I’m reading David M. Kennedy’s fine book “Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945”. The time he describes seems to be almost a mirror of ours–loss of jobs, world-wide economic uncertainty, fear about the future.
Then as now, the best brains couldn’t figure out the causes and cures for the depression. The government was hard-pressed to cope with it.
There were expectations of revolution and violence in the most troubled areas of the country that depended on agriculture and mass production, but popular reaction to the situation didn’t occur to any great extent.
Instead, Kennedy says, a silent helplessness fell over the country as people lost their homes and fell into poverty. People, especially men who had quality jobs, felt shame and guilt for losing them.
“The Depression revealed one of the perverse implications of American society’s vaunted celebration of individualism. In a culture that ascbribed all success to individual striving, it seemed to follow axiomatically that failure was due to individual inadequacy”
That’s still true today, I believe. The more you think you can do and be anything you want to do and be, the harder it is not to think that losing a job is your fault.