Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Deus ex machina

The literary phrase deus ex machina literally means, "god from the machine," for within Ancient Greek plays, a God-figure divinely appeared on stage, via pulley or trapdoor, in order to solve narrative complications. Literary critics see this plot device as a sign of a poorly written narrative, as the plot can't resolve itself without a transcendent and/or extraordinary figure/event swooping in to save the day. Think Aslan's role in the second Narnia movie.

Invoking this device, today The Roanoke Times warns that we should not be viewing this stimulus package as a deus ex machina; the stimulus isn't the end all be all resolution to our economic problems, and it will only help us weather our short-term crisis. Money quote:
Lately [deus ex machina] is a political tool. The federal economic stimulus package includes billions of dollars for state and local governments that will help them weather the worst of the recession-induced revenue shortfalls. Virginia's schools, health care, roads, law enforcement and other services will hang on this year thanks to the cash infusions.
The god from the machine intervened and bought the commonwealth some time, but nothing more. It is up to Virginians and their lawmakers to make the most of it.

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