These Birds Don’t Flock Together (by Mark St. Cyr)

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These days, no matter where you get your information, you’ll hear metaphors and analogies thrown around with seemingly no concern how they’re really used in describing a given situation. It it sounds good, well then, it therefore must be appropriate.

Not so fast is what I have to say.

Analogies and metaphors help make the complex more understandable in most cases. They can be more than just helpful when trying to get a complex idea or give unknown variables some measure of light. However if used incorrectly by using the wrong one to describe a situation the results can be not only messy, but down right dangerous.

Today’s financial channels are currently abuzz with more lines recited from what seems like a Kindergardener’s book rather than a Wharton graduate. The economy is currently “Not too hot, not too cold, but just right” is heard when trying to describe dismal GDP numbers and the anemic gains in employment.

What I have noticed more and more is if you begin to reference a bird with yellow feathers you are immediately chastised as “Crying Wolf” before you are even able to finish your thoughts. What comes next is one of the so-called “Smart Crowd” talking over every point while expressing that “They’re just being Chicken Little.” Actually if they would listen instead of talking over everyone, they just might become aware that although the discussion contains a bird, it’s not a chicken, it’s a canary. And the two represent far different implications.

No one wants to listen to someone everyday say “The sky is falling” but paying attention to someone watching a canary in a coal mind day by day is quite another. Canaries were as most know brought into mines to alert them in case of undetectable toxic gases. Canaries are far more vulnerable and would either show distress or be out right dead well before any human would have symptoms. So all eyes were on the canary at all times. Today it seems like one yelling blasphemy from the pews if they state there might even be canaries, never mind any worth watching.

I’ve always found that the people who shout down anyone that seems to have a contrarian viewpoint are usually the ones that can’t back up their own argument with data or statistics that can be objectively judged. This is not to say that every contrarian viewpoint is correct. But to venture into unknown territory such as we are currently with unemployment numbers so high for so long, GDP rates well under projections needed to sustain recovery, monetary policies in uncharted waters, and too many others to list seems foolhardy. 

But popular sentiment holds that anyone keeping an eye on the yellow bird for warning signs is akin to shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater. This is not only crazy, but nuts! But maybe they’re more afraid of someone “Huffing, and puffing that can blow their house (of cards) down.”

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