Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Financial Crisis Explained, via Downton Abbey

I have lost my ability to watch news about the ongoing economic crisis. When I see Angela Merkel on TV, my brain blanks out what she's saying and goes: 'uh... lalala...ooh, she looks tired'. Christine Lagarde: 'yeah... blah... wow, nice suit'. No disrespect to either of these ladies, both of whom I hold in better regard than the average fuckwit who governs us, but I just can't concentrate on what they're saying.

I feel I am not alone. Last week a man in London lost $2billion, causing a slight raised eyebrow, followed by a wave of boredom. On thursday, the London Stock Exchange crashed through the 5000 barrier, causing millions across the nation to skip straight to the 2nd item in the newspaper.

Across the world, little numbers on people's computer screens are dying. And nobody, except the alleged owners of the alleged numbers, really cares. I have a theory about why. 1) Most people cannot understand economics. 2) Nobody believes that money is real anyway 3) Everyone has long-since concluded we are governed by a bunch of corrupt, incompetent theives, and frankly, we expect no less of 'em. 4) They are out panic-buying beans, before there's a queue for panic-buying beans.

The general and fundamental problem is that we have a ruling class who, despite the endless speeches, really have no idea how to deal with a massive crisis, because they were brought up in the previous century, when everything was hunky-dory. Bit like in 1914. Which brings me onto my next point. If the financial crisis isn't exercising the nation's imagination, I tell you what is: the return of Downton Abbey to our TV screens. I know, because I have a special twitometer which tells me these things. However, watching Downton Abbey is a bit like the financial crisis, and I'm going to explain why. Pay attention at the back, please!

1) The Big House = The Big Society. A small proportion of it loaf around, wondering about how they can best pass on their money, while the majority of the inhabitants are busy scrubbing floors. Chances of it surviving Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 = depends who gets shot in the process.

 2) Violet, Dowager Countess Grantham, is Christine Largarde, while Isobel Crawley is Angela Merkel. Since one is Aristocratic/French and the other is Bourgeois/German, these two grand dames don't see eye to eye.

Dame Maggie Smith is
the Director of the IMF

Chances of surviving Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 = Dowager Countess Lagarde will still be wearing great outfits and looking down aristocratic nose, long after last assault/austerity program has finished, while practical frumpster Isobel/Angela will try to implement lots of useful schemes to allievate disaster, making not much difference whatsoever. Penelope Wilton has, in fact, already signed to play Merkel in forthcoming movie Downfall 2: the Eurozone.*
Penelope Wilton is
The German Chancellor

3) The Earl of Crawley = politicians everywhere. Likes to think he's a decent, liberal sort of chap. In reality, unable to tie his shoelaces without staff doing it for him. Mostly thinks about how he can bequeath his title to a suitable successor, and is bit baffled by intrusion of real problem. Deluded by grandeur of own position. Chances of surviving Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 = unlikely to go near any real explosions, at any time.

 4) Matthew = the middle classes. Initially derided for being a bit arriviste, and for doing actual work instead of just owning wealth, in a crisis his common sense, decency, and willingness to get on with the job in hand are showing his real value. Unfortunately, right now, his job in hand is to get slaughtered/shot at. Chances of surviving Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 without being maimed, damaged, or otherwise traumatised = virtually nil.

5) Cora, Countess Crawley = The Americans. Having bailed everyone out during the backstory/Recession 1.0, they have no more cash to throw at anyone's problems. Chances of pulling something out of the hat to get everyone through Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 without blood-letting = none whatsoever.

6) Lady Mary Crawley = The youth of Europe. Ideally would like to form an equal alliance with the middle classes, but may end up in soul-destroying bondage to some disgusting old man with money, in order to keep body and soul together. Chances of getting through Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 with dignity intact = not much, though may hold out for a happy ending eventually, by advantage of being younger than everyone else.

7) Hot chauffeur Tom Branson = the indignados and associated activist class. Always banging on about socialism, is the only person who can work the latest technology, and has no respect for class and all that mumbo-jumbo. Chances of surviving Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 without getting gassed, shot down, or imprisoned = absolutely nil. However back he will be, possibly in a position of influence, and probably a great deal angrier. May make off with:

8) Wibbly posh liberal Sybil Crawley = wibbly posh liberals everywhere. May succumb to the charm, tech-fiddling abilities and undeniable sex appeal of the above, or may fall back on inherent poshness and run scared. Chances of surviving Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 without rampant disillusionment: none.

9) John Bates & Anna Smith = everyman & woman, everywhere. Just want to escape servitude and have a nice little business of their own, a bit of dignity and a couple of kids. Unfortunately for them, Mr Bates has previously signed an unwise contract with:

10) Comedy villian Vera Bates = the banks. Mrs Bates/the banks don't want the couple to settle and run a small business, rather she/they are determined to screw every last penny out of the poor man by fair means or foul. Chances of surviving Series 2/Global Financial Crash 2 = everyone else is waiting for this cardboard villian to go away and die, preferably quite horribly, so the long-suffering couple can live a quiet and inoffensive life, together. Not likely to be banished by early episodes, due to unerring willingness and ability to blackmail people.

Next on Downton Abbey, somebody gets shot or gassed, while lots of people wring their hands and say how awful it is. Next in the Global Financial Crisis: somebody gets shot or gassed, while lots of people... ok, you get my drift. See? I rest my case.

Downton Abbey will be on ITV on Sunday night at 9pm. The Global Financial Crisis will be on your TV for the next six months, or longer. Schedules may vary according to which part of Europe you live in.
*I made that bit up


  1. Just came here from your comment in The Graun
    You are quite right!
    "theives" thieves

    However such trivialities are swept aside by "Across the world, little numbers on people's computer screens are dying."
    The Guardian should publish you more!