Europhrenia – Why is Israel judged by different standards?

June 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

So far it seems that nine civilians were killed during the storming by Israeli commandoes of the aid flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip. And, as far as I know, some Israeli soldiers got a proper kicking. Seth Freedman in the Guardian can’t get over “quite how savagely numerous activists greeted the arrival of the troops on to the ship.” In an article helpfully entitled “Israel had no choice”, he fumes that the activists did not conform to the “cute and cuddly image of stereotypical aid workers.” Savage that I am, Seth, if soldiers armed to the teeth absailed onto my boat, ostensibly not for a round of gins and tonics (a hat doff to Sam Jordison), I’d probably like to take a swing of greeting at them as well.

In Europe, rage over the massacre has surged then trickled into the appropriate institutional channels. L’Humanité, the official organ of the dregs of the French Communist Party wants the EU to “immediately suspend its association agreement” with Israel. Flemish daily De Morgen deplores “the EU’s support for Israel’s recent accession to the OECD.” On Facebook, there is now an Irish group calling on “any decent people” to sign up in order to expel Ireland’s Israel ambassador.

EU and OECD member states mandated by the UN continue to slaughter Afghan civilians month in month out, with only a fraction of the screeching that Israeli atrocities produce. “Decent” people apparently believe that these same states and institutions that have overseen sixty two years of destitution for the Palestinians can somehow solve the Middle East conflict, rather than their being the instruments that have sustained conflict in that region for, let’s say it again, sixty two years. This can only mean that British, French and American atrocities, assassinations and spin come with some higher moral authority that makes their ambassadors so much less expulsable, their economies so much more OECD appropriate.

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Europhrenia – Predicting the future, rewriting the present

May 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Irish Independent led this morning with news from the OECD that Ireland’s economy “is close to a turning point and could rebound to 3 per cent growth next year.” According to the “influential” body’s twice-yearly global report, “export-led growth would be almost twice the expected level in the 16-nation euro area,” the Dublin daily beams, “and more than twice the predicted 1.3 per cent growth in Britain.”

To be twice as good as the Brits always make an Irishman’s heart leap. And what with The Indo being a major exponent of the infamous budget “pain” the country endures, such news must be welcome. Over the Irish sea, however, the Lex column in the FT advises taking the OECD report with “a truckload of salt.” While forgiving it for having “missed the initial meltdown”, Lex reminds us that in 2008 the OECD forecast that “the US economy would expand by 1.1 per cent (it contracted 2.4 per cent) and the eurozone and Japan would grow about 1.5 per cent (the former shrank a whopping 4.1 per cent, the latter by even more).”

Looking into the seeds of time, wondering like Macbeth’s future stab-victim Banquo “which grain will grow and which will not” is one of the functions of influential bodies. However, in recent times, you’d be a lot better off talking to Shakespearean witches. Shakespearean witches, although they’re not good on letting you in on when the bloodbath starts, are reliable concerning the seeds of time. They would probably have been a bit cagier than in influential Moody’s which, two years before it opened hunting season on Greece, foresaw all kinds of growth for future zombie Lehman Brothers.

Joe Strummer once said that the future is unwritten. When the present is obscene, these are important words to remember. Right now, 300,000 homes lie empty in Ireland and yet town councils and banks are continuing to evict people who default on their loans and rents. The Irish government, so eager to save its banks, has ruled out saving such irresponsible people. Like the Irish Independent, it is no doubt waving around the OECD’s empty prophecies. When there is no future to offer, then you must rewrite the present, you write reality out.

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Europhrenia – Life’s a Fitch

April 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Europe is being over-run by credit rating agencies like Standard and Poor’s, Fitch, Moody’s et al, who on long legs are walking over our lives. The Financial Times has just broken the news that Standard and Poor’s have downgraded Spain’s credit rating from AA+, which was ok, one imagines, to AA, which is less. This comes just after the same prophetically named organisation (I set Standards, you’re Poor) docked Portugal from an A+ to A-. Not even the end of April, and the nightmare of the worst end of term school report went to Greece. Only yesterday, S&B looked at the Hellenic nation’s smudged copy books with too many crow’s nests and dog-eared corners, tutted and scratched “BB+” with big red pen. Meanwhile, my own native home, Ireland, fears “contagion.”

The press of course drools over the dispatches, and having looked deep into its conscience, says it’s six o’clock and time to roll over. The euro has “dived”, because “market sentiment” is “contaminated”, oil prices are “shaken”, investors have “fears”. Firstly, what is utterly mind-boggling is that abstract entities such as markets and prices and currencies are attributed human emotions. The thrust of such misuse of adjectives is to suggest that they are victims of something i.e. victims of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, who go under the cheerful acronym of PIGS. Secondly, when we speak of investors (but can we now say that this word is in any way related to the root verb – investire – “to clothe in, cover, surround”?), we depict them as beaten kittens rather than cool-headed, quick-thinkers out for financial opportunity. A vocabulary has been developed that first of all does not describe these events as those enacted by real people, but of abstract nouns that behave like people. The idea that our economic life is governed by an agency as arbitrary as clouds is obscene. We are not so stupid as to know that today like any other day, fearful banks and trembling institutionals accumulated wealth.

The problem is that the history of this economic crisis is written daily describing a reality that suits the leading actors. Who hold nations consisting of sprightly, sluggardly, careful, cancerous, bold and balding citizens to account for financial dealings they have had no say in. Paradoxically even these major actors to the drama seem unable to grasp the situation adequately, if only to themselves. Take OECD secretary general Angel Gurria. “This is Ebola,” he gushed. “When you realise you have it you have to cut your leg off in order to survive.” Forgive me if I’m wrong but I remember Ebola as a disease of the nineties where your skin sort of fell off in clumps like in a zombie flick and was supposed to wipe us all out, but didn’t. Surely if one legged Gurria wants to compare the Eurozone crisis to a disease whose threat was hysterically exaggerated, given that it’s all down to PIGS, he should have evoked swine flu. But perhaps a swine flu analogy wouldn’t scare us enough to gulp down the snake oil of bone-crunching austerity that is now, apparently, the only cure.

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