Saturday, May 26, 2012

Settling for less

We live in difficult times in a lot of ways, and it is always encouraging when we hear a little bit of good news. Who does not like good news? After all, the economy is a mess. Our political scene often resembles a scene out of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Plus, even the simplest of pleasures costs an arm and a leg these days.
Because of this, it appears we are lowering our standards when it comes to what we consider ‘good news.’ Let us consider some of the news the media has reported in recent weeks, and we will specifically start with the recent drop in gas prices.
After threatening to slip above the $4 a gallon level, gas prices have begun settling downward. Some prices have threatened to drop below the $3.30 level locally. However, should we really consider this good news?
While lower prices are a relief in some respects, the current prices still should not be greeted with cheers. Despite this, some media outlets are reporting these prices as if we should all drop down on our hands and knees and kiss the ground because we are paying only $3.30 a gallon.
The national news channels on television have performed little in-depth analysis about why prices got so high in the first place. Some of the business channels did, and their reporting has sometimes been used on the news channels. Still, do not let them condition us into believing the drop is actually good news.
If this happens, then the oil companies and everybody else associated with this industry have us exactly where they want us. If $3.30 becomes the acceptable normal standard, then the chances of it dropping below that are zero percent.
Some media also reported with equal enthusiasm the recent drop in the state’s unemployment rate down to 7.8 percent. Again, any drop is helpful, but is it really good news? ‘The Tennessean’ must have thought so because it had the news splashed on its front page, pointing out the rate was at its lowest in several years.
Should we all be walking around shouting ‘Hooray!’? No! We are not anywhere close to being where we should be when it comes to employment. The job market has stunk in recent years so there is a tendency to rejoice over the slightest gain. Do not let people (or the media) persuade us things are better than they really are.
At this point, some reading this may be thinking that I am being overly pessimistic or cynical. After all, can’t we enjoy some momentary gains after the sludge of the last few years?
A person can, but that person would be standing on a slippery slope. It can become too easy for all of us to settle for second best instead of setting the bar high. When we do that once or twice, it becomes easier to do it again and again and again.
This applies to issues like the ones written about in this column or the circumstances of our lives. Too often, we settle instead of being willing to put it all on the line and swing for the fences.
I understand that mind set. It requires little risk, and we convince ourselves it is the safest road to take. This may be the case, but in the long run, it becomes unsatisfying. Then, after years of compromising, we realize life is not what we want it to be, and we start living with the sad reality of what life might have been if we had had different standards.
It is chilling when that happens. So do not do it.

No comments: