A Sept. 11 Prospectus
The folks at RearGuard tell you how to turn trauma into money.
Synergy potential also exists in the untapped market of those who confess to feeling guilty because, while feeling compassion for victims and their families, they feel neither afraid nor grief-struck. Among surviving members of the World War II, postwar, and baby boom generations, the capacity for vicarious angst has often been dulled by such forgotten national traumas as the blackouts and air raid alerts of World War II, the prolonged Cold War nuclear threat, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and assorted assassinations, urban riots, bombings, kidnappings, and hijackings by home-grown terrorists. Organized counseling directed toward such clients should not only provide the foundation for an ancillary guilt industry, but also leave those treated with a heightened capacity for secondhand trepidation, thus expanding the grief industry customer base.
In the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, a few members of the healing profession expressed skepticism that the event would produce widespread trauma. "The most common outcome of a traumatic event is still mental health. Humans are resilient creatures," staff psychologist Paul Arbisi at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center told U.S. News & World Report. Similarly, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently warned a congressional committee that, "judging from history, human beings have demonstrated a remarkable capacity to adapt to extraordinarily adverse circumstances. And, I expect the same adaptability to become evident in the present situation."
Such precedents do exist. But today's Americans are far more in touch with their emotional needs. Nor do naysayers such as Arbisi and Greenspan reflect the majority view. More typical is that of Alan Wolfelt, a grief counselor in the Colorado Medical School's family medicine department. Speaking to a Wall Street Journal reporter shortly after the attacks, Wolfelt observed that "people are searching and yearning for ways to mourn. It's important to grieve not only independently but also communally."
The grief industry has also benefited from the absence of governmental intervention. A few lawmakers have proposed the establishment of a Federal Emotional Trauma Administration (FETA) that would not only oversee the private industry but also compete in service provision. In RearGuard's view, such intervention is not only undesirable but, in light of the prevailing anti-regulatory environment, unlikely.
Finally, even in so promising an industry as grief, no single stock can be immune from the vagaries of the market. That is why we are recommending that our clients diversify their holdings by purchasing shares in a new fund recently launched by RearGuard. "As Americans did 60 years ago, we have entered a struggle of uncertain duration," President Bush said at a memorial service for victims of the attack on the Pentagon. "But now, as then ... we have the patience to fight and win on many fronts." In view of the grief industry's proven contribution to the strength of our nation, we have named our grief industry portfolio the FDR/Churchill Fund, knowing that its creation would bring a tear to the eye of each of these great wartime leaders of the past.
Jodie T. Allen is the senior editor at the Pew Research Center.