jeudi 18 septembre 2008

This is 1989 not 1929

We have developed a mistrust of the practice of analogies over the years. You know, 'the state is like a ship' (ok, where tf is it going then?), 'life is like a game of chess' (how come the most stupid seem to 'win') and most loathsome of all, 'that argument is like appeasing Hitler'. I'm sure you can find your own examples.

The problem with analogies is that they are a lazy way of thinking. Rather than actually look at what's going on, unique and strange in its historical context, one lumps it together with what's gone on before - the more familiar and predictable - thereby neutralising whatever it is is being discussed. The state becomes something far smaller, a ship, that has familiar and misleading conotations, we all have an interest in keeping it afloat, there are alotted jobs and positions for all on board, there is a need for social stratification and so on. Life as chess match becomes something rule bound, 'played' and won or lost and not something far to difficult to put in a nutshell. And any argument for not going to war make you Neville Chamberlain, which is, apart from anything else, to assume a simplistic interpretation of thirties British foreign policy as well.

Thus the widespread usage of 'this is 1929 all over again. Sure, the aim is to convey the immensity of the past week's events. But you can do that by simply giving us the figures. But there are two further weaknesses. Firstly, not many people really know the history of the 29 crash. It was a sell off, people jumped from windows it caused the depression. These are about the LCD for most people who actually give a flying fck about economic history. The anaology in this case might as well be subsituted for the shout "Holy shit! This is, like, really big!" It only serves to give the often wrong impression that the talking head on the TV or the journo pundit knows wtf they're talking about. And face it, for much of the time they don't.

Further, in this particular context, the analogy seruptitiously hints at the idea that if the crash isn't solved by any means necessary (ie taking your money from your wages, from your pension for your education system) then there will be depression à la 1930's, dictatorship and eventually world war. And do you want that eh? eh? Well foot the shook up and get used to it.

When really, if you're going to do analogies, without putting the 'anal' into it (or vice versa), today's turbulence is more akin to the fall of the Berlin wall.

But generally avoid analogies, it's like someone trying to sell you a model of the real thing. (And irony too cos not enough people get it).