"You must look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective." -Denis Waitley
I had an illuminating discussion with a group of college-age students recently. Having noted a recent story about the number of students (as high as 1 in 7) who need medication to help them cope with life, we began talking about the angst of modern-day students and young people in general, also noting that suicide rates among 15-24 year olds have doubled since the 1950s. Several in the group talked about how challenging things were for them in school (and outside it). I stated something to the effect that we didn’t react similarly “in my day.” They responded with muted guffaws and said that “things were so much easier back when you were in school”. Really? I had to laugh (at least internally) and also lament the sorry state of knowledge about our country’s past.
I started high school in 1968, according to a Smithsonian Magazine cover story this year, America’s “annus horribilis.” That year began with the Tet Offensive in Vietnam where casualties that year alone totaled over 100,000, including 16,592 dead. The draft was a constant source of fear, tension, and protest among young people. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April, provoking riots that killed dozens and injured thousands, and did lasting damage to inner cities across America. Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination followed in June. That summer saw the bloody Democratic Presidential Convention in Chicago and the protests at the Olympics in Mexico City. There were student takeovers of college buildings. Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb was a big seller, with its cheery opening line, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death … nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Along with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, it added to increasing worries and agitation about the environment. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock promised “shattering stress and disorientation” in the coming years. Boy, college should be fun!
[I should note that 1968 ended on a truly high note of civilization as Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders became the first people to reach the Moon, on Christmas Eve, as Borman and Lovell read aloud from the Book of Genesis and Anders snapped Earthrise, one of the most iconic photographs in history.]
Over the next several years we saw an assassination attempt on another presidential candidate (George Wallace), Weather Underground bombings on college campuses, and in 1970 U.S. National Guard troops shooting to kill on a normally tranquil college campus, killing four and wounding nine at Kent State. Then came Watergate and the resignations of a Vice-President and a President. Yeah, not much going on! And before us, the Greatest Generation had a few things to deal with like the Great Depression and World War II.
What’s happened? I have no expert viewpoint here, but can’t help but believe that virtually constant media is to blame. I’m not faulting the media, they do what they do. However, there is no escaping it anymore. Television has dozens of news channels, on 24/7. And TVs tuned to the news seem to be everywhere; including bars, restaurants, waiting rooms, lobbies, airports, banks, and numerous other spots made possible by the compactness of flat-screen sets. If you’re not near a TV, a device in your pocket keeps you constantly alerted and alarmed. In 1968, there were three stations on everyone’s TV that each presented less than 30 minutes of news per night, and all at the same time so you could only watch one (no VCRs, TIVOS, DVRs, etc.). Then it was on to something else. Up through the Second World War there was only radio, newspapers, and movie newsreels.
Too many people today (not just young ones), have Waitley’s advice backwards, they look within for perspective, where it can’t be found, and beyond for value, where it doesn’t exist. Waitley’s view pertains to markets as well, as regards both value and perspective. CNBC, Bloomberg, FOX Business, etc. do to investors what mainstream media has done to everyone else, increasing angst and blurring perspective. The hyperventilating this October over the market’s volatility is an example. We have been saying for months that the market is “rich” from a valuation standpoint and that no bull market in history has lasted forever. A bear market at this point would take prices back to levels not seen since … the second quarter of 2017! At Beirne Wealth we have successfully navigated these waters since the days of Walter Cronkite, giving us perspective and an understanding of where value comes from. And that’s the way it is!
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