Curtain Raiser

Greece Takes a Step Forward, Colltalers

Greece said no. It wasn’t a fair bargain anyway, and the decision to refuse loads of cash from European banks in exchange for giving up the pesky idea of questioning the terms of such loans has at least one noble merit: it preserved the dignity of Greeks (and Trojans).
But the plebiscite’s result did leave a few unsettled issues to be sorted out, not the least of them the fate of Greece within the eurozone. Regardless of the good show of will displayed by the people, the outlook continues to be muddled as to whether the asphyxiation the currency regime imposes is worth going through, even if the reward of belonging to a collective such as the E.U. does have its benefits.
With the vote, P.M. Alexis Tsipras comes out stronger, if not with any particularly new mandate to conduct the resistance against Germany-led European investors and policy makers, who had forced him into an impossible corner: accept the terms and be branded a betrayer of his own government platform, or defend a national refusal, and likely lose his political support.
Such quagmire may have already damaged the precarious confidence Greeks had on their own democratic institutions’ ability to lead the country out of chaos, opening the doors to a right-wing regime that would promise to cure the country’s ills via an authoritarian rule.
Also, the reductionism of selling a single vote as solution to the complex political and economic impasse, which is not, along with an exit from the euro, now very possible, may compromise Greece’s path to the future and any crucial attempt at a national reboot.
More than ideological independence, though, or rebellion against the single-currency knot, the aftermath of this taxing process will hardly spell relief or produce an immediate change for the Greek people’s current miseries, or even halt the fast-moving erosion of the country’s stability. In other words, this week and at least for a few years more, Greece will be exactly the same as it’s been since 2010.
There’s something profoundly wrong, however about this abyss faced by the Greek. Their alleged culpability about falling off the cliff pales in comparison with the absurd orthodoxy of austerity that has wreak havoc throughout Europe in the past several years.
The cult of tearing social programs and charging high rates from already battered governments has been positive only to lenders and financial brokers, and left irreparable disruption on its wake. Despite increased unemployment, mounting personal savings losses, and increased social exclusion, the concept of austerity remains insulated from questioning and free of any sense of accountability.
Many a conscious economist, and there are some who even carry a Nobel Prize under their belts, have pointed to how Europe in the past decade has been a textbook for the case of a patient falling terminally ill from the medicine prescribed to save it in the first place.
Portugal, Spain, Ireland, even Finland, have all accept demands from the IMF, the World Bank, or a multitude of international banks, eager to hover and profit from their misery, so to be ‘awarded’ loans that, after all cuts to serve the debt, have hardly made a difference.
Those countries, and a few others, were thrown into a perpetual cycle of ‘tightening belts’ in exchange for a type of financial aid that prioritizes the interests of those in a position to dispose capital, over basic necessities of the working population. No wonder there’s now a growing contingent of disenfranchised citizens roaming European streets, along with the already familiar unwanted immigrants.
Judging by the two most recent decisions by vote in the U.K., for instance, we’re not holding our breath that the Greek will be clear about the best direction to take. How could they? Whatever they choose, they will pay dearly the price. Whereas the Scots will learn from their loss in the plebiscite to leave the U.K. and strengthen their resolve, even in victory we’re not sure the same will happen in Greece.
Take David Cameron’s re-election, too, as another example when a sense of dissatisfaction was successfully diverted and manipulated to assure a surprising win for continuation of the obtuse, ideologically dishonest, and ultimately flawed Tory project of government.
A word for those who still mistake the euro, and its failure to galvanize diverse nations around a single currency system, with the ideal of a united Europe, which proposed to replace centuries of strife and war with a egalitarian, altruistic commonwealth.
Whereas the former was adopted at least several years prematurely, and enforced before a proper implementation and unification could take place, the latter was an idea that had to come, and has delivered, on its own limited way, much of what was expected from it.
Europe has enjoyed a time of peace among its nations, and the idea of a military aggression from one of them against another has been, at least for now, placed safely at a distance, no closer than economic sanctions, for instance, an official rebuff or so, or even harsh words exchanged at some intercontinental conference. Roughy speaking, it’s incalculable how many lives have been saved in the process.
The currency, however, has always been an entirely different matter. Take the ECB’s policies: its insistence in pursuing rigorous anti-inflation and price stability rules, even to the cost of higher continent-wide unemployment, as well as, its absolute omission on the issue of migratory influxes and their impact on regional economies, has been arguably absolutely misguided and indefensible.
To compound it, save the catastrophic financial collapse of 2008 and its consequences, the bank has no one but itself to blame. As soon as the euro was up and running, there was a rush to impose it as a condition for entry into the great project. Thus an untested regime was slated to become a step stone for admission to an in-progress project of collective government no one had much idea about it yet.
Worse. As soon as extreme differences between countries began to take their toll, the ECB played favorites, and decided to punish and award nations as if they were good or bad kids: if you curb inflation, I’ll give you just enough. But if you don’t, I’ll charge you higher interests. No wonder that soon, political leaders began to rebel against rules that seemed to have been dictated from above.
Indeed, the issue of sovereignty may become a key selling point to any authoritarian regime worth its bootstraps. Through it, the whole ideal of sharing common ideals may be swept away, to be replaced by the xenophobic goal of ridding the country of ‘foreign’ ideas.
It could happen to Greece, as it could with any other nation within the eurozone. That, by the way, may be the final consequence of an eventual Greek tragedy: that it’ll lead it to leave the euro, followed by a string of nations, to ultimately dismantle the whole construct.
We hope, against hope, that it doesn’t come to this. That the proverbial ‘third way’ will emerge, and that Greece will remain with the euro and get the aid it needs, but without losing its government and aspirations to pursue its own democratic way of being a nation.
And that they do not believe the banks’ rhetoric, always ready to preach restrain to other people, while granting themselves the largess of fat commissions and interest rates. Or that a country’s direction cannot be conditioned to the people’s will, when in reality, it can and should. Or that the pursuit of independence from a rigged international system is vain and can’t possibly work. It is not and it can.
Greece needs the support of the international community, and its government needs the conditions to provide a viable economic solution to its people. Whatever the Greeks decide it’s best for themselves, based or not on today’s vote, should be nurtured and respected.
It may sound rhetorical but all modern societies owe part of their ability to remain vibrant and diverse to that part of the world. It’d be ungrateful if now the world would turn its back to it, and team up with the international capital. Despite our natural pessimism, we’re in pins and needles over what happens to Greece, and to the ideal of a unified Europe, because we care. So should you. Have a great one. WC


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