Europhrenia – Is satire the new politics?

June 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Please find below a video of two Australians explaining the Eurozone crisis. One line that would stick in the mind, if not in the craw, if it weren’t so vast, begins “How can broke economies lend money to other broke economies who haven’t got any money because they can’t pay back the money the broke economy lent the other broke economy… ?” Never mind that in the midst of the stat swirl, the debts of Ireland, Portugal and Spain are exaggerated, the big question is – How come it takes two Aussie comedians to provide such essential instruction?

I write thinking of economist David McWIlliams’ recent paper in the Irish Independent in which he drops something of a bombshell explaining that Irish banks haven’t been able to borrow these last few weeks. “The market is now as good as shut to us as money retracts from risky countries like Ireland to safer locations like Germany. This pattern is unlikely to change any time soon as the financial world comes to the realisation that the bailouts of recent months are only postponing the day of reckoning.” Interesting to note here that McWilliams also has his own satirical show running at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. I suspect that if he just tells Ireland’s recent economic history straight, he’ll bring the house down. We usually assume that political satire relies on exaggeration for its effects, but political life has become so unreal that it looks like only humour can provide us with a reality check. I’m not sure this is an entirely welcome development.


Europhrenia – Escape the future, become a luvvie

May 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Not without a soupçon of relish is The Daily Telegraph grinding out stats in its series on “Rebuilding Broken Britain”. Public debt exceeds £777 billion and will metastise to £1.4 trillion by 2014-15 etc, etc. It’s impossible to grasp what such figures represent, so right now, being confused as to what money itself is supposed to represent, I’ll pass.

On the other hand, the budget rigour, the financial redemption through “pain” that chancellor George Osborne is preparing in order to propitiate the black light all this anti-money emits, is another matter. To me, at least, it looks like nothing less than a final onslaught on the welfare state. This means a massive change to our culture. Welfare, after all, has legitimised the British state, and others, for nearly seventy years. So what next?

Perhaps there are some pointers at the bottom of above-quoted article with the list of those occupations on the rise in Britain? From spring 2008 to summer 2009, 69% more hotel porters, nearly 70% more pharmacists, and a staggering 90% more actors were observed walking the land. If you have ever known the giddy, chirruping, ultimately tradge world of actors, then it’s quite possible that they are same ones lugging open the doors to the Ritz, the Hilton, the Savoy, the same ones making queues at all the new chemists to get over the humiliation of lugging open doors at the, and so on. The moral of this being that in the Britain to come, there will be actors everywhere. Now that is truly pain.

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Europhrenia – Whatever people say Greeks are, that’s what they’re not

April 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

The BBC reports that only a few days after Athens was full-nelsoned into appealing for a €40bn-€45bn rescue package from the EU and the IMF… Greek bond yields are just a wee touch below last week’s whopping 9.15%. “The interest rate is 6.14 percentage points higher than that charged to Germany – seen as the safest investment in Europe,” the website chirps, explaining that even with Greece due a bung, investors are still “nervous”.

“Nervous” is an unusual term to denote that hard-nosed community of the tactically-minded who over the past few months like US drone operators have hovered over the nation’s economy, already a puny 0.3% of the EU’s, and reduced it to a smoking pair of old boots. But before we cry into our ouzos, they had it coming, the cheeky beggars. “The fundamental causes of this mess lie in Greece itself… Greeks really need to take a hard look at themselves and the way they have behaved”. So wrote Tony Barber in his Financial Times blog of 23 April, spinning the castastrophe as a kind of mid-life crack up. Come on, Iannis, you know it’s true!

Rolled out relentlessly, the view that the failings of successive Greek governments are actually the personal failings of the Greek people, is rife. And if swallowed will doubtlessly smooth the way for the next couple of decades of scrotum-tightening austerity that that country can look forward to under the lorgnettes of a German-led EU, IMF experts, and rating agencies. But if you think about it, to say that the corrupt Greeks are personally responsible for their country’s disaster sounds a lot like the Victorian prejudice that poverty amongst the lower orders was down to loose morals.

A similar narrative of “we are all in this together” and “we get the leaders we deserve” has allowed the Irish government to crash the country into a wall and then present it with the bill. But we should be wiser. One day after the death of the great Alan Sillitoe, author of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, we should remember one of his best lines – “Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not“. When officialdom pronounces over the “Greeks” as irresponsible and reckless we should be as alert to the presumption as when investors are seen as so many shivering calves.

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