Global economics streamlined for college graduates

Listen B.A.s, there’s a point between requisitely griping about rising petroleum prices and Wikipedia-ing the “Subjective theory of value” for the fourth time in a month that you just have to fess up to not knowing what the economy is. Just drop the act, shrug your shoulders, throw up your hands—palms facing skyward like those old women in church who wanted you to know they were feeling it harder, as if getting there early to knock back a few rosaries and probably not just mentally rewatching Simpsons episodes the whole time wasn’t enough—and assume that “Who, Me?” posture that gets six year old kids caught spitting mom’s bland Tuesday of a supper into a paper napkin and sixty year old men who pass gas on elevators out of all kinds of trouble. Resign yourself to your ignorance. There’s probably some Eastern thing that says something about humility being the handmaiden to wisdom or whatever, so take solace in that if you want. The rest is easy.

See, in the pulpy midst of the cryptic crosswords, chess problems, Between Friendses, sports scores and “Entertainment” sections that mark a typically dilettantish reading of a daily newspaper exists all kinds of information designed to help you better comprehend the market economy and your at-times peculiar relationship to it. But don’t go gung-ho flipping to the stock pages just yet, Tex.

Now, a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that global economics is some large scale numbers racket. “Low! High!” you think you remember Giovanni Ribisi yelling in Boiler Room, and between that and what you’ve gleaned from Bret Ellis novels, it all seems effortless enough. But soon it’s plus/minus, stocks, shares, bulls and bears until all you know for sure is that Alarm Force is listed on the TSX. Reading the Business section will only further confound your initial bafflement, and anyways it’s for goons like Gordon Gecko or overly ambitious upstarts like Ed Harris angling for the Cadillac Eldorado that is the American Dream, right? No point poring over numbers. They pay people to do that.

No, comrades, the real key to understanding how the economy works lies in editorial cartooning. Think of them as, oh, like an academic abstract: distilling overwrought webs of global finance into a digestible (yet somehow sufficiently comprehensive) solitary, dynamic cartoon panel. For example, if you’re trying to conceptualize exactly what exactly the global economy looks like in 2008, stop doing your head in with all the subprime mortgage, housing bubble, and Alan Greenspan stuff you heard someone talk about hearing on CNN. In actuality, the current state of global economics can best be understood as a group of men wearing basketball sneakers and sandwich boards emblazoned with the flags of G8 nations extending their arms towards a just-out-of-reach basketball resembling the planet Earth. Not since Watterson’s unlikely ideological pairing of Calvin with Hobbes has a monochrome doodle seemed to tantalizingly relevant.

But there are lessons to be learned beyond a broad-based understanding of world markets. Wondering what the deal really is with this alleged foreign poaching of Canada’s fresh water resources? Just imagine a snowman in a toque holding a sign that says “WILL MELT FOR WATER.” Curious about this (so-called) housing shortage in the United States? Well, a nuanced understanding of the problem sees a line of seven cognate townhouses—respectively stickered “SUBPRIME MORTGAGES,” “MORTGAGE COMPANIES,” “LENDERS,” “HOME BUILDERS,” “MARKETS,” “U.S. ECONOMY” and “WORLD ECONOMY”—falling into each other domino fashion while a woman bystander, representing Middle Americas more manifestly caricatureable aspects, quips “Well, there goes the neighbourhood…”

Illuminated? Of course. But it’s not all fun and games and oversized earlobes. Sure, editorial cartoons offer toothsome infotainment for the thusly inclined, but they also carry within them a sobering call-to-arms. Because beyond gaining a rich understanding of global economic and geopolitical, we must feel compelled to get involved, brothers & sisters. For if we are to rescue Uncle Sam from being devoured by circling shark fins representing the interests of China, [the] Saudis and the E.U., or likewise prevent the ingénue motorist from being literally devoured by a salivating gas pump, we must keep our eyes keen and our wits more-or-less about us.

Be wary of dragons or bears looming around major centres of industry, and always keep an eye out for the corpulent, top-hatted, stopwatch-wearing, moustache-twiddlin’ rogue of the upper-crust whose luxuriant sense of entitlement knows no bottom: The Capitalist. If you see him absconding suspiciously from a bank, urban development, or employment insurance office with unmarked briefcases full of money, or catch him plainly eating money out of a burlap sack, stop him! See that he doesn’t make it home to wade in his swimming pool of Susan B. Anthony dollars. It’s your duty as a citizen, citizen!

So nap easy, graduate, knowing that the intricate world of economic process really isn’t beyond your comprehension.

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