There are two images, two instant visualisations being used in the UK media at the moment to reassure and stabilise. 'Green shoots of the economic recovery', and 'the economy has hit the bottom'. Both draw their force from the habits of the human mind in using metaphor models for generalised understanding which are modified more and more extensively as the object of thought and investigation is narrowed, and the skills and inputs of the thinker increase. But when we are in unfamiliar territory we grab ourselves a paradigm.
Green shoots is appealing for its Spring-like qualities of rebirth, the long winter ending, the results of wise husbandry available from the sunlit uplands within so short a time - green shoots become golden harvests within a year. Green shoots looks backwards with approval to clearing and tilling, seed corn at the ready followed by watering and fertilising, hard work yes, short term restraint embodied in the gestation period, but then forward to earned reward and the return to plenty - the natural (conveniently short) cycle, in this case economic cycle, of events.
The economy hitting the bottom gives encouraging notions of rebound, cannot get any worsiness, and while it's been tough, will be tough for a while, we have not suffered all that badly and now things are on the way back up. Yes, there may be a V shape or even a W shape - how sophisticated to think in those terms - but the bottom is not so bad. No, we would not like to be bumping along it like Japan - gosh you do know your stuff don't you? - but that outcome we understand and can avoid under the guidance of our knowledgeable and powerful economic operators, most particularly as the United Kingdom is blessed with the brightest and the best of these.
Such powerful imagery, such a relief not to have to think in devilish detail.
How does it feel when we imagine deforestation's arid deadland and plains stripped bare for destructive cultivations. Higher ground marred by torrential winter downfalls followed by mudslides stripping ever more earth from the rock. Plains plagued by howling dust storms harrying retreating groups of beaten creatures, humans among them, without fuel, without water resources, eating and burning what is needed to re-establish any ecology or even immediate food supply. And after the landscape is hosed briefly with flood and downpour, green shoots for as long as it takes for the aridity to reassert itself.
Or imagine the bottom as the continental shelf with the edge of the shelf dropping off into the continental slope and beyond this slope to the abyssal plain with even deeper trenches cutting through it. When the bottom isn't there to bounce off, even visualising the recovery as a W is to assume that we get back to the surface and can breathe.
Better economists than Angels repeatedly state that they do not understand what is happening, nor can they project any reliable future scenario. So if you do not want to be taken in and find yourselves starring in the Grapes of Wrath or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, make your own arrangements, and make sure you have some measure of real control over your life.
Hang 'em High
10 hours ago