Metaphors I

There are a number of metaphors that provide simple insight into the circumstances of the United States today. The mariner suggests three: tsunami, Germany in 1943, and progression analysis. Each metaphor has a slightly different cause and effect that can help understand American circumstances without using the political and economic debates followed by the media.

Most of us have seen the effect of a tsunami in the news or on one of the cable channels. The most recent tsunami is the giant wave caused by an earthquake under the North Pacific Ocean 80 miles East of Sendai, Honshu, Japan on March 11, 2011. The earthquake, 9.0 in magnitude, created a wave between twenty-three and forty feet high along the coast of Japan. The devastation was widespread, wiping out villages and a nuclear power plant.

The characteristic the mariner applies to the state of America is the behavior of the water as the wave moves to shore. An advance warning sign is a “drawback.” The tsunami draws water away from the shore and adds that volume to the wave; this drawback exposes a large expanse of shore bottom that ordinarily is underwater. Shortly thereafter, seconds to minutes later, the tsunami returns the drawback along with much more water, overrunning the shoreline bottom and crashing violently onto dry land.

The water is a metaphor for a fair and normal sharing of wealth. As the wealth is sucked from normal sharing, exposing evermore hardship to the general citizenry, the wave of wealth eventually collapses in an uncontrolled way. The collapse forms a shoreline much different from the times of previous sharing and fairness.

Consider the drawback and resulting crash to the Great Depression and, similarly, to the increasing drawback seen across the Country today. Both Government and the wealthy are running out of sources for maintaining the top-heavy wealth. The deep recession caused by the housing collapse is an example of a drawback still in progress. Many homeowners forfeited their home to foreclosure or had to sell homes at half the price they paid just eighteen months before. The missing value in all those homes was sucked into the banks and investment firms. The wealth remains there to this day. Not if, but when it collapses, there will be great thrashing about as the economy is forced to right itself. As in a tsunami, there will be casualties and there will be the burden of rebuilding the shoreline.

As long as the gap between the wealthy and the common citizen continues to grow, the Country is in a drawback stage.


The second metaphor is the state of society in Germany in 1943. As the momentum of the war swings away from the Germans toward the Allied Forces, the German society begins to deteriorate economically and morally. Inflation soars because of the incessant bombing that destroys factories, homes and food supply. Morality is reduced to hoarding, a rising appetite for pornography and illicit vices of every kind. The following quote is from     Remembering the White Rose: German Assessments, 1943-1993″ by Professor Harold Marcuse:

“It took two full years before the utmost exertion of the Allies broke the physical and moral strictures and allowed a “new dawn” to emerge. Even the last-gasp attempt of military circles to assassinate Hitler and install a new government on 20 July 1944 met with dismal failure and found no echo in the German public sphere.”

The public remained silent and loyal to the existing culture and offered no public resistance to the failing conditions. There was a price for this attitude: one begins to live in the moment, sensing tomorrow may not come. One may develop an existential desire to experience the joys of life, no matter how decadent. It is a dark time in Germany. In an unnatural way, the Allied Forces did what a tsunami metaphor would do; the invasion ended quite abruptly a failed social culture. For the many of the readers that have seen the movie Cabaret, the opening scenes capture the atmosphere of German society at that time – if one were fortunate enough to have a job.

The metaphor taken from the German situation is that the citizenry accepted the current state of affairs even as they knew their society was failing. In the United States, even as the number of poor and underpaid continues to grow, and the citizen knows the government is crumbling, no resistance is offered to change the status quo.

The next post, Metaphors II, will focus on progression analysis.

Ancient Mariner


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