Most of what went on in 2008 put me in a pretty nasty mood. I have a list of 10 things I'd like to see in 2009. Bear with me, though, because there's some light at the end of this tunnel of mean.
10. Hitchhiking. Just picture it: the CEOs of Ford
9. Puppies. OK, that live feed of those puppies really cheered a lot of us up in the midst of total economic crisis. Watching puppies play or sleep is a simple pleasure. More puppies, please. Maybe some kittens, too.
8. Noise terrorism, er, timeout. Some of the CEOs who got us into trouble and still expected giant paydays could probably use some time for contemplation. I think it'd be neato mosquito to tie them to chairs and make them listen to certain music at high decibels; I have a list prepared of good ones that would be like an aural and psychological firing range.
7. More projectiles, better aim. OK, maybe not something that would hurt, like pairs of Crocs
6. Freak-outs. Lots of freak-outs. We had freak-outs galore in 2008 -- I can recall a few times when Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson seemed to be shaking in their booties -- but the most amusing might have been Jim Cramer's "They know NOTHING!" apopleptic fit. So, whatever you do, Jim Cramer, don't go on mood stabilizers in 2009. We need the entertainment and distraction.
5. Better music. The '70s and '80s were hard times economically, but it's occurred to me that those days actually yielded some great, angry protest music deep in the underground. So many awesome punk bands spring to my mind as having spoken eloquently -- sometimes disturbingly -- about what had gone wrong and challenged people to question and think about their behavior and beliefs. Now we have the Internet to share the spirit -- put that on your Apple
4. Government reality checks. For example, the Federal Trade Commission has gone after Whole Foods
3. Perp walks. Foolish community member TDRH commented on one of my recent articles that it might be nice to see some of the bad players actually do the perp walk. Right on. Maybe Anthony Mozilo, king of the overly tanned and tooth-whitened, who made much bank from Countrywide Financial before the downfall delivered it straight to Bank of America
2. Epic fails that are actually allowed to fail. That's right, 2008 gave us all reason to understand what "moral hazard" really means, in live-action horror. It's high time the bailout buck stops and increasingly outlandish companies stop groveling at the government (taxpayer) trough.
1. Tea parties. Maybe I just mean, literally, tea parties. I'm a fan of Celestial Seasonings, myself.
Sitting with friends and drinking tea is an inexpensive social activity. Lest anyone think I'm an entirely mean-spirited person from the angrier jabs on my list, well, I'm not, even if I might have a mean streak, or at least a wicked sense of humor. I would like to see positive change in 2009. There's more to life than $1,000 handbags, $150 gold-flecked hamburgers, and other status goods, not to mention the grubbing that has gone on for personal gain without conscience. There's family, friends, relationships, discussions, creativity, acquiring knowledge, questioning. There are books to read, history to reflect upon to help put perspective on where we are now -- there's so much more than the decadence of competitive consumption that for so long was not only tolerated, but encouraged. A lot of us know this and are horrified at what has transpired.
Nobody likes hard times or suffering, but there are ways to find happiness and enrich the spirit -- recognizing when one has good fortune and plenty and that it feels good to lend others a helping hand instead of expecting somebody else to do it. There is a world out there that is ours to protect and to make a better place. Investing can be part of this -- when investing in quality companies that innovate, that do the right thing -- and those of us who make money investing can use those gains for so many good acts.
What could any of us invent, build, or create? Who could we help, because we choose to do so? The sky's the limit. Tough times show what we're all made of, and 2009 could be the opportunity to not only spin revenge fantasies (I just couldn't resist), but actually, to shine and make a difference.