|The Reichstag building in Berlin. Picture credit: Wikipedia|
The narrative that unites most anti-austerity people is the one which asserts that the source of their hardships, of the impoverishment and immiseration they are facing, of the inane pro-cyclical economic policies they are enduring, of the dearth of liquidity a perverse financial system has brought upon them, lies either in Europe generally speaking or more specifically in Germany and its present chancellor Mrs. Merkel. German flags have been burned on the streets of Athens, the German government has been depicted in nazi uniforms, politicians all around Europe put the brunt of their barbs on Mrs. Merkel for what they perceive as a German failure. Likewise, in Germany some established media have been working laboriously, ever since the beginning of this crisis, to dehumanize certain peoples, to attribute to them all sorts of defects in their “cultural character” and, in general, to provide the ideocentric underpinnings to a deterministic oratory that assumes the resulting misery as “inevitable”, as some sort of divine judgment befalling the sinful and the profligate.
In Europe, we live at a time where practical sense and the rightly-understood common good are becoming scarce. The socioeconomic setting of our days, the overall politico-cultural milieu, engenders an exuberant quasi-racism, that draws vigor from age-old stereotypes and xenophobic fictions. Fission has been the main characteristic of the European continent through the centuries; only recently have we managed to overcome the arbitrary ‘we-they’ divisions that used to put us in a moronic, self-defeating race to the bottom with one another. This achievement is now being threatened by the resurgent nationalism and inwardness of our days that are usually made manifest as populist anti-Germanic palaver or as outright neo-fascist and neo-nazi tendencies (as is the case in Greece: see my full analysis on Golden Dawn).
It is the belief of the present author that the challenges of the present trace their roots in ideological failures rather than the idiosyncrasy of state leaders or the volksgeist of certain countries.
The most evident failure of ideology in this global crisis has been the unfolding of the unexamined postulate that considers GDP growth as an end in and of itself. Predicated on this presumption we saw sweatshop working conditions being imposed on millions of people across the planet, we witnessed an unbridled domination over the earth coupled with disrespect for all its species, we discerned the rise of neo-colonialism this time with multinational corporations taking the role western empires performed in ages past, and we saw the hyper-inflationary financialization of the world economy that sustained and aggrandized all these bubbles that have now left us with mountains of debt and bottomless indignation. Such an ideological failure cannot be contained to a country, a personality or group of personalities, but must rather be addressed at its root as the defining, guiding myth of our age, the tutelary figure so to speak; and it must be systematically questioned and scrutinized as a profoundly fallacious, if not pernicious, tissue of shibboleths and unexamined socio-economic and political prejudices.
Then we have more Europe-specific ideological flaws. The grandest of them all is the very story behind European integration. For the last years integration has been treated as an end in itself, rather than the means to a life of liberty, peace and prosperity. In the false dilemma between integration or chaos, we have seen a forceful transformation of societies under the auspices of the troika, we have witnessed the radical shift in European politics from the principle of the Aristotelean golden mean to the praxis of “enhanced cooperation” whereby a clique of governments or duos similar to the ‘Merkozy’ impose on all the rest what they consider as the one-and-only modus of integration. The very creation of the euro as effectively a cartel of states within the EU rather than of the EU is evidence of this shifting in the tectonic plates of EU-related diplomacy.
In more recent days and with the December 13-14 European Council meeting fast approaching, we see another ideological monstrosity taking shape: the creation of a technocratic Euro-area state that will elevate Colbertism and euphemistic palaver to new heights. The European Commission’s blueprint for a deep and genuine economic and monetary union, contains all the elements of a root-and-branch transformation of Europe that will feature the effective installation of a troika in permanence and for all, non-Euro countries included. Along these lines we find the Council’s paper on the same subject, dated December 5, which effectively reproduces the proposals, recommendations, arguments and justifications that were enshrined in the Commission’s blueprint and which are all reflected in earlier speeches of the European Central Bank’s President, Mr. Mario Draghi, and vice-president, Mr. Vítor Constâncio (for Mr. Draghi’s speech see here, and for Mr. Constâncio’s here).
Analysing the specifics of these crucial documents, one who is not deluded by the hypocrisy of bureaucratic pontifications, will realize that a sovereign state with an independent budget and with powers to tax and to force elected governments and entire peoples into specific forms of action, or to place them in various straitjackets, is already being contemplated. In this new ideological type of “integration”, genuine democracy is secondary in importance, if it can be considered important at all, for the technocratic elite of Europe already agrees that such democratic ‘complications’ will be discussed over the longer-term, long after all important fiscal, banking and economic powers have been forever withdrawn from elected governments and centralized at the Euro-area level. As a matter of fact the Commission’s blueprint envisages “discussions” for some fig leaf of democracy after 5 years from now and once all the technocratic aspects of the Euro-state have been set in place and become fully functional. We will first get Commissioners who will veto and compel elected governments and then we will discuss some kind of inclusive decision-making. In my opinion this too is a failure of ideology, a failure writ large; a failure that will take us down the garden path of serfdom.
With the above in mind, I find the arid nationalistic or pseudo-patriotic antagonisms as distractions from the real challenges that we already face. To change our fate, to ensure our liberty and expand on it we need to work together. Civilization requires painstaking efforts, it is not coincidental. It is the jungle method, the ‘we-against-them’ fanaticism that is the easy way forward, but which ends in tears.
We better think clearly, for we are at the crossroads of history.