Which of these do you find more repugnant: an autocratic European Union which is no longer bothering to conceal its intention to displace an elected government, or a shambolic clique of Left-wing fantasists who are propelling a country – and its hapless population – into economic ruin and political chaos?
It’s a tough call, isn’t it? Whatever happens in the Greek referendum on Sunday, it will not be the end of this pantomime. In fact, it is intended not to be the end, in spite of the Greek prime minister’s bizarre assertion last week that he could guarantee a deal would be made with the country’s creditors within 48 hours of a “no” vote – when, in fact, a “no” vote would effectively guarantee the impossibility of making such a deal since the answer “no” is a rejection of meaningful concessions to the creditors.
SPOILER: They voted “no” by a large margin.
There is no point any longer in trying to make sense of this. It has gone beyond sense. It is now incomprehensible in the strict technical meaning of the word. The “options” available are all catastrophic and delusional in varying degrees and combinations, and nobody is actually going to get to choose between them anyway – at least, nobody in Greece. To the extent that they have had any involvement – or culpability – in this matter, the Greek people must come to terms with the consequences of electing Russell Brand to head their government. Voters do have some responsibility for the choices that they make. That is what distinguishes mature democracy from the students’ union. But given the price that they are paying for that moment of mad frivolity, it seems harsh to condemn, especially as the prospect of fiscal rationality had already been ruined by the fecklessness of previous governments and external forces beyond their control.
But there is something to be learned from this: there has to be, doesn’t there? Otherwise it would just be too grotesquely stupid, too appalling, too depressing to be endured. The key is in the drama’s tragic inevitability (a subject which Greeks understand well): the two antagonistic camps in this epic confrontation are playing up to the worst possible caricatures of themselves. The EU or, properly speaking, the troika of international financial governance, are presenting themselves as a parody of merciless, demonic money-lenders who are now determined to humiliate and pauperise their victims. This theme of public mortification is one that Syriza has made much of. And their punitive repression appears to license childish rebellion on the part of those who resist their diktats.
Kinda makes you pray for SMOD to hurry up and get here, donit?
I confess that I don’t know how this is all gonna turn out, but history shows again and again that certain kinds of little events can trigger bigger events, like a few falling pebbles can trigger an avalanche. Greece is in the middle of one of those little events right now.
I say “little” because so far it’s only happening to Greece. But they aren’t the only ones involved, and some larger countries are in similar but less dire straits. One of those larger countries is us.
We are in debt up to our eyeballs and we keep borrowing and spending more and more every single day. If we had to vote on whether to keep defying gravity or consent to austerity, defying gravity would win in a landslide.
I don’t like austerity either, but it’s all I can afford.