Saturday, September 3, 2016

An Explanation of Our Unstable Times


Today is a day I sense for feeling joyful. No, not because I’m packing up to depart Mykonos mid-week for New Orleans to participate in Bouchercon 2016’s Blood on the Bayou; no, not because I’m halfway finished with Kaldis #9—due out in 2017; no, not because Kaldis #8 (Santorini Caesars) comes out September 6th and is getting terrific reviews (“International-crime fans need to be reading this consistently strong series.” —Booklist); and, no, not even because I’m so deeply honored to be part of the just released, game changing SUNSHINE NOIR anthology edited by our own Annamaria Alfieri and Michael Stanley.)

What has me up in the clouds is that finally I met someone involved with addressing the Greek financial crisis that actually gets it. Whether or not the politicians with the power to bring about change listen to my source, understand what’s said, and act on it is another story. 

This is not a slam on Greece, because my luncheon companion’s analysis of how Greece got into the situation it now finds itself applies in equal measure to the UK ending up in Brexit mode, and the US facing November 8th.

So here, folks, is a four-step analysis from a hands-on practical straight-talker…as related by me from my perch of joy.

1.              The economies involved have edged forward extremely slowly from the crises that struck them nearly a decade ago. That alone is enough to cause unease in an electorate.

2.              True or not, the perception in those nations is that the one-percent at the economic top is doing terrifically at the expense of the other ninety-nine.  That sort of thinking contributed to the French National holiday of Bastille Day.

3.              Voters believe their elected officials are indebted to special interests, cannot work together, and have lost touch with what the people expect of them.  Another nail in the social compact coffin.

4.              Pensioners are facing a declining standard of living, either because of cuts to their pensions or increased costs for their necessities, and beyond that they see their children and grandchildren falling farther and further into financial disparity and despair. 

A confluence of all four negatives—running from macro to family dinner table economics— can spawn revolution in many cultures, but Greece, the UK, and the US are not the sort to take to the streets.  Rather, their first resort is to the ballot box. So, if you’re a voter holding the short end of the stick on these four points, what are you going to do about it when your government asks for your vote?

I shall put the answer in my own translated from the original sophisticated style of my luncheon companion.

ANSWER: Shove that stick as far up the [you know where] of the system as you can get it, or—to put more delicately (for Caro’s gentle ears)—vote for the craziest wildcard alternative out there promising to shake up a system that no longer has any meaning for you.

After all, what more do the disenchanted and ignored feel they have to lose?

Obviously a lot, but that’s not how the voter sees it, and if politicians persist in missing or dismissing what’s driving their citizenry to the edge, all I can say to the world is, BEND OVER. 

As for that joy I alluded to earlier on, somehow it’s managed to morph into the sort of uneasy high one gets leaning out over the edge of a very tall skyscraper.  Or tower.



  1. You have a strange sense of joy, my friend. I hope Barbara has a firm grip on the back of your trousers and has her feet planted against the wall so neither of you takes flight.

    As for your lunch mate--spot on.

    1. Are you suggesting my "My Ode to Joy" is more fittingly an "Ode to Oy?"

  2. Jeff, these reasons seem quite valid, but the analysis offers no cures. Disaffection that leads to dismantling the system may look satisfying going in, but with no clear indication of what is going to replace the status quo, it seems an exceedingly dangerous path to take.

    1. The first step in combating a disease is understanding what causes it. The second step is in getting those in position to address it to agree on the cause. The third is in finding the political will to address it.

      And I'm not talking about the US Congress addressing Zika.

      I'm happy just to reach step one. It would be nice if those governing or seeking to govern attained at a least that level...then I'd have a modicum of hope we might just get somewhere, as opposed to endlessly spinning our wheels and wringing our hands.

      That's what drives people to vote for the obviously dangerous choice, but if one doesn't sense having a recognizable stake in the game, turning the tables upside down is a tempting cathartic attraction.

    2. Perhaps the pols are just as flummoxed as the rest of us!

  3. The problem is that the mainstream politicians don't get it. They really think business as usual will be fine. I'm sure your friend put it well, but there are no surprises here, no new revelations. When the politicians refer to things in these terms at all, they propose one of the old remedies - lower interest rates, tighten belts. When Greece tried to go another way, it was soon brought to heel was it not?
    Cameron made the mistake in the UK of actually asking the electorate. Now they have to go another way, but they will be using the same old tools to build the same old road.

    1. Michael, what you put your finger on is the tragedy. There are no surprises here! The surprise--as you say-- is in that the politicians STILL just don't get it, or simply lack the political will, character, or intelligence to take those points to heart and run with them.

      That is the case across the board in virtually all that plagues our world. The problems are known, but those who could bring about change prefer to sit on the sidelines and taunt, criticize or wring their hands, rather than get involved in the battle....leaving the field to those with very different perspectives and objectives.

      For example, the problems plaguing our prisons and thereby spreading out into our society are the same ones written about 200 years ago, but there's been no political will to follow through. Correction, make that 250 years, because since I first got involved in that effort, 50 more years have passed.