Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Georgie Grace responding to Post: Everything I know about the global financial crisis in one hour

There’s a song on Laurie Anderson’s 2010 album Homeland titled only an expert. In her inimitable vocal, half said, half sung, she wryly repeats:

Now only an expert can deal with the problem
Because half the problem is seeing the problem
And only an expert can deal with the problem
Only an expert can deal with the problem

One thing everyone knows about the global financial crisis is that it’s a problem. We exist in a world that breeds problems - which require experts. So who are the experts who can deal with the problem? Apparently not Post, who state that they are (a) not experts on the subject and (b) decided not to do any research. They didn’t want to know. They wanted to spend an hour appearing to make it up, out of scraps of information they had acquired inadvertently, osmotically, from the atmosphere of problems. 

They were pretty sure the crisis kicked off with some mortgages sold by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which, improbably, are real companies), that people couldn’t repay (leading to problems), but this initial point of fact leads to a sprawling, projected napkin diagram that returns equally regularly to corn and Hasbro games. Coincidences, incidental similarities, and misunderstandings escalate and get knitted into an absurd, tenuous narrative. The more it gets repeated and the more champagne they consume, the more they seem convinced by themselves. 

It’s basically three women on stage getting drunk and talking shit about how everything is connected. 

And it doesn’t make sense because, as promised, they don’t really know anything about the financial crisis, which is kind of funny because we probably don’t either, because - honestly - we get that it was something to do with mortgages, but beyond that the whole thing makes about as much sense to us as a napkin diagram produced by three drunk women slightly obsessed with corn. 

Which, as a piece of theatre, seemed a bit straightforward, a bit fleeting. It wasn’t really as funny as I thought it would be. Maybe it was funnier for them, because they made it up when they were drunk and they all know each other. 

But let's compare them the real experts, who caused a lot of problems by talking shit about the value of some valueless financial products, wound up crashing an insanely interconnected economy and then (however improbable this ought to be) drinking a lot of champagne paid for by you and me, and feeling very pleased with themselves. 

Only an expert can cause those kinds of problems. 

Look at it again: three performers are on stage. You gave them your money, you’re sat obediently in your seat, you’re listening, and now they’re acting like experts. They’ve spun you a ridiculous story that you don’t believe, and after an hour one of them looks at her watch - actually no, looks at a watch she borrowed off an audience member at the beginning of the show - and tells you time’s up, the end. The show is over.

Now back to real life: you’re sat on your seat, looking at the experts on your screen, and all you get is a vortex of rehashed explanations by people known for their consumption of champagne. These experts demand a hasty binge of bailouts, bill you for them, and thank you with blanket austerity policies. Done deal. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it, because - let’s face it - you’re not an expert, and you’re not on the screen; and it doesn’t matter if you have questions or you think this is ridiculous, or if you want your money (or your watch) back. The show is over. Tickets are non refundable.

And this is very funny for a group of friends who all know each other. But not so funny for you.

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