This is a translation of a recent Público column by Juan Carlos Monedero. The Warren Buffett quote about how ‘There was a €700,000,000 unsecured Anglo Irish bond paid the other day. There was no formal obligation on the Irish government to pay it, but it did, and with public money that could have gone to schools, or hospitals, or welfare payments. That the government did pay the bond, and was met with so little resistance in so doing, is a strong indication of who’s winning at the moment, even if, here and there, pockets of resistance appear to be emerging.
A worrying rule of three
If everyone can see what’s waiting for them down the line, the strange thing is not that the markets are distrustful. What is really a mystery is that the citizens keep trusting.
We can see that whilst the savings banks were sinking, their bosses were getting rich, something we found out about only because the crash of these financial entities has brought publicity that exists in scarcely any other area. Goldman Sachs has named the most recent Treasury Secretaries in the United States since the times of Reagan at least. And the advisor to Zapatero is now the adviser to the financial bosses’ organization. Solbes is at Barclays and Rato at Bankia. And Cospedal has numerous salaries whilst Rajoy knows he is paid “a little more” than what people remind him.
The same people who condemn others to hunger are the ones who die from gluttony. The markets, which are in fact networks of privileged information, know that they shouldn’t trust anyone and this is why they are so sensitive to any movement, especially those that come from the banking system or from politics, which are becoming more and more difficult to differentiate. The stock markets know –its instruments do- that the waters they abide in are full of sharks. Whatever they avoid will get caught by someone else. It’s a question of speed. It’s a game of musical chairs. They know it. The citizens don’t.
To mention this doesn’t amount to much. We can hear these complaints even on public radio. But no transformation is brought about. The overinformation, the jocular tone, and the saturation, with regard to the horror, ensure that nothing happens. So too the hope that you will not be singled out as one of the ones who will sink. Historically, quite a luckless strategy.
There would still be the escrache , that citizen tactic invented by the children of the disappeared during Argentina’s dictatorship, which consisted of following the torturers to the bakery, to the door of their house, to the cinema, to tell everyone that these people of an adorable appearance were monsters.
When the enriched director of the insolvent Caja del Mediterraneo was asked if he had a clear conscience, without moving a muscle on his face, and knowing he was backed by the bishop[i] in charge of proceedings*, replied “completely”. In any event, that same night he was able to go off and dine in the most expensive restaurant in town without being interrupted.
There is a hidden angle to the educational reforms. The privileged classes, with ever increasing clarity, do not want their little darlings mixing with the rabble. The aristocratic elite has always organised parties so that their daughters, young and reckless, do not foolishly fall in love with someone from another class. The sooner they get engaged the better, because that way they would go off, not with the neighbourhood’s black trumpet player[ii], as the song went, but instead with someone who had a few generations of solvency behind him. The ones who can still get into certain colleges and certain universities.
In these times, differences must be assured. And this logic runs through nearly all transformations. In colleges, in neighbourhoods, in universities. Hence Esperanza Aguirre’s horror that someone might be hanging about in her doorway. Now that ETA and its macabre excuse is no more, maybe those who really have reason to be angry will come along.
[i] The reference here is to Modesto Crespo, a former car dealer who became president of the Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM), a building society that had to bailed out by the Bank of Spain.
El País reported that his meteoric rise enjoyed the support of the hegemonic political power in the Valencian regional government, but that on top of that, he brought ‘religious fervour’ to the role. Described as ‘sombre and religious’ by the same paper, the question was put to him in his capacity as the chair of the Misteri de Elche, a well known annual festival celebrating the feast of the Assumption. Also on the board of governors sits the Bishop of the diocese of Orihuela-Alicante. The festival is still sponsored by the CAM.
[ii] Reference to the song Ligia Elena by Panamanian singer –actor-lawyer-politician Rubén Blades, about the racist reaction of a rich family to one of the daughters falling in love and running off with a black trumpet player. Video here: