Indeed, greed was present not just in financial markets, but also in the behaviour of borrowers – in other words, ordinary citizens – although it is doubtful that many borrowers fully understood the risks involved in their behaviour. The difficulty is that when money seems to be easy to make, there is always the temptation to do so, to throw just one more roll of dice seemingly loaded in our favour. So bank traders made that one more trade, and citizens borrowed that little bit extra for their dream home – only to discover, when the crisis came, that they were overstretched and vulnerable.
As a result, humanity, especially in the West, will have to adjust to the new realities of a situation where taxes may rise, or important public services may be cut, without a compensating rise in wages – because the rescue packages that have been put in place are ultimately funded by the taxpaying citizens. Governments must be careful, while attempting to save their banks, to make sure that the safety nets for their citizens are not neglected. It is understandable that citizens may be alarmed to find that they are now saddled with a debt that they did not expect. On the other hand, the situation could be viewed in a positive light: a share in the responsibility for much-needed financial reforms has been granted to them. It would be good if governments could acknowledge this new role for citizens, and give it some concrete expression – perhaps through the inclusion of citizens in a panel to review progress on the rescue plans, in a sort of financial jury duty.
In any case, all must prepare for a period of austerity – and hopefully, this will provide a more accurate perspective on the distinction between needs and wants. The prevailing climate of consumerism has clouded perceptions, leading people to expect as a right goods and services that previous generations saw as luxuries. In this respect, Alice Bailey commented that, "…only when men stand with empty hands and a realised new standard of values do they again acquire the right to own and to possess." (Glamour, A World Problem p.75) A life of more austere simplicity may help humanity to put greater trust in the realm of spirit than in material forms.
One important recognition for these troubled times is that we are all in it together. It is becoming increasingly clear that this is a global problem to which a global solution must be found. There are encouraging signs that governments are recognising this, with a number of multilateral initiatives now in play to try to jump-start the system. And there is now talk of a world summit to address the nature of global capitalism. The energy of synthesis, which concerns wholes, is therefore in operation, and can be drawn upon by those seeking global solutions. Indeed, it would be good if such united action could be echoed in facing other global challenges, such as climate change. And let us hope that ordinary citizens will find creative ways to cooperate with each other, through such mechanisms as time dollar schemes, car pooling, local exchange trading schemes (LETS) and so on, so helping to build up networks of real trust within their communities.