MAXING OUT


River Landscape with Ferry, by Salomon van Ruysdael, 1649. This is a new acquisition of the National Art Gallery, in Washington, DC.

Did you ever face a problem that seemed to expand until it touched every aspect of your life? How did you cope with it? At the moment, I am doing research for a story on credit card debt. I have just added a post on credit card debt, loan applications to Twitter, soliciting stories about loan applications. I would like to hear from people whose credit card debt had a serious impact on their lives. How did they manage? How did credit card debt affect the quality of their lives?
The story is in the seminal stage. Its crux is what happens when a society geared towards consumerism does exactly what it is programmed to do then crashes. More on this later.
Dutch painter Salomon van Ruysdael ( 1603-167t) lived during the Dutch Golden Age. Rampant affluence, courtesy of the West India Company spice trade, allowed greater social mobility New riches . Flush with profits from the Indies, the nouveaux riches elevated consumerism to a quasi-religious position. Paintings from that period reflect an affluent society represented by burgers bedecked in lace and jewels. Landscapes are tranquil and idyllic, still life paintings give an illusion of unending riches, posh brick houses are “as solid as ennui.” Their iconic stability seems to speak for the entrenched power of Dutch bankers. But did poverty and debt lurk behind these fortress-like facades? I know that Holland occasionally exported its poorer citizens to the Indies. One of my remote ancestors ended up in the Caribbean along with several underprivileged fellow Jews–not all Sephardim did brilliantly in the spice and sugar trade.
Not all Americans got rich during our Golden Age. I wonder who will paint the America of the Eighties when abundance seem eternal. Will their art last beyond this century? Who will pain the anguish of those who were lured by the sirens of acquisitiveness only to see that prosperity was just a bubble on the verge of bursting? These are the people flocking to banks, begging for loans. How do they face the schadenfreunde of whose circumstances allow them to weather the crisis comfortably? The economy will rebound, according to predictions. By next year, the job market will supposedly improve. Credit card companies will no longer have as much latitude as previously. But at the heart of the problems is the American attitude towards ownership–I own, therefore I am. Will that have changed?
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