Tuesday, 22 May 2012

the Greeks

Our ministers are forever announcing that they know what the public wants on the basis of the most tenuous information and declaring what various patterns of voting mean.
Given that nearly all of the very few votes we are allowed are the selection of candidates from sets of candidates whom we did not select, this is more than slightly suspect.
“I think the British public is telling us that…” says one who then goes on to attribute to the electorate en masse his or her own desires.
I think it would be difficult in most cases to account for many individuals’ choices; determining mass voting intentions requires great analytical caution.
There is a related activity now. It is telling the Greeks that their forthcoming election is also a referendum on the euro, having recently denied that they needed a referendum.
As far as I know, the Greek electorate only faces a choice of candidates.
Telling them that their candidate vote is also a referendum on EU membership is nonsense.
If that is what is wanted then it should be proposed and implemented; but up to now the EU seems to have been quite happy talking to a few bigwigs.
The Greek government proposed a referendum and pressure from outside Greece was applied to deter them.
So the proposed referendum was previously withheld by those who now want to hijack an election and regard it as a referendum on policy.
A parliamentary election cannot be a referendum on policy because it is tied to individuals. To vote for the EU, Greek voters (not “the Greeks” please) must vote for the likes of Pasok and New Democracy. Those who want to vote for the coalition headed by Tsipras have no way to vote simultaneously for EU membership.
Such a desire may be thought or at least represented as stupid; but that does not make it illegal.
A referendum on policy is or should be an instruction from the people to the government. Cameron’s call is little more than an attempted imposition of a government such as we have seen in Italy.
The large mass of Greek people are being patronised for thinking they can refuse to accept an agreement for which they did not vote (the referendum proposal having been withdrawn); but that is much less ridiculous than believing that one can have a monetary union of quite disparate economies without one central lender of last resort.
The Greek government(s) have been widely criticised for profligacy; but if EU accounts have been balanced and accepted by the auditors ever then it is news to me.
The joke in which a Greek passport officer asks Merkel “Occupation?” and she answers “No, just a short visit” has more than an element of truth.
And in case that appears to be anti-German, I assure you I can distinguish between a person and a state ideology. And I remind the reader that British troops shot Greeks in Athens after the end of the Second World War.
Today’s quiz: in which European country, currently in the EU, was Napalm B first used as an offensive weapon in 1949?
(It’s all right: it was only partisans who were burned alive and it had already been decided, without a referendum, that the freedom-loving countries of the world would not talk to partisans in that country, So it is ok. It just stung a bit, I expect.)
Statesmen and negotiators who might find a game of snap intellectually demanding embarked on a social engineering chess game using membership of the Euro as an attractor to EU expansion; and did not think through the consequences. Did not even try for fear of being told it should not be done.
We are now in another joke. We are listening to those who have jumped off the top of a tower block without parachutes and have fallen and fallen, have passed the second floor with a fixed deathly smile as they cry “No problems so far” and are now a few feet above the ground and are still accelerating. Some are getting nervous. Some are squeaking.
But not all.
During the Vietnam War, there was a cartoon, by Ron Cobb, I believe, of a US general in all his finery, to attention, saying “I must maintain this rigid position or all is lost.”
The situation is not of “the Greeks’” making. Note the phrase I am denying: the Greeks. It is a formulation which should be used carefully, along with the French, the Germans etc. Some of the Greeks maybe.
In my brief and – for most other people – unimportant visits to Greece, I have been aware of a lot of dodgy characters wherever I have spent time; just as there are dodgy characters making a good living in my own rotten borough.
Let the dodgy characters pay. They’re taking the money.
The trouble is that such people are the king-makers and the makers of opnion and of supposedy democratically-elected governments.
But as Lao Tze remarked: the true leader is never in the police van.
Oh, didn’t we arrange that?
No, my dears; you did not. And you would not have been allowed to even if you had wanted.
Thus, we come to The Markets. Who the hell are The Markets? What happens when they get jittery? And so on.
Well, they are self-selecting, to some extent.
They are people with money or people with access to the use of money.
They invest money to make more money.
Let’s not bother where the money comes from exactly. If we go back far enough, and perhaps not very far, we’ll find that it was stolen or appropriated.
Much has been made of reparations to Jewish families whose possessions and, some of them, wealth were plundered by Nazis.
Even when it means money being paid to unpleasant types I feel I have to support it.
But it is a special case. It is also, in some ways, a response to special pleading.
I get jumpier when wealth is returned to aristocrats in the former Warsaw Pact area.
How many have been recompensed for the clearances in Scotland and Ireland?
How many have been recompensed whose families were sent to the workhouse because capitalism couldn’t provide them with work and homes.
So crooks have the money and they want more. They invest what has been stolen. They do not make anything.
They get jittery when they think they won’t get the money. They do not get jittery when people lose their jobs and homes. They have not been elected.
Those that are called “the right” used to be rather vocal about sovereignty and it was expressed very much in metaphors of personal freedom. Just recently, that has all been camouflaged by lots of patriotic waffle; but the basic assertion and its basic supposed assumptions are still there. Sooner or later parliamentary Sovereignty will be mentioned.
But Parliament is scared of The Markets.
The Markets rush in and mark everything. Like bailiffs.
And any challenge to the system will be ridiculed, the same kind of ridicule meted out to the Greeks who want the Euro and a decent income.
Buffoons and crooks are very good at ridicule.
The trap door has been tested, the hands secured behind the back; the noose is over the head and the blindfold is on.
There is a silence on the trading floor for the space of half a second; and it occurs to even the slowest citizen that these people are not necessarily his or her friends and may not be just play-acting at jailers and serfs.
“You’re not really going to kill me, are you?” they ask nervously.
“Of course not,” comes the reply. “We’re just going to give you the chance to innovate as you fall through the air. Innovation is good for you.”