy, but I’ve had enough. It’s more than I can take.

And what’s happening on the other side of the fence? People are losing their jobs, their homes, their savings, and their retirement accounts. Students are looking at tuitions beyond their means to pay. Seniors are afraid to check their investment portfolios for fear of bringing on strokes.

But most of all, we’re losing hope. And the pitiful thing is we’d been given a blueprint for avoiding all this. It’s been right there in front of our faces, complete with examples to follow, all dressed up in black and white formal wear, fluttering around our bird feeders. Okay, wait. Don’t toss this aside. Just listen to what I have to say. I want to tell you about chickadees.

First, chickadees usually mate for life. That means no broken homes and two wage earners providing for the present and the future. That means dad’s around to help mom feed the young. When statistics show that sixty percent of children living in poverty do so in a female single-parent home, there is much to be said for mating for life.

Second, chickadees’ wings beat twenty-seven times a second. A second. No couch potatoes in chickadee-land. And no unemployment lines, either. The chickadee either gets its butt out there and works, or it’s no sunflower seeds for it. Sorry, bird feeders don’t take food coupons. Which brings up another point. While tens of thousands of humans set out feeders with peanut butter and sunflower seeds, research indicates that up to eighty percent of a chickadee’s daily winter food supply comes from natural sources such as dormant insects, spiders, and even carrion. They’re not free-loaders, but hard workers, because their survival depends upon it.

Third, chickadees will lay between six and eight eggs, and the young fledge in about twenty-one days. Then, it’s off to work. No laying back and letting mom and dad bring the goodies home, because junior’s too precious to work at washing dishes or at a fast food joint.

Fourth, chickadees don’t necessarily eat all those black oil sunflower seeds at your feeder that day. Instead, they save for hard times. They save and they diversify. They find separate hiding places for each seed, and they remember where they put each one. They don’t tuck away their savings in the same spot where some raiding Stellar’s jay can clean them out with one beakful.

Fifth, chickadees don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. They excavate their own nests in rotten trees or decaying wood. They don’t over-extend, or try to pay the mortgage on an eagle’s nest when a woodpecker’s abandoned nest will do. No sub-prime mortgage problems here.

And sixth and last, the other trait I think humans should adopt, is this: chickadees keep an eye on the food-finding success of their peers. If one is doing especially well, the others emulate that bird’s behavior. They don’t go running to some chickadee appropriations committee, peeping for a bailout. They learn from the birds that are making the right decisions, working the hardest, and having the most success.

So, there it is—the blueprint for when our economic Phoenix struggles to rise from the ashes of the current meltdown. Come to think of it, it isn’t such a bad plan for social progress either.

Nov. 29, 2008


  1. Right one the money, or should I say the lack of it.

    If you go to Romantic Walk, you'll find something there for you.

  2. I hate to sound like I've missed the point of your message, but I have to say... What a delightful lesson on the humble chickadee!! We've been feeding the birds all year round on our deck, so I get to watch the activity just outside my kitchen window any time I want to. We don't have stellar jays here in northern Alberta, but our dozen or more chickadees can often be seen at one of our feeders or on the railing, in company with blue jays, nuthatches, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, house sparrows and juncoes. At any given time there will be as many as four different kinds of birds there, several of each.

    But your lesson only makes me even more upset about the cats from next door -- one in particular -- who camp under the suet feeder and ambush unwary birds by leaping up onto the railing to grab them. He even stole ALL the tail feathers off one blue jay. The jay escaped when I threw a broom at the cat, but more than one chickadee has not been so lucky. :(

    I'm enjoying your blog, which I found through our mutual friend, Walk.


  3. If I had a clue how to do mass mailings, I'd send this to everyone in the USA. Maybe I could wrap it up in pretty paper and have the chickadees deliver it house to house for extra sunflower seeds.

    PS: I found your site through Walk, too.