Don’t you just hate the sensationalising of events with catchphrases? We accept that genuine disasters are usually given abbreviations as a convenience and then absorbed into the lexicon immediately, say ‘Piper Alpha’, ‘Dunblane’, ‘Lockerbie’ or ‘9/11’. Okay, so that last one is technically an acronym, but the most afflicted tend to be sagas or crises that aren’t anything of the sort.
The media, as part of their typical hysterical bleating, have labelled, or better yet branded Greece’s potential exit from the Eurozone with its own acronym, and even worse it’s utterly shite too. Sloganizing of this kind allows the attachment of a narrative to it. In this case Greece’s exit from the EU by rejecting an ‘austerity package’ will lead to an even bigger ‘crisis’, a constitutional one in fact.
Now that may or may not be true, and that’s the most crucial point of all – nobody knows, but there’s a cuntish subtext to it too; that folk thinking for themselves and having this level of power to act upon those thoughts – to reject austerity and challenge the ability of those in power to impose it, potentially alter the Eurozone’s mandate (basically its future ability to keep its runt members in line when it suits them), and decide their own country’s future – is dangerous. The implication is clear – are these people worthy of this responsibility?
Establishing this as the central question does two things: it maintains the notion that under the spectre of default draconian forms of austerity are always the best solution, and it seeks to obscure a truth that the Greek people have exposed. Even with a gun held to their heads over Greece’s future within the EU, most Greeks were inclined to see the imposition of this level and kind of austerity for what it is – a load of shite.
The Greeks have reached this wearied perspective as they’re aware they didn’t incur their country’s debt, and the myriad of austerity programmes they’ve been subject to since 2008 haven’t worked. So, with the addition of the EU’s blackmailish threats and the proposal to transfer control of Greek assets, it’s no wonder that many Greeks viewed a Yes vote as analogous to Einstein’s definition of insanity
Still, back home it behoves the Tory government, right in the middle of implementing an austerity manifesto, to use their commentators in the media to imply that the initial ‘No’ vote may be a reactionary form of destructive patriotism in the face of the EU ‘trying to help’. That many Greeks have embraced a central tenet of Thatcherism, being aspirational, to reject austerity, is an amusing oversight, to me anyway.
Now I admit it’s crude to compare the EU’s insistence on austerity when one of its members defaults to political parties forming a government and implementing it whilst in power. Within countries the preferred ideas of the political classes are maintained if they can offer the electorate the façade of choice. Most electable parties in Western countries invariably become conglomerated under a (rough) consensus of ideological principles, the kind that tend to appeal to affluent and aspirational voters unlikely to be adversely affected by the policies. Austerity as a means of consolidating government debt being just one example.
The EU’s position towards Greece becomes hypocritical, perhaps more so than an elected government imposing austerity on its own people, as some of its larger member governments, like France, were voted into power on a manifesto with socialist principles, or those that seem comparatively socialist to Tory bastardism. Still, it’s funny how some can stomach austerity when it’s being imposed on another country.
We’ve seen many countries default and subsequently recover, and some do so more quickly than others. Will Greece recover better within the EU, or outside of it? Leaving incurs greater risk and borrowing from other sources at (possibly) higher interest rates, but if Greece was to leave and succeed, well what then? What would we make of that in the UK, where we’re soon to have an In/Out EU referendum?
It’s a pertinent question as the majority of voters at the last UK general election either voted for a Tory government on a punitive austerity manifesto, or Labour, who despite their current skeletal but still thoroughly Blarite leadership, have backed much of the latest budget. So it begs the question, how culpable are the electorates of many EU countries for the plight of Greece and its people? Especially as the vast majority of the governments or parties we can elect have bought into the myth of wealth generation and trickle-down economics, have deregulated their financial sectors, allowing derivatives, cut corporation tax, and inflated unsustainable housing market bubbles. You know, the stuff the caused the global crash and that now requires all this austerity.
The jingoistic propaganda within the other member EU states is already primed to protect this agenda, and to allow deflective sanctimonious posturing in the event of ‘Grexit’. We can only hope such nastiness doesn’t permeate the public consensus, but it’s a plan we’ve already witnessed succeed in the UK as prelude to building the myth of austerity’s necessity – attacking benefits claimants and immigrants. For the larger member EU states, who will underwrite the Greek debt in a deal, using the antipathy of slogans to foment a xenophobic undercurrent should make imposing austerity on Greece an easier sell. It would also work to paint its rejection of an austerity package in a negative light. French and Germans can be anguished at the prospect of Greece remaining in the EU on terms Syriza finds agreeable, with Syriza and its anti-austerity manifesto becoming a by-word for silly idealism ‘that doesn’t work’. If Syriza capitulates to a deal then it becomes a win-win for the ‘Out’ campaign, not only will the left be further demoralised, but it enhances the Eurosceptic pitch; ‘do you want our banks, our wealth creators, your money, to be tied in trade to the EU and threatened by some folks refusing to suffer like us? If we remain ‘In’ shouldn’t we be in this together?’
And so a prediction – the UK will vote to leave the EU. Many of those at Westminster will want to maintain the current nominal EU membership arrangement as its suits business, where their bread is buttered. But despite the ideological alignment of the banking and business sectors in the UK and the EU, the cult of austerity and its fairness is firmly established within the British cultural psyche as quintessentially middle earth, sorry, middle English.
Defection from the EU will be the first harmful legacy of employing austerity to embolden conservative British values. It’s now normal to demonise ‘progressive’ policies that sees social housing given to single Muslim lesbian mums with eight kids from Somalia, and billions given to workshy plebs, just so they can fund their thirty a day habit while appearing on some grotesquely exploitative reality TV documentary about scrounging. The subsequent trains of thought that this spite encourages are harder to manipulate in regards to external matters, like EU membership. Austerity now also means affluence for the deserving. The deserving are also British. Ergo to protect Britishness, Britain should be independent from the EU. It becomes harder to reconcile a favourable perception of the benefits of neo-conservative austerity at home and the British obsessions of identity and self-determined aspiration that have become woven into its narrative, as synonymous with maintaining ties to the EU’s meddling laws, which in the extreme case of ‘Grexit’ are likely to be viewed as a mendacious and vindictive threat through a nationalistic prism.
No matter. Out or In the EU we’re now trapped in an austerity culture, it’s just a question of degrees. With it becoming a meter for conservatism and nationalism it’s wielded against any politician or party who opposes it. See the SNP or the Greens recently. If you don’t believe cuts or austerity are required you’re presumed to be lax on the deadweight of society, and if that can be sold, then your other proposals, such as tightening inheritance and capital gains tax, or re-nationalising power and the railways, policies that may otherwise be popular, can be rubbished too. Take Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn. He’s already subject to ridicule by Labourities and their media mouthpieces for not following the austerity consensus, or basically for not being more like Iain Duncan Smith, the kind of prick who looks like he’d re-use a teabag. Here Labour’s support for austerity has become the perfect excuse to abdicate the responsibility of providing a cogent opposition strategy.
Austerity and Grexit are similar to ‘The War on Drugs’, all are mechanisms that demonise the have-nots so the haves-it-alls can conquer and control the minds of the have-enoughs. Even if you can perceive the cynicism of this, it’s now become harder to oppose government austerity when, a) loads voted for it, b) both main parties would implement variations of it, and c) if you’re like me, you earn nearly double the minimum wage. I’m set to be £80 a year better off after the last budget. Woot, woot! As a member of the sense-of-entitlement generation I’m psyched baby. It means an extra line of cocaine for me per annum. Fuck the infirm, the old, the young and the unemployed. Demonising them works for me! Fuck yeah!
So, if you can’t beat ‘em (and I can’t), join ‘em. So I’m proposing a new term for all those who pontificate on this issue with any antipathetic rhetoric towards Greece, and it requires no inference either: cunts.