When the term ‘credit crunch’ was first banded around, and doom-mongers were predicting a great recession of 1930s proportions , everybody looked for visible signs of the financial crisis.
I recall thinking that the closure of a large electronics/ household goods superstore near where I live was the shape of things to come.
However, Capitalism is, if nothing else, a resilient beast and there were no mass closures and banks have largely ridden the storm. Perhaps there were a few more budget stores opening but by and large the high streets and shopping malls look much the same.
My home town (Cesena) is, admittedly, quite affluent with money generated primarily by thriving agricultural production and associated businesses.
Recently, however, I’ve noticed a surge in two probably unrelated areas that indicate that all is not as hunky dory as it might initially appear.
The first is the escalation in the number of shops buying gold for cash. Initially, these made me think of the old style pawnbrokers who bailed out those severely strapped for cash. But the number of these new shops is clearly not just gaining custom from the poor or desperate. Rather, it indicates that people would rather transfer their jewellery into a liquid asset and the purchasers are more than happy to take advantage of the recent rise in value of gold. I am no economics expert so I can’t analyse the trend in any detailed way, but in a more stable market place I wouldn’t expect to see so many of these shops springing up.
The second trend is the rise in the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses prowling the streets looking for people to save. These are easy to spot. They go around in pairs and always wear formal clothes that are often too bulky for the hot climate. They carry clipboards and copies of their literature explaining their wacky theories about Armageddon and suchlike. I once made the mistake of engaging in conversation with one couple who called at my house. The fact that I was prepared to talk (as opposed to slamming the door in their smug faces) meant that I was obviously labelled as a potential convert so they kept turning up for weeks after. The small matter of my being an atheist didn’t seem to faze them one bit. From then on I have made a point of avoiding eye contact whenever I see them preparing to pounce. I suppose they are harmless, but I can’t help feeling that when people turn en masse to crackpot beliefs that have minimal foundation in reason or common sense there is some cause for concern.
These are just idle observations so I have no smart conclusions to offer to this post, only to say that the worship of cash and belief in a kingdom of heaven both seem tenuous bases for future prosperity. Maybe the doom-mongers were right all along!