Friday, 19 August 2011

The Markets are Angry! The Markets are Angry!

The Markets are angry. They have shown their displeasure today by slumping below the FTSE 5000 mark. Yes, I know that means squit-all to most of us, but bear with me. I'll explain. The Markets are angry because we, the people, have been bad, people. That is why the Markets are angry.

And what are these Markets that are angry, you ask? Well, as any economist can explain, they are like a big giant force that sometimes does bad things to people, but they are the Markets, and the must be obeyed. There are some people who understand these Markets better than others, and know how to placate them. These people are called economists.
An Economist
But now, take a deep breath, I am about to commit heresy. I am about to blaspheme. No respectable citizen will look me in the eye. Because I am sure... that the Markets are a bunch of people!

What's that you say?

Look, the point is, ever since two shonking great wars in the 20th Century made us feel a bit iffy about Christianity, and all that 'merciful deity' malarkey, people have been feeling a bit blank. That's because humans like to believe in stuff, and they like to think that someone actually is in charge of things. It makes them feel calmer.

But some people, people, exploit this. They like to set themselves up and preach gibberish. This gibberish usually involves having to give up your money, hand over the deeds to your home, and let the perpetrators of the gibberish shag any of your family that they've a mind to. You know, like a cult. Or like, erm... anyway.

So, cults. The Romans were good at cults. They had one for pretty much whatever god you could find. The Romans were very keen on appeasing the Gods, and before they went into battle would always get a soothsayer to read the entrails, which was a sure-fire way of finding out what the Gods were thinking. Trust me, there's a bloke in Canary Wharf dissecting a pigeon to check out the latest on the oil futures, even as we speak.

Anyway so back in the year BC241 there was a Roman General by the name of Gaius Flaminius and he'd been sent off to fight. He'd manoeuvred his troops into a really good position, and his opponents into a bad one. He really fancied his chances. So he lined up his men, and read the entrails. Entrails say: go home, it'll all end in doom. Flaminius has another look at the battlefield, tells soothsayer to stuff his entrails, goes out and scores a decisive victory. And off he stomps, back to Rome, looking pretty bleedin' cheerful. What does he expect? Welcome party? Maybe some gifts of some good-looking slaves? Nope. Poor old Flaminius he gets a bollocking, and is demoted. Nobody cares that he won. Point is, he defied the entrails! And everyone knows where that leads. Disaaaaaaster!

Clearly, in 2000 years, we've got a lot more rational, right? We'd never fall under the thrall of such a lunacy.

Where was I? Oh yes, the Markets. The Gods. The priests. The Economists. Making sacrifices. Cutting up chickens. Reading the data. It must have been a nice life, being a Roman Priest. Power. Having the ineffable might of the Gods on your side.

I do feel sorry for Gauis Flaminius. Because I'm a heretic as well. I tend to think that the Markets don't really exist as some big, all powerful force that must be obeyed. I tend to think that they're just a bunch of rich people, shifting their money around. And a bunch of very well paid slaves, that do the shifting for them.

Perhaps if we remembered that we're dealing with people, not some great, unknowable force, we might be able to stem the endless need for sacrifices. Cause I for one, am fed up with our manky old soothsayers.

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