Is this beautiful rendering of a “Death of a Slave” an erotic meeting of impermanence and inevitability — or is it more a cold, moral homily, against the wages of living a sacred life?
As we work ourselves into graves and wander into the ethereal darkness surrounding us — is it really a mystery that many Americans are failing to save enough for their retirement and that many are breaking into their 401(k) plans to stave off mortgage foreclosure?
Even before the housing bubble, the country was facing a retirement crisis, with most Americans saving too little, if anything, for their post-working years. The housing bubble — and subsequent bust — have made that bad situation worse.
As house prices surged through the middle of this decade, the already low savings rate turned negative. Many Americans were living beyond their means, in part, because swelling home values created an illusion of wealth. Now, with house prices falling, nearly 10 million people have lost all of their home equity. Millions more have given up all of the gains of the boom years — a wipeout totaling $3.5 trillion, so far.
We surround ourselves with percolating totems of wealth and well-being while wholly diminishing the who and the what of where we are in the demonic exchange between glittering lives and glowering deaths.
There is a certain fatalism that has crept into the American Dream and it is rotting the White Picket Fence from within and maiming retirement community dreams of Del Boca Vista.
Some of that feinting away of The Golden Years has to do with the War in Iraq, the uncertainty of the next terroristic threat in Das Homeland and an uncertain and punishing economy that offers little hope and zero manageable savings plans.
People are more afraid today of not being able to make the rent or the bank note than of being able to live somewhere warm and soft as they age.
In fact, most people I know believe they will never be able to afford to retire now after eight years of financial misery, and they plan to work for as long as they are alive and risk death behind a desk instead of in a bed.
I can’t help wondering if working all day every day for the rest of your life is the new American Dream — or if it is an updated haunting of the reality that inspired “Death of a Slave.”