Just because things are going wrong in a particular environment, business sector, whatever, doesn’t mean there is a “perfect storm.” Sometimes people are responsible for things that happen, and sometimes just bad things happen. But trying to make every situation into something that it isn’t diminishes the truly unreal, extraordinary circumstances that occasionally arise. So what is with every speck of precipitation becoming a “perfect storm”?
Can you tell this is stuck in my craw? I download a large number of RSS feeds for reading during my morning train commute. There is often duplication in coverage – which makes digesting the information go more quickly – and one occasionally hears echoes across sources. But recently I have seen an unnecessary increase in the reference to the perfect storm. The phrase appears to have become popular after the George Clooney film, which followed the book by Sebastian Junger, called The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea, which in turn told the story of the 1991 Halloween Nor’easter (see the Wikipedia perfect storm entry).
I hope Mr. Junger sells lots of books. But I hope that the rest of the world who finds their own problems to rank with that of a harrowing storm take a second look and perhaps realize that the malevolence of Mother Nature is perhaps more terrible than bad sales predictions.
Take this last week, for instance. Warm weather and high prices contributed to one perfect storm, according to one of a half dozen articles in the Toronto Star. Other perfect storms included holiday familial resentment, a gathering of angry citizens, and the foreclosure problem in the United States. Judge Chisvin of the Ontario Court of Justice found no perfect storm caused a man to be denied a prompt bail hearing, according to the Globe and Mail. The New York Times attributed bad parenting and bad decisions that lead to a murder, the Washington Post suggested that progressive politicians and fractured conservative policitians were at the eye of another storm.
I hope that this literary laziness will blow over, and that my own snarkiness is about a tempest in a teacup. Surely there are other new – or at least less hackneyed – devices to describe a confluence of bad events without attempting to suggest that all such events are catastrophic coincidences. Sometimes people make bad decisions. Suck it up. Sometimes bad things happen. Cry me a river. But don’t tell me it’s a perfect storm when it’s just cloudy with a chance of meatballs.