From the perspective of the average person, it would seem that the solutions that are presented to end the Greek crisis can be condensed into a few sentences. They probably could. Why waste so much time waffling on and on, repeating everything ad nauseum, every man and his dog wanting to paste their name on the same old stories?
Reflecting back on everything that I have read over the past 12 months, I have realised why we have to continue debating the issues, dissecting things into smaller and smaller pieces. The reason is that the answers we are all looking for are not actually that easy to understand. In reality, the simple and easy answers may actually not be that simple and easy to implement. There are dozens of nuances to every solution offered, all with their own pros and cons, depending on which side of the fence you are on.
One would imagine that the experts in economics and politics are streets ahead of the average person in being able to find a way through this maze. But I am not so sure. The current state of affairs is surely evidence of my skepticism in this regard.
If the experts can’t even agree on the best way forward, how on earth is the average Zorba or Carlos in-the-street supposed to make up their minds about what should be done and then decide on which political party should get their vote. The people know full well that most of the politicians lie to them and that the media twists everything to suit whatever point of view is the flavour of the week.
So in this particular case, there can never be a problem of “information overload”. In trying to formulate your point of view and make up your mind on what you wish your future to look like, you can never get enough information to help you, good and bad.
My little blog is one way that I use to clarify my thinking. Constantly trying to look at all of the issues from many different points of view. Changing my mind when I find something better. In addition, this is my small contribution to help to change things, for the better. I hope that, by spreading the words of change, hope and inspiration, I will maybe inspire others to also dig a little deeper to add to their knowledge and understanding.
That said, lets go back to basics. A simple question requiring a simple answer. Or is it? Read how Don Quijones frames the issues facing us:
“In his latest televised interview former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis conceded that the Greek PM Alexis Tsipras “was faced with an incredibly hard choice when he went to the eurogroup summit: commit suicide or be executed, effectively.” Put another way, his choice was between resignation (i.e. suicide) or revolution (i.e. be executed). As I warned in Spring 2013, this is to all intents and purposes the only choice we have left in Europe.
Tsipras and Varoufakis thought they could reform Europe’s institutions. They were wrong: as is now clear even to them, the EU is beyond reform. The people of Greece voted for change but when their chosen envoy was given the choice between resignation or revolution, he chose resignation. In so doing Tsipras signed away the last remaining vestiges of Greek autonomy and surrendered in perpetuity to the Troika’s forces of economic occupation, condemning the people of Greece to yet more tightening of the austerity screw.
The question is: what course will the people of Greece choose now?
Two years ago this May, Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and Barcelona’s Plaza Catalunya, Spain’s two most important city squares, were occupied by thousands of indignant protestors. For many of the nation’s highly educated but disillusioned youth, enough was enough, and for a short while it seemed that a new era of political mobilisation beckoned.
A few weeks later, however, such hopes were brutally dashed when the riot division of Catalonia’s police force, the Mossos D’esquadra, unleashed the untamed fury of the state upon the protestors’ makeshift camp, under the rather dubious pretext of ridding the city of a health and safety risk (this is Europe, after all!). The message was clear: all attempts to resist the new European economic reality, no matter how peaceful, would be brutally suppressed.
In little more than an hour, a whirlwind of police violence cleared the square of all the occupants and pretty much all of their belongings, many of which were never returned. All the while, a thick, dense ring of shell-shocked protestors and curious bystanders gathered around the square, looking on in a mixture of bewilderment, fear and anger.
I was one of them. As I strolled around the square, with one wary eye on the aggrieved protestors and the other on the fearsomely armed and highly unpredictable mossos d’esquadra, a placard caught my attention. Its message was beautifully simple: “No soy anti sistema, el sistema es anti yo” (I’m not anti-system; the system is anti-me).
The placard was held aloft by a small child riding on his father’s shoulders. The cynical realist within me knew full well that the boy, who must have been no more than five or six years old, was merely channeling his father’s thoughts. But that didn’t stop my more romantic side from imagining that the child was, in actual fact, eloquently speaking out for his soon-to-be lost generation.
For if there is one thing of which you can be sure about present-day Europe, it is that its political and economic systems are not meant to serve or protect the interests of the youth; on the contrary, they have been designed to gradually erode their last-remaining freedoms and rights and, by leaving them the tab for the transgressions and greed of the global banking sector, deprive them of all hope of ever attaining the standards of living once taken for granted by their parents or grandparents.
Spain is a perfect case in point: In the two intervening years since the country’s 15th May-moment, the economy has spiraled into a bottomless depression. Official youth unemployment in the country has reached a mind-boggling 60 percent. Thousands of Spanish savers and pensioners have been robbed of their life savings, victims of the national banks’ cunning (and, it goes without saying, unpunished) preferentes sleight of hand.
All the while, taxes continue to skyrocket and essential welfare spending has been mercilessly sacrificed on the altar of bank recapitalisation. Countless of the nation’s homes have – and continue to be – repossessed, to later be given away at a fraction of their official price to wealthy international property speculators.
Perhaps worst of all, the country’s current government, which took the reins of power six months after the inception of the 15th May movement, has proven itself to be the most venal, corrupt and incompetent in living memory.
But Spain is by no means unique; it is, if anything, a mere symptom of what is happening throughout the eurozone. From Cyprus to Portugal and from France to Slovenia, an all-out war has been declared against the continent’s industrious working and middle classes.
And now, with Winter turning to Spring, and Spring to Summer, the people of Europe face the starkest of choices: resignation to the EU’s neoliberal, neofeudal agenda, and with it, the gradual elimination of the few remaining freedoms and opportunities we still enjoy; or a spirited last-stand against the encroaching technocratic authoritarianism of the European superstate.
Here are a few of my own personal observations vis-a-vis our current situation and future outlook.
1. In case you hadn’t noticed, we are already owned, lock, stock and smoking barrel, by the international cartel of too-big-to-fail banks.
2. Pretty much all our political representatives and institutions, whether at the national or EU level, have also been bought off by the same banks, whose agents – the national central banks, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the ECB, the European Commission, the IMF, OECD and World Bank – now stand head and shoulders above all other players in the global political order.
3. Said banks are, to all intents and purposes, bankrupt, both financially and morally. They are also quite literally a law unto themselves. By allowing them to continue to operate in a mark-to-model fantasy world as well as gorge themselves on virtually interest-free central bank credit and regular transfusions of tax-payer funds, our politicians have shown all too clearly on which side their bread is buttered. As such, as long as the current financial system remains in place, the banks and their senior executives will be free to continue bleeding dry our national economies and personal bank accounts.
As Golem XIV recently wrote in his blog, there now exists an official list, drawn up by the Financial Stability Board, of 28 banks that are now free to operate beyond any legal jurisdiction. Like HSBC, they can consort and engage in business with some of the world’s most wanted criminals, at absolutely no risk of legal action. And as Golem notes, this month (April 2013), we can look forward to the announcement of “another list, this time of Globally Systemically Important Insurers (G-SIIs). They too will be above the Law.”
4. Democracy has absolutely no role, beyond a figurative one, in the European Union. The continued survival and expansion of the European superstate supersedes all other concerns, whether moral, political, social or economic. As such, no genuine form of democracy or civic political engagement will be allowed to take root. As in Stalinist Russia, complete power and authority will reside in the hands of faceless, unaccountable apparatchiks, all doing the bidding of the large global banks and conglomerates.
5. As the real economy (i.e. everything that is not the stock exchange) continues its descent into the abyss, businesses will continue to close down, jobs will continue to vanish at an alarming rate and taxes will continue to rise. What’s more, at a politically expedient moment, the final nail will be driven deep into the coffin of Europe’s welfare state system, once the envy of the world. Needless to say, the newly privatised healthcare, education and pension systems that will take its place will be the sole preserve of the upwardly mobile (i.e. not us).
Instead of paying for essential public services and utilities such as health care, education, pensions and infrastructure, the public’s ballooning tax burden will be directed toward two purposes: keeping the big banks afloat and sustaining the ever-expanding police-state apparatus that will be needed to keep the collapsing civic society in line. Put simply, we will be forced to finance our own enslavement.
6. Most importantly of all, the global financial system’s days are already numbered. In short, the system is already buckling under the combined weight of unsustainable debt, unpayable pension schemes and a derivatives market whose total value dwarfs global GDP by magnitudes that exceed all human logic.
The question is, once it does collapse, who’s going to pick up the pieces and rebuild a new, more sustainable system in its ashes? Will it be us, the people, or will it be the same bankers, central bankers and heavily compromised political half-wits that got us here in the first place? Will we bravely stake our claim to a new future, or resign ourselves, in fear and despair, to the global bankers’ dystopian nirvana?
Whatever choice Europeans make in the coming months and years, one thing is clear: the human, social and economic costs will be tremendous either way. For the unpleasant truth is that we have allowed ourselves to be lead so far down the rabbit hole of perpetual growth and exponential debt that reemerging into the light of day will take years — perhaps even decades — of collective struggle and sacrifice.”