The Depression of 2011
by David Lacy
History has repeated itself.
I tip-toe through the throngs of makeshift encampments, cautious not to
trip on young mothers cradling their cold infants to their breasts.
Thousands of men and women are shawled in jackets and cheap wool, staring
blankly into what seems an interminable, unknown future. Fatigue has set
in for most, resignation for a few. The night has draped the world in
We have hit the second depression, I suddenly think to myself, the one our
grandparents told us about in their gravelly voices that gently trailed
off as their minds receded back into time.
Some are making the best of this new “Hooverville.” A father and son have
a deck of cards splayed out in front of them. The boy laughs with impish
delight as he beats his old man at a particularly difficult hand. Some are
still able to smile in this new economic world. I grin at the boy – more
as a sign of solidarity than genuine hope — and keep walking. The boy
doesn’t realize that it’s darkest before the dawn, I think.
There are propane stoves, heating food spooned from tin cans gleaning in
the streetlights. In this 21st century depression many young people are
wearing iconic iPod white-bud ear-phones. The hardened faces of the
suburban teens bob slowly to the beats of inner-city poets who have rapped
about the financial pains these children are for the first time actually
experiencing. The cold. The uncertainty. The bleached-haired white kid can
finally relate to the ghetto life he had for so long emulated from the
safety of suburbia.
Occasionally a fight breaks out. One encampment periodically leap-frogs
another encampment in the “aide” line and the crowd puts the offender “in
his place” with vociferous shouts and shoves. They are reminded by the
masses that there are still rules in this new America. There is still
Our humanity has not yet dimmed entirely from our eyes.
Suddenly, from near the start of the row of tents there’s a commotion. The
lighting shifts inexplicably and people begin to jostle and shove into new
positioning. A man’s voice calls out and immediately the sanity has ended.
There is a breaking point in all men, and I begin to believe I am about to
witness the breaking point of thousands of my fellow earth travellers. I’d
read “Grapes of Wrath” in high school and I begin scanning around
fervently for a Tom Joad, a fighter for the people, a vigilante for the
lost, who would jump in and save us all. He did say he’d be here “wherever
…” and “something, something, something.” I can’t quite recall.
Forcefully, like cattle, the line jolts forward. I nearly lose my balance
in the adjustment. For the first time I can clearly see what’s happening
at the beginning of the encampment line.
“They’re raiding the store,” I whisper, astonished. We’ve hit the bottom.
Security attempts to keep the masses in check. We live in a police state
now. Anyone who has seen the videos from Davis, Oakland, Berkeley,
Portland, and New York are well aware of this.
But the people don’t care anymore. Men in uniform can’t scare a unified
public. A unified public scares men in uniform. In solidarity – and in an
act of stingingly rebellious defiance at a capitalistic system that has
oppressed them for so long — the angry mob slams past the officer and
slingshots (using the backs of their fellow man for propulsion) their
bodies into the store.
Moments later I notice the looting has officially begun. One man runs out
with a 42-inch LED television stretched between his arms. A mother cradles
an Xbox like a football and returns to her car (they have cars! I think
amazed) before the parking lot becomes a traffic jam. As time passes, more
and more hardened campers stream out of the store, carrying their bounty,
and taking down their tents.
But instead of excitement at bucking the system, most reveal expressions
of anger. Anxiety. Frustration. Fatigue. Horns begin honking. Fingers
And it’s then that I realize no one is looting anything. The man with the
42-inch television is also clinging to a crisp paper receipt. The Xbox mom
has her proof-of-sale as well.
And instead of stopping the “occupied” campers, the security guards laugh
and smile good-naturedly, pat the people on their backs, and point them to
the nearest cash registers.
It’s not black Friday, I think to myself. It’s green Friday.