Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The politics of denial

“When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent. The term is not a slur; it is a technical label.”

– Jacques Barzun ‘From Dawn to Decadence.’

In many ways the present crisis in Europe is quite clearly as much a political as an economic crisis. The Eurozone for instance is not suffering from a solvency crisis but rather a balance of payments issue. It has all the tools to resolve questions of solvency in the ECB and a collective of wealthy nations with ripe assets and productive peoples. The issue rather is political and navigating a political course in order to unlock the tools within the Eurozone to start to resolve its imbalances.

Unfortunately what has been thrown up by the Eurozone crisis is the complete lack of political will to do the deed. Perhaps I am flattering the intelligence of the European leadership but I think they do understand all of the problems they face and they can foresee a solution. I disagree with the broader chorus in columns and blogs expressing frustration at the leaders’ ability to grasp the seriousness of the crisis. But what has been exposed to my mind (aside from the obvious difficulty of the lack of political coordination) is the utter contempt that the political leaders have for their people. It is either that or their people should be held in utter contempt.

Never forget the power of denial. Even if said leaders understand the intractable pain that is inevitable for the Eurozone they cannot tell their people perhaps because their people do not want to hear it. This need to play up domestic interests seems to be ensuring the worst of all possible outcomes for the Eurozone. Are the educated people of Europe so foolish that they cannot see that there are now no solutions which are not painful. So either it is the arrogance of the leaders who believe that the people (who are allegedly sovereign) will never be able to accept the truth or it is the denial of the people who want to blame another for their crisis.

In the end perhaps it is both, because one has the leader one deserves. Remember the Italian people voted for Berlusconi; they voted for an endless sideshow of tacky game shows and bimbos. The French voted for an egoist who wants to cavort on the world stage but is so insecure he poses on his tip-toes for official photographs. Even in the UK we have a leader who is a baby faced replicant (h/t Charlie Brooker) and appears as some form of inoffensive catch all dummy.

Perhaps we need either a trickster or a heroic Cassandra to drag as through these turbulent times. Growth is hard (and I don’t just mean economic growth). Challenges and crisis that arise must be stood up to with faith and an honest inventory of options. But as so many comments from the public suggest on so many blogs and news articles what we would rather do is blame others.

Until we can take responsibility for our collective failings we cannot move on from this present crisis. Blame is the name of the game certainly in the UK. First people blamed the bankers, now it’s the public sector pensions, next it will be the eurocrats. But where were ordinary ‘families’ complaining when their houses were going up 10% a year? Nobody asked any questions as to why they were getting richer? There was no suspicion. Well now we all have a responsibility and a need to make sacrifices. Until we face up to this we will continue to have the leaders we deserve. Spineless individuals whose sole skill seems to be twisting the reality (its called spin) to advocate what is convenient for the politics of the day. Frankly this sounds like all of us. We believe what is convenient for us to believe. We want our denial and we don’t want to face the truth and we will slaughter those who shatter our collective illusions.

This crisis will likely ferment a new leadership arising from the disenfranchised of today. Perhaps once again we will have leaders emerging with honest hearts and a new conception of the way we should proceed. But not until we change our own hearts too.

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love

- John F Kennedy

Remeber; Nobody is innocent.

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