We’re still finding out what exactly happened to the American economy last fall (2008) and what the ramifications are for our day-to-day lives. Writing in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, Peggy Noonan (former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan) made an interesting observation about a change in attitudes toward babies:
…everything changed in 2008. A new economic era, begun by a terrible and still barely fathomable crash, is here, and many of us sense deep down that things will never be the same, that the past quarter-century’s fabulous abundance—it was the richest time in the history of man—is over. Novelists of our time will, one hopes, attempt to catch what just passed and is passing, try to capture what it was and keep it for history, as F. Scott Fitzgerald caught the Roaring Twenties, as Thackeray did England’s 19th century in “Vanity Fair,” as Tom Wolfe did the beginning of the age of abundance, in “Bonfire of the Vanities.”
I offer in a spirit of encouragement a free image, or observation. At a certain point in the ’00s, I began to notice, on the east side of Manhattan, that the 3-week-old infants, out for the first time in their sleek black Mercedes-like strollers, were amazingly, almost alarmingly, perfect. Perfect round heads, huge perfect eyes, none of the dents, bruises and imperfections that are normal and that tend to accompany birth. I would ask friends: Why are babies perfect now, how did that happen? The answers were the usual: a healthy, well-fed populace, etc. Then a friend said: “These are the children of the scheduled C-sections of the affluent. They are scooped out, perfect.” They were little superbabies whose handsome, investment banking, asset-bundling, financial-instrument-creating parents commanded even Nature.
But the death of Lehman Brothers was “the day Wall Street died,” as the Journal put it this week, and the day the great abundance did, essentially, too. That is a very big thing to happen in a single year. The proper attitude with which to approach the new reality? Consider it “a nudge from God,” a priest said this week. Consider him to be telling us what’s important and what’s not, what you need and what you don’t, what—who—can be relied on, and can’t.