Economics my be “the dismal science,” but it is a human experience that is fraught with very mixed emotions, no matter where you fit in the financial spectrum. It’s vitally important to understand how we feel about our place in the economy, but easily lost in seas of statistics, calculations and predictions. Awash in facts, feelings get the short shrift. Edoardo Nesi and Guido Maria Brera were friends in Italy before the fall of 2008; Nesi was the heir to a centuries-old textile business, while Brera was a stock trader. As the world fell apart around them, with all the power of an over-wrought opera, they talked. And wrote.
That conversation is captured in Everything Is Broken Up and Dances: The Crushing of the Middle Class, an outstanding and powerful story of just how expertly and easily we can bring ourselves to the brink of economic apocalypse. All those soft and fluffy numbers prove to have some rather sharp and hard edges when they escape from pages of prediction into the real world. Theory be damned – economics can make us miserable, no matter what we “earn.”
Everything Is Broken Up and Dances re-creates our emotional arc as a world, seen through the refracting mirrors of Nesi and Brera. In short, lyrical chapters, we voyage from the false highs after the turn of the century to the very real depths as one member of the EU after another teeters on the edge of bankruptcy. Nesi, a prize-winning novelist must sell the family business. Brera watches the wider economic world crumble. While both understand the facts driving the forces at work, they also experience, and write beautifully, in sparse prose, about the socio-cultural feelings of those behind the wheel.
The result is a perverse joy to read, gorgeous prose to tell a riveting human story of our emotional experience of economic science as it brings us to the precipice of annihilation. Nesi and Brera capture the abject terror of seeing your nation, your home brought low in the eyes and esteem of others. The real power of this book is to remind us just how thin the veneer of numbers is. We are not numbers. But neither are we free men and women. We are the captives of our own creation, so long as it remains invisible to us. Everything Is Broken Up and Dances resets our sensibilities. Facts are real, but no more so than the feelings they engender.