Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The world seems to have gone mad

That title is the sort of hyperbole that usually makes me snort with disgust but, for once, I can see no other way of describing what is happening in the political and media world. People come up with the most ridiculous comments. Unfortunately, yes I do mean the reactions to what is going on in Greece, though I really had not intended to write about it again so soon.

The number of people who seem to have discovered all of a sudden that "the EU has a democracy problem" is quite spectacular. Apparently, all those discussions about the EU's "democracy deficit" have passed them by; apparently they did not notice what happened when countries voted in a referendum against implementing certain treaties and were made to vote again (with Greece always a reliable cheer-leader for the EU pack and against any change or reform); apparently they have no idea at all how the EU is governed - not through politics but management.

Well, I have news for all these people: the EU has no democracy problem; it was never intended to be a democracy (that is assuming the people in question can actually define democracy). Furthermore, democracy is of little use when you are seriously in debt and are relying on somebody else to fund your lifestyle. Back in the days I had to deal with bailiffs because of money I owed to the local council or the water board, I routinely consulted my household of fluctuating number of humans and cats and each time we voted unanimously against the proposals the bailiffs made about the payment of debts. Sadly, each time our democratic decision was overruled and pay it all we had to.

Then we come to the lunacy of #itsacoup, which people can read on Twitter even if they are not signed up for that particular form of social media themselves. I can only assume that it was started by someone who has no idea what a coup means and has no idea how the EU works (see above). It is, however, rather depressing when one gets a leading eurosceptic like Daniel Hannan coming up with rubbish of that kind.

I managed to miss his article in the Daily Mail on July 6 in which he congratulated the brave Greek people on standing up to the EU bullies and voting no to the proposed bail-out conditions (very similar to the ones they are about to accept). Ha-ha, he said, the Greeks are being threatened with all sorts of nasty things, like not having salaries, pensions and other expenses paid but they said boo to that and if they can do it, so can we. There is a difference between threats of that kind being made by the people who are doing the paying and those who are not. If Mr Hannan really proposes to compare Britain to Greece during the Brexit referendum campaign, we really are doomed: the reaction to that argument will be a colossal support for the staying in side.

He has now produced a film on YouTube in which he pretends to be a broadcaster during the Second World War or the Cold War and tells everyone that yes, this was a coup. As someone who actually was involved in Cold War broadcasting I find this pretentiousness ridiculous but that is what YouTube is for (as well as watching old episodes of The Avengers and listening to various adventures of Paul Temple, which is my preference). No, I really do not think so and, curiously enough, there are people actually in Greece (oh my!) who agree.

Take this article by Andreas Souvaliotis, a Social Entrepreneur (I think I know what that is) who says that au contraire,  Greece: Here Is Why #ThisIsNotACoup
That tiny little daily violation of each other's rights is perfectly symbolic of the prevailing national culture in Greece: My freedom does not end where yours begins; it extends indefinitely, unless I'm caught or stopped. It is considered perfectly normal to jump ahead of you at the traffic lights, to smoke where I'm not supposed to smoke, to cheat on my taxes, to cook the nation's books in order to qualify for a currency union, to renege on every single election promise. Those who insist on respecting the rules are considered a little less smart, a little less "Greek" -- and they're often told they are the losers.

That's exactly the country that became financially insolvent recently. My beautiful birth country continues to be the Eurozone's most adolescent, rebellious, blindly self-defeating society. Greece didn't get into all this trouble because its European partners took advantage of it; it went bankrupt because, after more than a generation as a member of a rules-driven, respect-based tight economic community, it never figured out how to play fair, how to fit in and how to build real value. It enjoyed the spoils of membership without ever trying to live up to its end of the bargain; it cheated, squandered, abused, begged for more... and the cycle continued until the financial crisis suddenly brought the entire country to the brink of bankruptcy. And even then, on the strength of charm and an endless stream of fake reform promises over the past half-dozen years, the money kept flowing in from its badly tricked Euro partners in the form of bailouts. And nobody was even humiliated or angry about that. Until now, of course.
Mr Souvaliotis exaggerates the extent to which the eurozone is rules-driven and respect-based, let alone tight economic community but he is spot on about the Greek attitude to it. I have no particular objections to a completely libertarian attitude to life, which is what the Greeks might say they have but I do feel that it is not compatible with an enormous government sector, high pay and pensions and demands that someone else, preferably other countries fund all that. That is all.

Mr Souvaliotis advocates "tough love" and adds this extremely fine sentence that needs to be quoted to a good many people:
Mercy on the Greek state, as a lot of bleeding hearts and newly minted euro-experts have been advocating these past few days, would have only fed a bad culture and perpetuated the problem.
As someone said on another forum: I am looking at you, BBC journalists. Well, yes, the BBC hacks are suddenly dissatisfied with the way the EU has been behaving towards gallant little Greece (unlike the way it had behaved towards gallant little Denmark or Ireland). Again, I can only wonder what their attitude would have been if there had been a right-wing government in that country.

I am also looking at some eurosceptics, led by Mr Hannan and his many acolytes. Mind you, none of these people are quite as hilariously funny as the egregious Owen Jones who has suddenly decided that if the wonderful, extreme left wing government in Greece who just want to get lots of money from everybody else and never pay any of it back is bullied by the nasty EU and even nastier Germany then it is time for us to get out. The Left, he says, must reclaim the eurosceptic cause. All we need is that born-too-late student agitprop purveyor from the SNP, Mhairie Black to decide that the EU is not such a good idea after all. We can but hope that the likes of Owen Jones will swing back to being an idiot on the europhiliac side not an idiot on our side. Still, I am more than a little amused by the unholy alliance of Daniel Hannan and Owen Jones. Way to go, lads.


  1. Childish tribalism in British politics, and media being on one 'side' or another, has always tended to make commentators ignore the obvious if it has been drawn to their attention by 'the enemy side'. Ignored for years (nay, decades) have been the credible and obvious points about democracy in the EU by newspapers like The Guardian and Independent (it was all 'working together with partners'..., and anyone who disagreed was an evil racist fascist Nazi).

    In similar vein, for the first three London Mayor elections, these papers ignored all the points about how dangerous it was that tv and spending restrictions effectively barred candidates in 'the wrong class' from campaigning (eg it is staggering that candidates are banned from writing to all their constituents during any part of the long campaign). But the minute these rules affected a candidate they approved of in 2012, loud and general were their squeals of 'not fair'. They had been told dozens of times before, but they conveniently ignored the facts.

    However, if it does have the effect of making the left (and particularly the left media) less slavishly pro-EU, it will surely have some impact upon any referendum. I take your point about Greece and its absurd economics and indeed politics (and Richard North has an excellent piece today on that, if any reminder were needed). However, at the same time that is no reason for the EU to foist upon it the absurdities of an impossible 'agreement' which appears to be designed to both spite a particular group in Greece, to effect regime change in some way, and to ram the boot down onto the face of the country for voting the way it did (permitting the EU to encourager les autres and show what happens if they disobey).

    In that sense, the EU has done us all a favour - although partisan media is protecting its own 'side', it nonetheless never thought it would ever have to, and its best arguments about the insanity of the accord are sound ones (irrespective of Greek recent history) - the shock has woken it up from a generation of 'working with our partners' slumber. Not a bad thing really.

    1. I doubt if that particular part of the left will stay on our side. The Greek issue will move where it has always been, the back burner and the country will go on surviving on our hand-outs as well as supporting anything the EU might want to do to any other country. Also, if we get a right-wing (by Greek standards) government there, attitudes will change.

  2. Come on Helen; be fair. You can get lots of excellent banjo tuition on YouTube, as well as access to the music of Tuba Skinny.