A Tsunami of Crises

I usually try to focus my comments on industry issues and how world events may affect us, but sometimes these events are so overwhelming that one cannot separate them.

This is one of those times.

The outrage of seeing a stone-faced police officer sworn to uphold the law kneeling on an unarmed man’s neck until he choked to death is deep and explosive. Especially coming, as it did, after several other unarmed African-Americans were gunned down by police for no valid reasons. This is infinitely disheartening because I was raised to think we Americans were the good guys and that such incidents were anomalies in a society striving to live up to its founding ideals.

Also, the tradegy of seeing jewelry stores—many of which belong to people I’ve long respected and admired—being looted by opportunistic criminals and provocateurs alike is also deep.

Does one have to take sides? It is slightly heartening to see that many who have had their businesses damaged understand the difference between legitimate protestors and the looters. And it is also heartening to see a Reuters poll showing 60% of Americans realize that if police had lived up their oaths to protect and serve fairly in the first place, none of this would have happened.

However, I suspect the explosion of unrest in 370 cities around the United States carries deeper roots than the outrageous conduct of police. It’s the catalyst, not the cause, and is but one aspect of the erosion of trust and belief in government and the rule of law.

In poll after poll, a large majority of Millennials and Gen Z believe the US economic system is rigged in favor of the wealthy. Many young people have been saddled with high debts, inadequate health care insurance, jobs that no longer carry benefits, increasing rents and housing costs while watching billions bonuses and “executive compensation.’

A majority of young people believe their situation will get worse, not better, according to the Pew Research study. Beyond this, they see a government that looked the other way as hundreds of thousands of its citizens became addicted to opiates while pharmaceutical companies drew record profits. Meanwhile, they also saw many of the hardest-hit states move to reduce or eliminate programs to help break the chain of addictions.

The loss of faith and hope is pervasive, and not just in the United States. This is a very volatile formula and it is very possible that this unrest will continue smoldering, erupting periodically the way is has just this past week. Remember that the arrest of a Tunisian street vendor touched off civil wars in Libya, Egypt, and the still on-going one in Syria.

We all hope and pray this does not happen, but what can we do individually and as an industry? I will be honest: I wish I knew, but I don’t, except to say don’t be consumed by hate and divisions and, above this, don’t feed them. Continue to be constructive parts of your communities and, sadly, add riot proof gates if you can.

And, in the aftermath of this violence and COVID 19, people will be looking for solace. They can take this in gifts for loved ones. And perhaps some people will want to treat themselves but not go overboard on expense, so look for line of affordable, fashionable pieces, maybe even fun. One thing is certain: “bling” will be as passe’ as a blacksmith for the time being.