Tuesday, 17 February 2015

We are Spartacus - We are Syriza

Market transactions are inherently unstable. Contrary to fantasy economics, as soon as circumstances allow a minority to leverage themselves into a stronger bargaining position, they will exploit others and push to get a bigger and bigger share out of any deals for themselves. Unless there are robust rules and regulations to maintain a level playing field, this minority will grow in wealth and power.

In the run-up to the Great Depression in the early 20th century, the wealthy elite reached the position where they were taking such a large share of the world’s wealth that the poor were unable to purchase the goods and services that were being produced. But instead of taking less in profit and paying more in wages, their one thought was to make more money by lending money to the have-nots who would then have to pay back with interest to the have-plentys.

Of course squeezing people’s pay and pushing them into debt was not, and never will be, a sustainable strategy. When the debt mountain reached crisis point (compounded by people borrowing money to gamble on stocks and shares), the world’s economy collapsed.

A century on, the financial elite have been at it again. Profits flow to the wealthy and powerful, and debts are piled on the poor and vulnerable. To prop up this one-sided system, austerity has been deployed to silence those who may otherwise object to such structural distortions. But the people who have been saddled with the bill of banking irresponsibility are not going to remain silent anymore.

In Greece, Syriza are demanding a fairer deal. What happens in their negotiations with the Eurogroup will have major implications for all of us. And in their quest for social justice and economic sanity, we are all Syriza.

In this context, a reliable source close to the negotiations at the 17 February 2015 Eurogroup meeting has asked for the following message to be shared widely so people know what is really going on:

“Dear all,
As you probably already know, tonight things did not go well at the Eurogroup 17 February. There are several rumors around, leaked documents which make the big picture confusing.

The following paragraphs give the basic story - which might change Europe's future in the coming weeks. Please forward this text to anyone who can contribute at spreading the word in the public domain:

As you may have heard things did not go well. There was a compromise deal brokered by Juncker and agreed to by Draghi and Lagarde and Moscovici. But it was sunk by Djisselbloem, presumably on German pressure. In the Eurogroup meeting and the subsequent press conference, there was little help from either Lagarde or Moscovici.

They say => complete the existing programme with some flexibility in implementation on our part but they never tell us what this flexibility will entail. On the contrary, they say sign first and then we will discuss with you areas of flexibility

We say => give us a bridging programme and we have spelt out our commitments not only during the bridging period but also for the essential elements of the new compact with our partners long term

We have done our best to reach a reasonable compromise. What we have faced is naked power and blackmail.”

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Davos' Inferno

[Davos Davidson, whose family amassed a fortune from buying up privatised hospitals all over the world, died in one of them last night. An hour later, he found himself transported to the gates of hell. Behind a burning desk sat an angel with pristine white wings jutting out from behind her black leather jacket.]

A: Mr. Davos Davidson, I presume. We’ve been expecting you.

D: Listen, there’s been some mistake. I should be at the other place, not here. Now if you could rectify that immediately, I wouldn’t have to waste my time filing an official complaint.

A: I’m sorry you feel like that, sir, but you’re definitely at the right place. We have a clear record of what you’ve done your whole life.

D: I don’t like your tone, young lady. Get me your supervisor.

A: We self-supervise.

D: Why am I not surprised! This place reeks of shabby management. You won’t have receptionists working for me wearing a leather jacket on duty. Bet this is all part of some inefficient public monopoly.

A: There is no place for privatised operations around here. Old Nick tried to externalise part of our services once, but it didn’t quite go according to plan. You can speak to him about it yourself, he’s in charge of interrogating our inmates these days.

D: Move me to heaven now, and I’ll make a suitable transfer to your account.

A: Your money is no good here. And I should remind you that the sooner you accept what is in store for you and begin to show some remorse, the more chance you have of getting a probation hearing, say, a few hundred years from now.

D: Remorse? I’m a multi-billionaire, a wealth creator, an entrepreneur, not to mention a generous donor to my local parish church. I should have a prime site set aside for me. Put me through to God at once, or you’re going to get the sack.

A: Mr. Davos Davidson, all you have done in your life is to take advantage of the fact that you and your kind have dominated the market place between you, so people have to work for you for a pittance, while you take an ever-larger share of the proceeds generated by their labour. Your inherited land, houses, shares, and companies help to inflate your wealth, but you treat others left behind with utter contempt. Out of their insecurity and misery you keep making more profits.

D: I don’t want a commie rant from you. I want a word with God.

A: What I read out was a message from God to you.

D: That’s ridiculous! What about all my hospitals, they’re there day in, day out, easing pain and saving lives? That must count for something.

A: God knows all about your hospital work: how you donated large amounts to politicians who then sold public hospitals to you for a token sum. You then cut health workers pay, and charged patients exorbitant fees. Those who were penniless were turned away; and those who couldn’t pay the full fees for the consultation or operation given would be hit with high interest debt pursuits, with many losing their life savings and homes to your company.

D: Without people like me, the world would be full of dull, lazy people with no innovation or grandeur.

A: Actually, heaven is without people like you, and it’s simply divine – not that you’ll ever find out.

[The angel waved her hand, and Davos Davidson disappeared through the trap door opened beneath him. He was never seen again, except by that one-time entrepreneur, Old Nick.]

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Debunking Culture Wars

Throughout history whenever an exploitative elite have found a way to amass wealth and power for themselves – through their control of weapons or markets – they have had to face up to a tricky question: how can they divert the exploited from joining forces and end their dominion?

If people could see what was happening – their common resources, the fruits of their combined labour, all taken over by a few who give them the odd crumbs in return – they would surely unite in rejecting the status quo. So the key is to divide them into rival camps amongst themselves and fan their animosity towards each other to such an extent that they pay little attention to the real oppressors.

And the easiest way to do this is to set alight the mythical flame of ‘Culture Clash’. The formula is simple enough. Tell people that they are wholly defined by some monolithic culture derived from their tribe, their ethnic customs, their country, their religion, or anything else that comes in handy. Make each group think that ‘their’ culture is so inherently precious that any hint that another cultural group may attempt to change it or deviate from it in words or deeds, must be met with dismay, outrage, or even aggression.

Once people succumb to the viral deception that their ‘own’ culture has all the answers and cannot possibly be modified or improved in any way whatsoever, their misguided loyalty to a mere label is ready to be channelled into ferocious hostilities against false enemies, leaving the oppressors to go on luxuriating in their mansions and palaces.

In reality, cultures are of course not hermetically-sealed entities. At any time, people carry with them a multitude of cultural tendencies which undergo continuous development. And in the light of on-going experiences, beliefs are revised, priorities are shifted, and inclinations are altered. Furthermore, these adaptations do not follow any single path. People reflect on their experiences, experiment with options, and learn new ways of thinking. In truth, rarely, if ever, do people of the same city, religion, country, or broadly the same skin tone, possess exactly the same interpretations of what their apparent cultural inheritance means.

So instead of allowing the world to be presented as composing of a series of self-contained cultures, each binding its exclusive ‘members’ to a uniform set of detailed beliefs and practices, we should teach everyone that what exists is a vast number of overlapping cultures – each offering a mix of notions that people associated with it interprets in their own ways, and all of them contributing elements which over time are combined or reconfigured in diverse manners.

Cultures do not in fact divide us into watertight, internally homogenous camps. Whatever ethnic background, tradition, religion, geographical attachment, customs and loyalties, people may in some sense share, they will also have differences within those groups just as they will have similarities with other groups. Cultural development, except perhaps under the most fanatical totalitarian regimes, has never been about moulding people into identikit followers of a single set of prescribed doctrines. On the contrary, multiplicity of cultures enable us to compare, contrast, revise and enrich our beliefs and dispositions.

There is no absolute culture, superior to others in all places for all time. Such a concept has only been put forward to fool people into diversionary conflicts. Once the illusion of ‘Culture’ as battle encampment has been removed, people will see where the real threat to their wellbeing lies.