Opinion » Maxed Out

So begins the European Spring?



In faraway cities, in faraway lands, people rose up on the weekend and said, in very dissimilar languages, "Enough is enough. Take your austerity and shove it where the sun don't shine." Or words to that effect.

The Other People, the people in powerful positions, political leaders, captains of industry and bankers, warned these people who spoke that woe would befall them. They told them their worlds, in fact the whole world would collapse. They warned them such a catastrophe would take everyone down with them, perhaps the entire civilized world, as we know it. They told them to go home, take their bitter medicine, go back to sleep and let the people who knew best, the Other People themselves, keep doing what they'd been doing, which is to say, screwing them. Oh, and try not to notice what they'd been doing isn't actually working.

Well, occupy that, motherf....

Perhaps thinking the Mayan's were right and it didn't really matter how they voted since the end of civilization is only a few months away anyhow, the people in France and Greece voted out the status quo and voted in chaos, or at least socialists, the same thing in the view of the Other People. Thus begins the European Spring. C'mon baby, let the good times roll... even if it's downhill.

In France, Francois Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy to become the country's first socialist president in more than a decade. He beat him with a campaign that promised "change now," since Barack Obama had already proven there is no change you can believe in. He also won because many in France were outraged when Sarkozy let German Chancellor Angela Merkel lead when they danced together at the last G8 conference.

"Austerity can no longer be inevitable!" Hollande exclaimed, only in French, to jubilant followers who had grown tired of persistent European Union demands they actually work for a living and cut their annual holiday allotment down to five weeks from the current 52.

In a show of enthusiastic support, the global money whores increased France's borrowing costs and drove the euro to a three month low. This was taken as further evidence by Hollande's supporters that the game is rigged, and the world's bankers won't really be happy until they've reduced everyone except themselves to slaves.

Not unexpectedly, in Greece the outcome of the election was considerably less clear. In Greece — perhaps because it was the birthplace of democracy; perhaps not — political power has been held by New Democracy, a centre-right party, and Pasok, a centre-left party. As in physics, the positively-charged proton party neutralized the negatively-charged neutron party, resulting in an inert element known as business as usual, generally described by Greeks on the street with a shrug of the shoulders and a drag on a cigarette.

The Inertia Coalition could presumably have continued to lead Greece down the cultural and economic sewer best exemplified by the 2004 Summer Olympics had it not been for the mugging laid on them by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The EU and IMF, as in France, demanded the Greeks start working — while stipulating they'd have to work for someone other than the government, for whom they already thought they were working — for a living if they wanted to enjoy the illusion of two bailout packages worth 220 billion euros, most of which would vacation briefly in Athens before flowing back into the hands of the foreign bankers who loaned the country the money it couldn't possibly repay to begin with.

On the mean streets of most civilized countries, this is called loansharking. In the world of international banking, it's called business as usual.

But having lived with the effects of austerity for almost six months, the Greeks rose up, united, and caused, well, utter confusion. New Democracy got more votes than anyone else, 20 per cent, which gave them more seats in parliament than anyone else, 110 out of 300. If 20 per cent of the vote leading to over one-third of the seats sounds vaguely like Canadian politics, give yourself one point for cultural awareness.

Pasok was holding on to 41 seats as of the beginning of the week — final results are promised before the world comes to an end on December 21 — thus giving the Inertia Coalition a one vote hold on power, or as the Greeks say, no power at all.

The rest of the votes and seats are spread out among the Radical Left Coalition which, despite its name, is considerably more centrist than the other 87 parties generally referred to as extremely left-wing, extremely right-wing, communist and neo-Nazi. The only thing binding this fiery political soup together — and make no mistake, they are definitely not bound together in any reasonable meaning of that concept — is that they all oppose the EU/IMF austerity measures.

As a result, it's fair to say there is no government in Greece this week. While that may come as a surprise to those who wondered whether there was ever a government in Greece in the first place, it certainly came as a surprise to Theodoros Pangalos, who, until he lost his seat, was the deputy prime minister and who, it's been reported, said that.

While Greece may have to hold another election — a prospect at least as exciting as the rumour Sylvester Stallone may be in pre-production of Rocky VIIish — the bankers are threatening to bail on the bailout deal if the new government, which doesn't exist, fails to aggressively follow through on the old government's austerity plan... by the end of the month.

So with the sun finally shining in Whistler, why do we care? To the extent last year's Arab Spring was an uprising against tired, old despots and dictators, this weekend's European Spring may finally signal an uprising against the real threat to humanity and progress — global capitalism.

Yeah, yeah, capitalism's the best of a questionable lot. But the capitalism you learned about in school bears pale resemblance to the global con currently being played. That kind of quaint capitalism assumed an honest game where you would work hard, take a risk and reap some rewards or fail trying. What we have now is a fixed casino where governments — our own included — conspire with the Have-a-Lots to up their status to Have-it-Alls, leaving scant crumbs for the rest of humanity.

Tear up the Social Contract, destroy the middle class, boot this race to the bottom into high gear. The sooner the Have-it-Alls rake it all in, the sooner we can get on with the next chapter: neo-Feudalism.

Except maybe, just maybe, the jig is finally up.