Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A European "Red Spring"?

Podemos Demonstration - Puerta del Sol, Madrid, 1-31
If it was conventional wisdom that a bunch of unelected bankers looking out for rich people were the reason everyone was out of work, politicians would be forced to explain to angry voters why we had this crazy system and might actually consider doing something about it. The late Aaron Swartz
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Albert Einstein 
The economic slump in much of the EU has encouraged the rise of populist parties of the right and left. The sense of insecurity on which the populists feed has been further encouraged by the spillover from the conflict in the Middle East — whether in the form of terrorism or mass illegal migration. Gideon Rachman - Financial Times

We must end austerity so as not to let fear kill democracy. Unless the forces of progress and democracy change Europe, it will be Marine Le Pen and her far-right allies that change it for us. Alexis Tsipras - Financial Times 
Tens of thousands of people have massed in central Madrid for a rally organised by radical Spanish leftists Podemos. The "March for Change" is one of the party's first outdoor mass rallies, as it looks to build on the recent victory of its close allies Syriza in Greece. Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias told the crowd a "wind of change" was starting to blow through Europe. Podemos has surged ahead in opinion polls, and has vowed to write off part of Spain's debt if it comes to power.(...) Several of Madrid's main avenues became a sea of people and purple, the party's colour, he says, after its supporters travelled from all over Spain.(...) Broadcaster TVE reported that hundreds of thousands were at the demonstration, but there was no official tally. BBC News
Before we get started, it would be useful to remember that the founding "parents" of the "conservative revolution" or "neo-liberalism" as it is known in Europe, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both died of Alzheimer´s disease... This might not be the cause of the ongoing disaster, but it sure is a nifty metaphor for the situation we are in.
Regular readers of this blog know that one of my favorite hobby horses is criticizing the blockheadedness of post Cold War politicians who seem to have totally lost their fear of popular wrath.

Those who are cheerfully going about the work of dismantling the welfare state seem blissfully unaware that the welfare state was created by men as, or even more conservative then themselves, (Bismark, for example) in order to avoid revolutionary social movements which would destabilize and jeopardize the entire economic system and society itself. This was a strategy that was so eminently successful that it practically has destroyed revolutionary praxis. 

In my opinion endeavoring to dismantle the welfare state at the collapse of the Soviet Union is similar to a person who has successfully survived an operation for lung cancer and endured the ensuing chemotherapy and then, finding himself now in  remission, decides that it is ok for him to go back to smoking, the very thing that caused his cancer in the first place: idiotic.

It occurs to me that this tunnel vision, expressed in the obsession of  placating the financial markets, a vision which  ignores popular anger, is the result of the rise and predominance of the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) economy and the diminishing influence of manufacturing and agriculture.

The financial sector works with platonic mathematical models: money in the abstract moves with the speed of light. Fortunes that buy admiration, sex and luxury are made by simply tapping the key of a computer in a cubicle or on a trading floor.  All very clean and a bit autistic.

Reality, unfortunately, in as much as it touches living organisms, is never that clean and neat.

Thus farmers and manufacturers understand how the world of living creatures works better than financiers do.

They understand better, because both farmers and manufacturers exploit living creatures for profit and, leaving ethical question aside, to do this they need to have what farmers call "stock sense": an understanding of the animal off of which they make their living. It is this "stock sense", for example, that leads German manufacturers to have union representatives sitting on their boards of directors

Politics is not about numbers, it is about human beings. Numbers are rational and humans are animals that are  rational enough to get themselves into terrible trouble, but not really rational enough to extricate themselves from the trouble they can create. That might be the signature of our species and the epitaph of our planet.  DS

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