Humour: Even the gods can’t get their heads around this crisis
25 May 2012
Europe’s economic woes have forced us to try to understand the secret Olympian world of global finance. But now that we pay more attention to bond yields and stability mechanisms, isn’t it clear that the experts up on their lofty peaks don’t know what’s going on either?
It’s annoying, the way that none of the analogies quite work. Greek mythology, in particular, is so much less helpful than it ought to be. The tale of the Trojan Horse, for example, ought to be a godsend for illustrating how Greece, a hollow shell that contained only debt and false expectations, infiltrated the eurozone and ruined everything.
Only, tell the story like that, and you end up implying that Greece did it on purpose. Actually, Greece was more like a Trojan Horse desperately trying to hold itself together so the bad stuff didn’t burst out. A Pandora’s Box of a wooden horse, really, rolling up a hill it naively believes it will never have to roll down, for ever having to feed the monster in the cellar, which has a bullish head and a body that, frustratingly, isn’t like a bear.
The people who built this horse, and might or might not be inside it – I’m losing this – were briefly thrilled that lots of unremarkable stuff seemed to be turning into gold, but now find themselves afraid to stare the truth in the face in case it turns them into stone.
Look, you get the idea. Am I helping? I’m not sure I am.
If Greece were a person, it would be the spendthrift nephew who won’t get a proper job and who keeps getting bailed out by wealthy old Aunt Germany. Only that doesn’t quite work either, partly because Greece is older than Germany, but also because in that dynamic Aunt Germany could just turn the money tap off.
But actually, Aunt Germany can’t do that, not just because her wayward relative now owes her so much money that her bank might take her house if it knew he wasn’t going to pay her back, but also because – oh, God, it’s getting difficult now – most of the money that Greece has borrowed isn’t really Aunt Germany’s money at all, but was lent by other people, not even related to them, who considered Greece a safe bet because Aunt Germany would always be there with her chequebook.
And if Aunt Germany – are you still with me? I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t – if Aunt Germany stops always being there, then these people wouldn’t just stop lending money to Greece, but also to all her other useless relatives, including her niece Spain, who is basically a homeless prostitute on drugs, her godchildren Ireland and Portugal, who were in a similar state but have found themselves a place in a shelter and are really starting to turn their lives around, and most crucially her brother France, who still wears a smart suit and goes to flash restaurants for the sake of appearances, but also goes home every night and screams himself to sleep at the secret horror of his credit card bill.