Greece: The Apocalypse in Slow Motion
I usually imagine the apocalypse to be some kind of catastrophe that catches people off-guard the moment it happens. The current situation in Greece, however, is providing an excellent case study for a slow-building apocalypse that has been predicted and studied for months.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, which may be the final straw on a dying camel’s back, here are a few lessons that can be learned from observing the Greek situation:
1. Politicians are ineffective at addressing non-urgent, large-scale challenges.
Even in a situation such as Greece, which arguably has been in the urgent category for months now, politicians are often unwilling to step up until the last possible minute. This both lengthens the period of anxiety before the disaster and increases the damage inflicted, even if a full-blown catastrophe is averted. Another prime example in this category is climate change. Politicians are much more adept to responding after a disaster has occurred, as the course of action for recovery is much more clear-cut. When the politicians become entrenched over a critical issue that could bring down the entire system, start preparing yourself for a bumpy ride ahead.
2. Political disasters are likely to be slow moving.
Greece has been dangling perilously close to the edge of a fiscal and economic apocalypse for some time now and its citizens have been given considerable warning to prepare for the worst. They have responded appropriately by withdrawing Euros and stocking up on non-perishables.
While a swift blow to the global financial/economic/political system is still possible (e.g. Lehman Brothers), the current climate is one where the majority of the challenges are visible for a considerable amount of time before absolute disaster strikes. Consider this a blessing, as it should give you adequate time to prepare (esp. if you’re currently living in Spain…)
3. A trigger event is still required
The European turmoil has been dragging on for well over a year now, which gives a good vantage point for reflection. While the financial markets seem to jump and plunge with the slightest change in the news, the majority of this is merely noise. Even though this is a slow moving crisis, Greece has so far managed not to fall off the cliff because it has lacked a “trigger event”. Sunday’s election is (potentially) a prime example of such event, although the ramifications will take a few weeks to make themselves fully known.
The nice thing about the current crises that we’re facing is that there is no lack of build-up to these trigger events. You should be able to see them coming from weeks away if you read/watch/listen to anything that resembles the news.
So moral of the story: politicians are incompetent, but these things happen over time and you should be able to prepare yourselves accordingly. While none of us know what will happen on Sunday, I’m fairly certain the markets will be volatile on Monday morning and there will be lots of speeches coming out of various EU institutions. For those of us lucky enough to be observing this from the outside, it will be a bumpy ride but we’ll recover. I doubt Greece’s apocalypse will become a systemic catastrophe (at least not overnight).