Who is right in Greece’s standoff today with the IMF and European creditors? German leaders claim a higher moral ground. When you borrow money you are expected to pay it back. If you can’t you don’t get to borrow again. If you are living above your means you must change your style of living. If you want more money from a lender, you need to behave in ways the lender expects to ensure that money will be returned.The question, who Is the you in that sentence? Who lent the money to whom?
Greece’s leaders feel no less righteous about their position. Why should they suffer when lenders get repaid in full? Didn’t both make a mistake when agreeing to government loans in the first place? Why should Greece accept onerous austerity that hasn’t turned its economy around, and in fact has made it worse in the near-run? Why should Greek workers suffer more than German bankers?And who is greece? This sliding of Personhood from the borrows, the rich, to greece to the Greek workers is not subtle, but gotten away with.
Don’t bother answering these questions. Both sides have a point. What will ultimately dictate the terms of this debt restructuring is the desperation Greeks feel if their banks run dry of euros, competing against the anxiety European leaders feel about the prospect of their single-currency experiment failing. Who is right and who is wrong? They all are. Who wins and who loses? Stay tuned.And both sides? Bankers, germany, european leaders banks. The other side, Grece, Greeks, Greek workers?
The past few days at the Vatican have been full of quite surreal moments. First I found myself introducing Naomi Klein, as I chaired (possibly) the first ever all female panel at a high level Vatican Conference. Later the same day, I was sitting on a bus beside Mary Robinson our way to an open air mass in an ancient pine forest. We were Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mulsims, athiests, feminists, liberals, conservatives, and everything in between. As the sun set over the beautiful pine trees, and the red full moon rose in the sky, the whole thing had strange dream like quality about it. I pondered how on earth I came to be there, in that moment, giving praise to God, Allah, Yaweh, Mother Earth with such an unlikely group of people. Something very strange was happening. The occasion was the Conference “People and Planet First – the imperative to change course”, which focused on Pope Francis Encyclical Laudato Sí. I certainly wasn’t alone in sensing a surrealness at the event. What I think what we experienced was due to the disruptive power of Pope Francis’ encyclical. Someone described the Encyclical as “the most dangerous book”. Others, such as Ben Phillips, in his blog on NGO Courage made the point that we have been “out radicaled” by the Pope. He has said the unsayable, disrupting well positioned lines of defence and throwing them into disarray. This isn’t just Pope Francis mania either. The group in the Vatican were the an unlikely Papal fan club. For many who associate themselves with this, there is a cost to pay for aligning with the Pope. But the encyclical has the power to bring very divergent views together for the greater good. It disrupts because it speaks the Gospel truth, with all its raw beauty and its pain, in an uncompromising and compelling way. The Pope takes a different perspective – like opening google earth and panning right out as far as you go into space. He brings us right back to the sense of wonder of existence, calling us back to a sense of awe at life on this fragile planet. It stops you in your tracks. It resonates something deep in our hearts and moves us to care. Essentially, in changing the viewpoint to one of integral ecology, Pope Francis offers us a new vocabulary to express in concrete terms the world we want to see. He has given permission to everyone to say what has to be said. Listening to the many wonderful women speakers in the Conference, I was struck by the intensely maternal, and sisterly perspective Laudato Sí encapsulates. Mary Robinson correctly pointed out the lack of a specific focus on the role of women in the encyclical, but for me the maternal, sisterly dimension is profound and essential. The whole Encyclical in fact revolves around this opening sentence: “Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.” Miss that, and you miss the point. In fact, the image that best sums up the new viewpoint that Pope Francis is proposing, is the image of mother feeding her newborn child. It is the image that best embodies the most fundamental, natural, intimate relationship of mutual love and dependency. It is the icon par excellance of the culture of care that is now needed. It is an idea I stumbled on several months ago, as I wrote here, but is one that seems increasingly relevant. This image of mother and child, the first tender bond of inter-generational care is the measure of the love we now need to save us from ourselves, and the perils of a climate changed future for our children. This poem of Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands to her baby speaks volumes of the mother-child tragedy unfolding before us. The Prime Minister of Tuvalu reminded us that thousands of children are already faced with an uncertain future as climate refugees. Rather than getting lost in useless arguing, above all we need to draw our children and grandchildren close to us and make them a solemn promise to do everything in our power to change course. For me, in fact, my main motivation in the struggle against climate change and injustice , which makes me do what I’d normally not consider doing, is simply to be able to answer the questions of my children when they grow up: “you mean you knew – so what did you do?” Mary Robinson spoke beautifully at the Conference of this deeply maternal perspective. In her speech she focused on the encyclical theme of earth as our common home. She made the connection to motherhood and the need to see the earth as a home – and us as all as one family. For mothers all over the world, the concern with the running of the home is second nature. This gives women a better sense of limits, as they are the ones who usually focus on tending for the family, ensuring there is enough to go round. Extending that simple idea of being one family to the world scale can help us find new ways to care for our shared home. The word ‘economy’ in fact, comes from the greek word for home – oikonomia ‘household management’, based on oikos ‘house’ + nemein ‘manage’. Through re-imagining the economy from that image of the home, from maternal care, sisterhood, and Ubuntu we can start to build a truly transformative vision. Perhaps the encyclical’s most profound message is that the earth is our mother, with whom we need a loving relationship to survive and thrive. As Naomi Klein pointed out, we are simply realising we are not the masters of creation. The truth is we utterly depend on mother earth – in reality we are as helpless in the face of nature, as a newborn child feeding from its mother’s breast. We urgently need to feel that again. When that loving relationship with the mother is broken, the impact on the child is devastating, and often irreparable. Repairing that loving relationship once more is essential. That is a dangerous message to those who wield unscrupulous power.
It’s too late to save our world, so enjoy the spectacle of doom by Stewart Lee. From the guardian Sunday 5 July 2015 02.00 EDT In the middle of a week of record temperatures, as if unaware of the irony, the business community celebrated the consolidation of its attempts to force the government’s hand to agree to a third filth-generating runway at Heathrow, tipping all species on Earth towards extinction. Everything will die soon, except for cockroaches, and Glastonbury favourite the Fall, who will survive even a nuclear holocaust, though they will still refuse to play their 80s chart hits. In Norfolk on Thursday, the tarmac melted, and ducklings became trapped in sticky blackness. When a lioness whelped in an ancient Roman street, Caesar thought something was up. Here, solid matter transmuted to hot liquid and swallowed baby birds whole. How surreal do the signs and warnings have to become before we stop in our tracks? Are whales required to fall from the sky? Does Tim Henman have to give birth to a two-headed cat on Centre Court? CBI director John Cridland says: “The government must commit to the decision now, and get diggers in the ground at Heathrow swiftly by 2020.” Head of the Institute of Directors Simon Walker says: “There can now be no further delay from politicians.” And Segro chief executive David Sleath merely bellows: “Get on with it!”, like some selfish Top Gear presenter demanding his steak dinner after dawdling, the planet itself the powerless BBC employee he punches in the face. The business community has thrown its executive toys out of the pram, and now there are chrome ball bearings on strings everywhere, tripping up unpaid interns and making life difficult for immigrant cleaners scrabbling under desks on less than minimum wage. David Cameron, an electoral promise to oppose the third runway sticking in his throat like an undigested salmon bone, can only duck his cowardly head and hope some terrible atrocity or a Wimbledon win wafts our attention away. When I was a child, my grandmother always referred to our pet dog’s excrement as “business”, so to this day, when I envisage “the business community”, I imagine a vast pile of sentient faeces issuing its demands while smoking a Cuban cigar, an image that seems increasing accurate as the decades pass. The destruction of all life on Earth is inevitable if fossil fuel use continues unabated. (Legal. Please advise. Are we allowed to say this now without being shouted down by Nigel Lawson?) The business community’s genius move in the third runway debate has been to change the dialogue from an argument which should have been between building a runway and not building a runway at all, and trying to restructure our society to avoid the need for a third runway, into an argument about where exactly it was best to position this massive portent of our world’s forthcoming doom. It’s like offering an innocent man who doesn’t want to be hanged the chance to be poisoned instead. As with fracking and the academification of all schools, decisions have already been made behind closed doors by forces beyond our control. Heathrow’s third runway will happen. Assurances about air quality are meaningless. The UK has already been threatened with £300m a year fines by those meddling Brussels bureaucrats for our terrible British air, and Boris’s solution in London was to spray adhesive around the city by night to try and stick the pesky pollution particles to the pavement, like a lazy duplicitous boy pushing his mess under his bed rather than tidying up his room. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Illustration by David Foldvari. And in 50 years, will there be anyone left to remember what it was like before a sterile and toxic environment gradually became the norm? Can it only be four decades ago that every summer holiday trek along A-roads to South Devon caravan sites left our Morris Marina windscreen smeared thick with now-disappeared invertebrates, that sparrows swarmed around morning milk bottles, that sticklebacks and minnows spawned in every park pond, that hedgehogs gathered at night in suburban gardens and lay flattened in their thousands on roads every morning, and that an actual hare ran out of the encroached common land of Palmers Rough, on the fringes of Birmingham, to be chased by my grandfather along Arnold Road in that same Morris Marina, a sight that would seem as surreal today as escaped hippos wandering the streets of some collapsed eastern European capital? The absence of abundance is already accepted. The metaphors of the nature poets, mapping human hearts through once commonly understood imagery, are irrelevant and impenetrable. “The sun of Winter, / The moon of Summer, and all the singing birds / Except the missel-thrush that loves juniper, / Are quite shut out.” I’m sorry. The missel-what? Can the juniper be monetised? Is this missel-thing for sale? Our children already have no stable baseline from which to calibrate the loss of all that lives. It’s game over. Bearing this in mind, I finally find myself reluctantly agreeing with the business community. There is no time for delay. Let’s build the runway. Let’s choke the Earth. Let’s get this damn thing over with, for what can be avoided, whose end is purposed by the mighty gods of business? Hasten our demise, let our children be the last of their sorry line, and spare their unborn descendants any further suffering. We will not save the rhino. We will not even save the hedgehog. How can we save the world? But, if you can purge cheap sentiment from your mind, how exciting and fascinating it will be to watch as the world becomes uninhabitable. It’s almost worth going on a health kick to survive another 60 years and see everything immolated. How many humans have had the awe-inspiring opportunity to witness such spectacle: the end of all that is But something of us should be preserved, I think, for posterity. Perhaps the village of Harmondsworth and its residents, instead of being demolished and paid off at 125% of their homes’ market values, should be sealed within a vast dome and shot spacewards, to drift on the solar winds as a museum of mankind, saving something of our society at the point where it finally became unsustainable. Under a vast skein of convex glass Harmondsworth floats beyond Orion’s Belt, its ancient tithe barn, Betjeman’s “cathedral of Middlesex”, still and safe under the stars; local resident Graham Wibrew, his once imperilled kitchen extension complete, watches the comets and thinks of home; and the bells of 11th century St Mary’s toll the eternal hours silently in endless empty space. “But far more ancient and dark / The Combe looks since they killed the badger there, / Dug him out and gave him to the hounds, / That most ancient Briton of English beasts.” Edward Thomas, The Combe....
Over the last five years, the EU and the IMF have imposed unprecedented austerity on Greece. It failed badly. The economy shrank by 26%, unemployment rose to 27%, youth unemployment to 60% and, the debt to GDP ratio jumped from 120% to 180%. The economic catastrophe led to a humanitarian crisis with more than 3 million people on or below the poverty line. Against this background, the Greek people elected the Syriza-led government on 25 January 2015 with a clear mandate to put an end to austerity. In the ensuing negotiations the government made it clear that the future of Greece is in the Eurozone and the EU. The lenders however insisted on the continuation of their failed recipe, refused to discuss a write down of the debt, which the IMF is on record as considering unviable, and finally, on 26 June, issued an ultimatum to Greece by means of a non-negotiable package that would entrench austerity. This was followed by a suspension of liquidity to the Greek banks and the imposition of capital controls. In this situation, the government asked the Greek people to decide the future of the country in a referendum to be held next Sunday. We believe that this ultimatum to the Greek people and democracy should be rejected. The Greek referendum gives the European Union a chance to restate its commitment to the values of the Enlightenment ? equality, justice, solidarity - and to the principles of democracy on which its legitimacy rests. The place where democracy was born gives Europe the opportunity to re-commit to its ideals in the 21st century.? Etienne Balibar, Costas Douzinas, Barbara SpinelliThe larger frame might be: the world debt situation is terrible and those on the periphery will suffer first, being powerless. But what is happening to them will migrate toward the center as the total system is more broke. In this larger frame, who is to blame? I do not know the answer. 1486? Human nature? systems effects beyond any human control?
Europe’s Attack on Greek Democrac
NEW YORK – The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.
Of course, the economics behind the program that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.
It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.
Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.
In terms of transforming a large primary deficit into a surplus, few countries have accomplished anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years. And, though the cost in terms of human suffering has been extremely high, the Greek government’s recent proposals went a long way toward meeting its creditors’ demands.
We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.
But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies.
But why would Europe do this? Why are European Union leaders resisting the referendum and refusing even to extend by a few days the June 30 deadline for Greece’s next payment to the IMF? Isn’t Europe all about democracy?
In January, Greece’s citizens voted for a government committed to ending austerity. If the government were simply fulfilling its campaign promises, it would already have rejected the proposal. But it wanted to give Greeks a chance to weigh in on this issue, so critical for their country’s future wellbeing.
That concern for popular legitimacy is incompatible with the politics of the eurozone, which was never a very democratic project. Most of its members’ governments did not seek their people’s approval to turn over their monetary sovereignty to the ECB. When Sweden’s did, Swedes said no. They understood that unemployment would rise if the country’s monetary policy were set by a central bank that focused single-mindedly on inflation (and also that there would be insufficient attention to financial stability). The economy would suffer, because the economic model underlying the eurozone was predicated on power relationships that disadvantaged workers.
And, sure enough, what we are seeing now, 16 years after the eurozone institutionalized those relationships, is the antithesis of democracy: Many European leaders want to see the end of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government. After all, it is extremely inconvenient to have in Greece a government that is so opposed to the types of policies that have done so much to increase inequality in so many advanced countries, and that is so committed to curbing the unbridled power of wealth. They seem to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate.
It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on July 5. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shriveled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.
By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/greece-referendum-troika-eurozone-by-joseph-e--stiglitz-2015-06#bVxRiCB0qdm8CHbE.99 The problem is that governing Europe right now is impossible. Finance, migration, climate, jobs. The pressure on the rulers is intense and we need to help. History suggestrs that only a round of violence can help, but the outcome might be worse, anoher french revolution?