As I watch the impending elections here as a sort of outsider with a good grasp of the language, it strikes me that the offering to the voters is organised in a very stupid way.
Greece is a bipolar system with fringe parties. The two parties that alternate in government behave like service providers. You put them in office, and buy state services from them. They behave entirely like integrated service providers might do: Each of them wants to sell to the entire addressable market, their package is as lousy as it can get without losing customers to the other, and each tries to have some small USP. They have PR sense too. The ruling party reacted to the country being ravaged by forest fires, and to criticism about its weakening of legal protection of the wilderness, by removing the flaming torch from its traditional logo.
I wonder if politics could be improved by electing smaller branches of government independently, in the sense that you might get better service by shopping for services individually than by buying a "for dummies" bundle. But I'm told that I'm out of touch with reality concerning people's "intelligent buying" habits.
Meanwhile on the fringe, the fascist candidate is putting on a well presented show for his following. The Left, as usual, are not. There's the boring communists with their back-to-basics slogans, the supposedly modern communists with yet another random name and logo, and the Angry Left #1, #2, and #3. There's possibly more Angry Lefts, I've only noticed these three. The Angry Left posters are, frankly, childish. I'm going to vote for the supposedly modern communists, but I despair. I'm not sure what the point of concept parties is in an election of service providers, but I wish the Left valued credibility even slightly.
There's an old joke comment attributed to Bill Gates that goes: "If General Motors had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."
Well, they have. Cars are enormously better than they were twenty years ago. The controls are far more usable and standardised. The engine delivers power more smoothly over a broader range of speeds, while emitting less pollution and making less noise. Accidents are less likely due to better handling and performance, and when they happen they're much less hazardous to the occupants and even to pedestrians. Cars have sensible user interfaces for opening doors and turning the lights off. You can buy cars for carrying a passing fling or an extended family, and you can buy them as cheap accessories or as durables.
If the computer industry had evolved computers in the way it thinks the car industry evolves cars, we would all be using home computers that could only add numbers between 0 and 255, but could do so on four concurrent streams at a rate of two billion numbers a second each. They'd display fabulously crisp images on your HDTV using 8, or maybe 16 colors chosen to include cyan and magenta. The computers would forget everything between each use, including you, and you'd have to type epic BASIC programs or insert several USB sticks in the correct order to tell them what to do. Computers would differ by having rigid keys or rubber keys, but they'd all run for 1000 minutes on four AA alkaline batteries and nobody would pay more than $25 for them.
I spent most of yesterday carrying a bag full of wooden train tracks.
Greece is mostly on fire. This happens most summers and is usually merely "a shame", but this time round over fifty people got burned alive in their cars or houses. Common knowledge is that forest fires in Greece are set on purpose, to get rid of forests and thus develop properties that are covered by the forest. This is, of course illegal, but one can be caught for cutting the forest, while there is no official geographical record of where the forest ought to be. So once it is burnt, the owner of the land can say "what forest" and develop. So over fifty people dies because of greed and (tacitly accepted) technical incompetence by the state. Several attempts to establish such a geographical system met with resistance or non-cooperation and failed.
It could be worse, of course. In places such as Nigeria or Pakistan you occasionally hear that a fuel truck crashed, people turned up to scoop the petrol off the road with metal canisters and they all burned alive in the inevitable explosion. So in terms of civil stupidity Greece rates slightly higher than some of the world's worst countries, but not by much.
I'm in Edinburgh and it's the last few days of the various festivals. Normally the festivals are a good thing, but I'm kind of overcome by dross. The great majority of the Fringe is, of course, dross. This in itself would be OK if it merely meant empty seats at bad shows, but we don't get such efficient market discipline. We get to see the ugly side of the market, more often than not. People crowd the High Street and try to grab the attention of punters with the cheapest possible tricks: A man wearing a kilt, Jokes about inflatable girlfriends, another man who is dressed as a slice of toast. They give you flyers for equally stupid and ultimately unsatisfying productions. After a while you feel harangued by this constant stream of people wanting to take your money in exchange for some valueless hastily thrown-together entertainment non-product. It's hard to resist insulting them before they do it to you.
The trend in response to this is what in general business is knows as channel consolidation: The people who control the channel of bringing the goods to the market, which in this case are the venue brands, consolidate. Five large distributors, Assembly, Pleasance, Underbelly, C, Sweet, and the ultra-lowbrow Meadows Big Top monopolise the venue real-estate and essentially turn the Fringe into a corporatised supermarket experience. This seems to go down well with the crowds of stupid people from London, who apparently are here to drink beer and be generically entertained, or possibly distracted from the banality of their beer-drinking but scores of derivative comedians.