Contrary to popular belief, 2021 is not the Year of the Ox; it’s the Year of the Squid. For those of you not stranded under a rock, “Squid Game” probably rings a bell. For many, the TV series is no more than a dystopian fiction; for others, though, it’s a brutal reality.
As the most-watched Netflix TV series of the year, with its bizarre plot and garish costumes, “Squid Game” offers a pulsating viewing experience.
The plot centers around a South Korean man called Seong Gi-hun, a recently divorced and heavily indebted chauffeur. Along with another 455 players, Gi-hun is invited to partake in a TV series that has contestants compete for a large cash prize. Unimaginable wealth awaits the victors; death awaits the losers. Interestingly enough, the idea for “Squid Game” came from the reality of life in South Korea, a country where millions of people find themselves drowning in a sea of debt.
About 1,300 miles away, in China, a debt crisis grips the country. As the South China Morning Post previously reported, China’s consumer debt is “among the fastest-growing segment of overall debt, particularly in the form of mortgage and consumer loans.” Last year, household debt increased to 57.7 percent of the country’s GDP.
Now, as China’s economy continues to get walloped from all angles, the country’s slide into financial ruin is picking up pace. As the journalist He Huifeng has warned, household debt is reducing the “quality of life” for Chinese families throughout the land. One housewife in her 40s told Huifeng that her family members find themselves “walking a tightrope in mid-air.” Like so many others in China, she worries that her family “won’t have enough to make mortgage repayments” going forward.
Sadly, the problems experienced by those in South Korea and China are also being felt by a large number of Americans.
According to market analyst Jeff Cox, U.S. household debt is at a 14-year high, “thanks mostly to a surge in the housing market” that has now brought “the collective American IOU to just shy of $15 trillion.” In the space of just three months, from April to June, total debt balances jumped more than $300 billion, “the sharpest rise since the same period in 2007,” wrote Cox.
As most readers remember, less than a year after the 2007 increase in debt, the world was met with a financial disaster of epic proportions. Does something similar await us in 2022? Don’t bet against it.
With less people working and mounting levels of debt, the United States appears to be heading for an economic reckoning. As we prepare to enter a post-pandemic world, many of us are understandably eager to enjoy life. However, some appear a little too eager to enjoy themselves.
Crippling Debt, It Seems, Is Very Much à la Mode
How much are you willing to pay in order to treat yourself? Of course, such a figure will vary depending on your bank balance.
Nevertheless, according to a report from CreditCards.com, 44 percent of Americans are willing to go into debt in order to treat themselves. Those aged between 24 and 40, often referred to as millennials, are the worst culprits. A staggering 59 percent of respondents admitted a willingness to incur debt; 56 percent of Gen Zers said the same.
Although the adage involving old age and a growth in wisdom appears to be dubious at best, it most definitely applies here. With baby boomers, only 32 percent of those aged between 57 and 75 declared a willingness to flirt with serious debt.
Millennials, the very people most likely to take on debt, are the most likely to struggle with repayments. The average American millennial, according to Business Insider, has a miserable net worth of $8,000. In other words, the average American millennial probably has more debt than they are actually “worth.”
Now, before I am accused of putting a price on a person’s life, let me state the following: Business Insider wrote the article, not me. Also, as a millennial, I took very little pride in writing the above few sentences.
Not surprisingly, because of the willingness to incur crippling debt, often in the form of student loans, American millennials are stuck in a sort of purgatory, somewhere between adolescence and adulthood. Many are unable to purchase a new car, never mind a new home. This is true across the country, from Baltimore to Boston.
In many ways, the country is in a worse situation than it was in 2007. With tribalism at an all-time high, the United States appears to be on the verge of a civil war. Financial recklessness and increasing levels of debt only serve to fan the flames. As anyone who has experienced the horrors of debt knows only too well, financial insecurity can drive a person insane. Insanity and desperation are not ingredients for success, not for a person, and certainly not for a country.
So if you happen to have a Netflix account and find yourself watching “Squid Game,” remember that the dystopian narrative was inspired by a very real, all too human problem: financial despair.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.