Despite that headline’s somewhat sinister connotations – thanks to Hitler,
Heydrich, Eichmann et al – any Sherlock Holmes devotee will immediately
recognize it as the title of the short story in which Holmes had his ultimate
showdown with the man presented as his nemesis, the evil arch-criminal – “the
Napoleon of crime,” as Holmes describes him to the ever-bemused Watson –
In fact, Moriarty was an entirely new invention on
the part of Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’s creator, and was introduced especially
for this story, to achieve Conan Doyle’s immediate goal – that of eliminating
Sherlock Holmes, of whom Doyle had become bored. This goal was achieved by Doyle
via an epic showdown on the edge of the Reichenbach Falls, which Doyle also
invented and placed high in the Swiss Alps as a suitably exotic, almost
romantic, spot for the solution to The Final Problem to be achieved. The outcome
of this duel – so Watson assumed and tearfully reported to his readers – was
that the two men struggled mightily until, locked in each others arms, they
plunged to their deaths in the river at the foot of the cliff, far
Powerful and dramatic stuff, but Conan Doyle’s late Victorian
readers were having none of that. They wanted more Holmes and, even without
Facebook and similar media outlets, made their demands clear to the hapless
author. Conan Doyle was eventually and reluctantly obliged to bring Holmes back
– obviously in a live state.
He therefore contrived a plot wherein Holmes
had not died after all; Watson had got it all wrong yet again.
Moriarty had indeed fallen off the edge of the cliff, but whereas for Moriarty
that proved to be a fatal plunge off into a deep abyss, for Holmes it turned out
to be a short drop to a conveniently situated ledge.
Our hero thereby
lived on to nail many bad guys and only took his last bow in Shoscombe Old
Place, which appeared in 1927.
This excursion into detective literature
is by way of introduction to the outstanding event of the week, at least for the
American sheeple whose agenda and “news” is set by their politicians and their
lackeys, working in tandem with the mass media. I refer, of course, to The
Fiscal Cliff, to which this column has, inevitably, related hitherto. This
supposedly dire threat to the American, and hence the global economy, became the
dominant topic for the final weeks of 2012. The only thing that succeeded in
pushing it off the lead item of the news was a horrendous mass murder in a
Connecticut school – and even then, not for long.
But the great drama of
the fiscal cliff turned out to be nothing more a minor tumble onto a ledge just
beneath the edge of the abyss. The economy did not grind to a halt or collapse.
Instead, a few minor adjustments were made, and the big issues were deferred or
ignored. In Reichenbachian terms, the dueling enemies – the president and the
Democrats on one side and the Republicans on the other – both landed safely on
the ledge, there to renew their struggle, after the new Congress replaces the
outgoing one and the president is sworn in for his second term.
is the hero and who the fiendish villain in this story is entirely a matter of
opinion. In this postmodern drama, every reader and viewer can impose his own
preferences and viewpoints over those of the author, so that good and evil are
in the eyes of the beholder.
Furthermore, as befits a 21st-century drama,
not only do we get to choose sides, we are also guaranteed a prolonged soap
opera with a large, but still undetermined, number of episodes. Each time the
two sides face up to each other, the impression is created by the scriptwriters
and spinmasters – and duly repeated and analyzed in the media – that this going
to be the ultimate epic clash over the fate of the world. But each time, the
climax turns out to be an anticlimax in which, after trading blows, the
protagonists break apart, swearing to rejoin conflict at some later
But from one aspect, this drama is much better conceived than the
original Sherlock Holmes story. We know for certain that both antagonists have
survived and they are still stuck in a perilous place: each still determined (so
they say) to eliminate their rival.
If, however, they miscalculate in
their make-believe duel, they may actually topple over the cliff into the abyss,
taking the American and global economy with them. That would be faithful to
Conan Doyle’s original concept – and provide a truly dramatic way of resolving
the final problem.