Sunday, May 09, 2010

When You Peer into the Abyss

If you're crazy or brave enough to start looking down into the Abyss, you'll find it staring back at all of us with the face of an orthodox economist spewing out his so-called “wisdom”. He’s smiling, that orthodox economist. If you try listening to the strange sounds which come out of his mouth, spluttering past his smug smirk, you’ll realize that the man actually believes that economy is a science, and that the things it calls laws are Absolute Truths the universe bows down to and has been praying to everyday since the Big Bang.

He tells you that you must be virtuous, that orthodox economist, like all good priests and religious practitioners do. He explains that you must present Good Numbers to the Markets, or they’ll eventually punish you for your sins, and that’s only natural. Of course there are no subtitles, but you can hear the capital G, N and M that indicate he’s mentioning sanctified elements of the almighty religion that economy has become. It’s now so powerful that it’s been officially set above populations’ welfares, above kids, above women and men, old and young and middle-aged. We are servants of this economy, it’s our master, and if we fail the laws it imposes upon us without even a by-your-leave, then we will be punished in the end. We must be punished.

Of course, when we populations, through the swift and decisive actions of our governments, indebted ourselves to save the Holy Banks and the Almighty World Financial System, so quickly and so deeply that we ended up with extremely Bad Numbers for our collective budget deficits, nothing happened. No lightning crackled in the Heavens of Economy to smite us sinners down. One could have started wondering at the versatility of Economy at this point, but then religions in all of humanity’s history have always had a ready answer to the questions and doubts of heretics and sceptics:

The Divine Works in Mysterious Ways.

There, you have it. Bad Numbers were tolerated then, welcomed even, wished for and demanded. Now, well, things have changed. But then, perhaps it has something to do with those who mention the necessity to tame in the Holy Markets, to rein them in and impose rules on them, so that they again go back to what they should never have ceased to be: tool in the service of human beings, and not the other way around. Perhaps it has something to do with those states that would attack the Holy Sanctity of the Markets. Heretics! Of course they must be punished. Of course they must be struck down and brought to their knees. Of course. And that’s exactly what’s happening right now: round up the all-powerful rating agencies, and the nations will tremble, the world will shake and start blabbering excuses, apologies, and profess renewed virtue, offer sacrifices in the form of austerity plans that will accomplish nothing except for smothering real people and weakening all those who want to defend people’s rights against the blind dogma of Holy Economy that only exist to serve the interests of a lucky few.

And then what? People fill the streets of Athens in protest against decisions made by a government that will destroy what little they still had, all so that privileged castes can keep their riches? People have the gall to demonstrate in Greece, to refuse to pay for a crisis they didn’t cause(*)? Why, shame on them! The Markets won’t take kindly to these protests, to these people refusing to bow down and accept the inevitable return to virtue! They will react, and their retribution will come, swift and harsh.

Oh, yes. That’s what the orthodox economist who’s sitting down at the bottom of the abyss and stares back at you with a snigger says. He tells you that you must bow. He tells you that people’s freedom of expression must give precedence to the Holy Markets and the All Powerful Dictates of Economy and Finance. Seriously. Gently. Like a father shaking his head at misbehaving children.

So we should all be German. We should all be serious, virtuous. Now, can anyone tell me why? I mean, seriously, can anyone explain to me what we, as people, as women and men of flesh and blood, stand to gain by being like Germany? What? We’d have terrific Numbers to offer the Markets on their Holy Altars (another name for Stock Exchange)? Errm, yeah? So what? Remind me again, how is the welfare of the German people? How are their lives? Wages dropped, security of employment dropped? The number of working poor—you know, those people who have a job, who work day in day out, and don’t earn enough to make a living, to pay their rent, their food, their clothes, their bills—exploded? Chronic unemployment in less favoured regions never abated? People aren’t happy, except for the same social classes, or castes? Germany is now better known as the Country of the Euro Jobs?

And we should be like them? We should want to please the Holy Markets?

I don’t think so.

Economy is powerful because it’s backed by powerful people who’ve tried to rig all the circles of power. This should ring a bell. Aristocracy used to be powerful. In France, kings ruled, their power coming from what the Catholic Church labelled as the Will of God. It was the Order of Things, and it lasted for many centuries. Then came 1789.

Looks like that time is coming again.


(*) causes are, among the most important ones: the privileged high social classes (high bourgeoisie and also, in the public sector, think high-ranking officials during the Yang Dynasty—that, or apparatchiks in the now defunct USSR) and all the laws designed to allow them not to pay taxes, the companies also privileged by specially designed laws to allow them not to pay taxes, black market economy, restaurants, cafes, shops everywhere never paying VAT, not to mention their taxes, landowners not paying taxes linked to the wealth they have and the value of the land they own (first among them the Orthodox Church, first landowner in Greece which doesn’t pay the first cent in taxes but, hush, it’s a secret)…oh, and let’s not forget Germany and its crass behaviour, its devastating handling of a crisis which would NEVER have taken place, had it simply chosen to say “shoo” when the first, feeble little sparks of the now European Blaze started. Now the monster is unleashed, and virtuous priest Angela Merkel may well find that she won’t be able to control it, and that in the end, it will devour oh so zealot and virtuous Germany along with it. Sometimes, I almost wish this would happen.