The Great Depression had a lasting and profound impact on America and the world. Though I was not alive during the oppressive time poverty and joblessness, I have still has the misfortune of meeting many who were forced to endure this time in world history. The stories and overwhelming feeling that encompasses the time are undeniable. While I did not experience any of the hardships firsthand, they did change the way I view poverty and unemployment in a drastic way. I may have once grown up in a world where the idea of poverty and unemployment would have been a discomfort, but it would not have scared me, or forced me to actively change my plans for life. Today, however, because of the powerful stories and the emphasis society places on poverty and the link to the event, I have been affected. The Great Depression impacted my life by making me fearful of the world’s economic climate, driven to stay educated and employed, and also resourceful, as people often lived their lives in those days.
I am able to understand that even though I was not alive during the Great Depression, nor did I experience any of the financial struggled during this time, I am being influenced by the longlasting reprecussions of the event. This is something otherwise known as sociological imagination, according to C. Wright Mills, author of, “The Sociological Imagination.” Hearing the many stories of families starving to death, being uprooted from their homes, dying of disease, and being utterly miserable during this time has made me sometimes irrationally fearful of the world’s economic climate. Though it appears several countries are determined to never see the world fall into this kind of economic hardship again, I find it difficult to allow myself the comfort of believing it will never happen in my lifetime. We spend frivolously, are in such a detrimental debt there is no foreseeable way to pay back what we owe, and the resources we survive on will run out within my projected lifetime. It is enough to give one an ulcer. I understand that I, personally, have no reason to fear living through another Great Depression because I never lived through one to begin with. There are previous generations who literally cry when extra food is thrown away, so scarred by the memories of saving every bare morsel they were given in case they were not fortunate enough to have enough food to feed everybody during the next meal. However, I still find myself feeling scared of what poverty and famine may hold for me should circumstances become so dire. It could be because though everybody was poor during the Great Depression, once the economy recovered the world quickly began to once again look down on the impoverished. We are judgmental of others, even if we have been in those circumstances ourselves. This mentality becomes stronger when the majority gains power, as it did after the Depression, according to James E. Cote, and Charles G. Levine, authors of, “Identity, Formation, Agency, and Culture: A Social Psychological Synthesis.” This time it was with a more flourished tone, as if to say, “We recovered and you did not.” Perhaps I am afraid I will be one that will not recover, forever cast out be society.
The drive to learn and remain employed after learning of the Great Depression also seems instilled within many individuals across the country and the world. The best way to avoid poverty, obviously, is to earn money. We must save our money, of course, in case there ever is any repeat offense on the part of the world economy. My desire to learn and get a good job has grown voracious over the years. It is, of course, not only to avoid poverty. I also have other ambitions, though it would be a lie to say that one of the primary ambitions is not to avoid being poor. There is such an emphasis society has placed not only on not being poor, but also on living above one’s means. It is as if being middle-class is no longer good enough anymore. In order for one to appear as if they are not impoverished or as if they are living comfortably, they must be living in what is considered the upper-middle class. It is bad form to discuss money, but rather to show off what you can afford through other means. If I am able to purchase a new flat screen television, for example, it will show I am doing well for myself. In contrast, if I am borrowing gas money to look for a job, it will show that I am teetering on the edge of the impoverished abyss, and should be pitied. In a way, it seems The Great Depression has never ended for some, but has only begun to be ignored. Many never claw their way out of poverty, but only begin learning to live in a perpetual state of being poor while simultaneously pitied by those around them rather than actually being helped. This though, which society presses upon us at every opportunity, also drives me to stay educated and employed.
There are many stories of individuals during the days of The Great Depression becoming very resourceful. As already stated, any edible scrap of food was saved so that it may be eaten. Similarly, clothes were either mended repeatedly, or repurposed as something else. Nothing was wasted because there was nothing to waste. If anything was thrown away it was because it was utterly useless. I have tried to take on this mentality, if nothing more than to get the most for my money. While I do not save every scrap of food I cook, as I realize I am not living under a bridge and not actually living in The Great Depression, I do understand food is important and often expensive. Saving parts of the meal that I can refrigerate and reheat saves money which, also previously mentioned, is something that is important to me due to the emphasis society places on poverty. The money saved can go toward various other things. Repurposing, while not a talent of mine, is something I do try to partake in because it is useful and it is also practical. Sewing is not one of my skills, but if a piece of clothing has a small tear I see no reason why it should not be sewn shut and worn again. Large tears or holes are different because, again, I am able to see the distinction between the life I am living and time of poverty and strife during the Depression, but the fact remains that cutting small corners like this has managed to save money even in the short time I have been attempting to do it. I understand, however, that it is ironic how much I am trying to avoid becoming poor while all of my tactics rest upon what impoverished people relied on during the Depression.
In sum, though I was not alive during the Great Depression, it has clearly influenced my life in a significant way. Because of the impression it left on the world, it caused generations after it to view poverty and the economy in a different way. We look down upon it, and attempt to cover it up, as if it were a dirty secret. Meanwhile we quake if there is any news the economy may crumble beneath us. Unfortunately, the result is that I have grown up on a generation that does not talk about money problems, and is cast out if they have any. The only way to present one’s self as a proper member of society is to be employed, educated, well informed, and to spend. To ask questions on how to do these things appears improper and that, I blame, on society’s outlook on poverty based on the impact of the Great Depression. Therefore, though I was not alive during that time, it did have an indirect impact on me. I am fearful of the economy’s downfall, as well as fearful of ever being poor myself. I am also very driven to education myself and remain employed in order to stay above the poverty line, something that remains increasingly more difficult to do as time goes on. Finally, I strive to become more resourceful, as those did during the Great Depression; it seems practical and even helps cut the cost of living and use of resources whether one is poor or not.
Cote, James E. and Charles G. Levine. Identity, Formation, Agency, and Culture: A Social Psychological Synthesis. East Sussex: Psychology Press, 2014.
Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959. Book.