Ten years ago, the global economy had a cold and Detroit had the flu.
With editorial support from Bryan Gottleib and Joe Falik, I fashioned a proposal for Red Thread Magazine almost as cutting as the staples that connected it to the Jewish News. We survived the Great Recession – and the staples – but, being the enduringly modest mensch, I will let history judge just how much of the credit to give me.
In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public – in which he suggested impoverished Irish parents sell their children to the wealthy to be eaten as delicacies.
In our community, too, desperate times call for desperate measures. Our plight is not a surplus of young, delicious children – if only! – but rather a scarcity of young adults, threatening to sap the region of its vitality. In that spirit, please consider my own modest proposal.
First, the time has come to tap the strategic reserve of perhaps our most abundant natural resource: guilt. We are sitting on a gold[berg]mine of guilt – guilt so bountiful that it goes almost unnoticed. And we’ve barely tapped this veritable oi-l well. Sure, it has proven successful in securing weekly phone calls and visits for High Holidays and Passover, but it could do so much more.
Parents and grandparents, arise (slowly now) and unleash guilt! Tell your scions, “we’re not getting any – cough, wheeze – younger” and that, for everything you’ve done for them over the years, all you ask – is it so much to ask? – is for them to stay in town; or, if they’ve sheepishly strayed from the herd, to move home already.
Mind you, we should still aspire to send our young to the finest institutions of higher education. But once there, they must systematically target weak-willed potential mates whose strained relationships with their own parents will make them amenable to settling here. Fortunately, this group – like so many gefilte fish in so few barrels – already congregates overwhelmingly in the Greek system.
Second, we need to spark economic activity so those guilt-ridden souls succeed in sustaining themselves here – and here alone. I speak of the institution on the other side of the matrimonial coin – less celebrated, but just as valuable: divorce. As profitable as weddings and their massively monetized momentary merriment, the large-scale dissolution of those marriages will have this recession in retreat faster than you can say, “til debt do us part.”
Terminating marriages that have not already come to their natural, lucrative end will double the demand for everything from appliances and sofabeds to Hanukkah presents and – most importantly – real estate. Lest we run the risk of our dearly divorced ditching Detroit, we need only ensure that those who are still stubbornly married have children – the younger the better – before they untie the knot.
Finally, what will keep our elderly, who have such power to induce guilt, and our young people, who are so susceptible to it, from seeking refuge in sunnier climes? With the same determination it took to put a man on the moon and a nerd in the state capital, we will do the only thing we can: make Michigan warmer.
Luckily, we’re already on our way. Let’s resolve to redouble our efforts to turn up the heat on Michigan’s future – to drive ever larger vehicles, to generously heat our uninsulated homes and to let our trash cans runneth over. It’s time to put an end to the old saw “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”