Ireland’s media is full of moral justifications for subjecting poor people in Greece to even harsher deprivation in order that the country pay off its debt, regardless of the consequences of such deprivation, regardless of the capacity to make the payments, and regardless of the legitimacy of the debt. Even if it is conceded that the so-called ‘bailouts’ have been for banks and not the populace, it is still maintained that the latter must pay up, because they are collectively guilty: either of not paying taxes or of “corruption”.
The underlying suggestion is that the populace of Greece is congenitally, endemically corrupt, and that it must be subjected to the purgative of further austerity. But this is scarcely different from the moral justifications used to defend austerity and bank bailouts in Ireland. And so, when they talk about Greece, they are also talking about Ireland, in projective identification with the market gods.
But this operation is itself deeply corrupt: it presents an entire populace as lacking in moral fibre or control over its appetites, when in reality it is simply impossible for any society to keep going, to stop from imploding into atomised war of all against all, without the fundamental decency of a great many. And whilst the focus of recent days has been on supposed food shortages in supermarkets and ATM queues (when soup kitchens and destitution have long been an established reality) what is systematically ignored -it would interfere fatally with the morality play- are the networks of solidarity and resistance that operate beyond market rationality and protect many people from destruction altogether.
What is disgusting -and corrupting, if we take it to be true- about remarks such as those of Irish Times political correspondent Stephen Collins, who describes Greece as “in the gutter” by contrast with virtuous and upstanding Ireland, is the gross lie behind it: the resistance of Greek people is an act of upright decency and dignity. It occurs in the face of threats and robbery by kleptocrats who preach obedience to market rule, regardless of the consequences, as the highest virtue.
Among such kleptocrats is Collins’s political sensei John Bruton, who attempts to parade his auctoritas as a former Taoiseach, thereby hiding his role as a mouthpiece for the same financial powers grinding Greece -and large part of Ireland- into the dirt. We are in a world turned upside down when a spongiform monstrosity such as Bruton can be allowed stand in judgment over the Greek government and Greek people generally for refusing to pay unpayable debts ad infinitum, and insisting that their pensions be maintained, when this same braying moral catastrophe has openly called for governments to renege on their pension commitments, all the better for his paymasters in the financial sector to reap further succulent profits out of other people’s suffering. This is the corruption laying waste to the social contract in Europe, and we all have our part in standing up to it.
People like John Bruton would like nothing better than for the populace in Ireland to conceive of themselves as a people apart from others in Europe. Not least because a sense of isolation and powerlessness produces discipline, but also because it keeps the power structure of the European Union intact: a union of political and economic elites, collaborating across borders, with the broader population of each member state enjoined to obey diktats presented as in “the national interest” but which in reality correspond to the common interests of elites across Europe.
They applaud the punishment of Greece, not only, as has often been pointed out, because any let-up on the punishment would spell trouble for the political parties of oligarchy, the so-called ‘political contagion’, and not only because any sort of resistance to neoliberalism is simply intolerable, but because solidarity in Europe, for them, ought to be the preserve of those at the top. It is intolerable for them that people at large might begin to think in terms other than obedience to the nation-state, their own private gutter. Given a choice between internationalism and racism, such ‘Europhiles’ will plump for racism every time it threatens their standing.
It is intolerable for them that we might be gripped by the sense that we have far more in common with the average everyday person in Greece or Spain or Italy or Germany, for example, than we do with some retired politician on a stupendous pension, or some billionaire media mogul who got rich from the privatisation of national assets. For if we were ever gripped by such a sense, we might act on it. And if we did, what would happen to their Europe? What would happen to their world? OXI!