Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Sign of the Times
The BBC has a wonderful piece on this poster from the British Ministry of Information. Printed in 1939, for distribution in case of national catastrophe, until recently it never saw the light of day.
Consider, this was right before the Blitzkrieg (that's German for Shock and Awe) of 1940. Fifty-seven straight nights of aerial bombardment. Over forty thousand dead. Over a million homes damaged or destroyed.
Yet, the poster was never distributed. It makes one wonder, if not the Blitz, what would qualify as a national catastrophe? In part, the answer to that question is in the message of the poster--it's not only the circumstance that defines catastrophe, but the reaction to it. Hitler hoped the Blitz would demoralize the Brits into surrender. Of course, it didn't work. The resilience, the stiff upper lip of the English is legendary. They didn't need to be reminded to stay calm and carry on, it's what they do.
These days, it is easy to feel as if we are on the brink of global and personal financial catastrophe. This is particularly troubling for Americans, who do not have the tradition of the stiff upper lip. We are given to loud, brash reactions. Nor are we patient--for us, right now isn't soon enough. That is unfortunate, as there is no easy or fast way out of our financial mess. If we panic and act without careful thought, or demand a quick solution, we risk turning this into a real catastrophe.
Right now, we could use that poster. Having an aversion to monarchies (and any reminder of leaders named George), the crown would have to go. The overall design and layout is wonderful, but might be a bit subtle for many. Perhaps we could do something with that as well.
How about something like this?