“Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away – they are privileges” – George Carlin.
Two weeks ago, the Greek prime-minister George Papandreou took the political establishment and financial markets by surprise, by doing something entirely unconscionable in a modern European democracy – he called a referendum. The austerity measures being demanded of Greece are terrifically unpopular with the citizens. Riots and strikes are breaking out across the country on a daily basis. The Greeks are well aware who is actually getting bailed out, and it’s not them. Only 19% of the bailout is going to the Greek people, with 81% going to financial institutions. Papandreou’s motives for the referendum may be forever unknown – a lust for a democratic mandate, brinkmanship, internal politicking, or pure skulduggery. Regardless, we now know what happens when the leader of a sovereign state goes up against the financial powers. As Silvio just found out.
It really goes against the grain for me to lament the political passing of Silvio Berlusconi. It’s not so much the fact that he has been given the old heave-ho, but who was doing the pushing. Berlusconi has long been the face of the worst aspects of Europe, and indeed Capitalism. He is a politician who represents the basest form of politics, what Slavoj Žižek’s calls “post-democratic” populism. A man who has made Italy “a kind of experimental laboratory of our future”. A country where strippers are appointed as the Minister For Equality. A country where politicians own football teams to gain support. A country where media empires are mere tools used by moguls to get their hands on the levers of power.
Yet however corrupted the Italian democratic system may be, at least it had basic democratic forms. At least the Italian people used to chose their leader. Well, it is now becoming perfectly plain who really is in charge – the banksters. Berlusconi was many things, but he wasn’t fooled by what the spectre of austerity would do to his country. “We can’t have politicians acting in the interests of their electorate” the banksters said. “HE MUST GO!” they roared. And off scuttled Silvio quietly into the political sunset.
The lunacy of creating a currency zone which is designed to restrict governments from running a deficit to stimulating their economies during a downturn has nothing to do with this crisis. The lunacy of attempting to create a currency zone with no mechanism for dealing with trade imbalances has nothing to do with this crisis. The lunacy of creating an economic system built on continuous exponential growth has nothing to do with this crisis. The likely peaking of oil production, and thus economic growth has nothing to do with this crisis.
It’s all the fault of lazy Greeks and crooked Italians, a corrupt bunch of lazy mediterraneans the lot of them. The fact that Greeks work longer hours than the Germans is irrelevant. That Italy has much lower total debt than Japan, UK, France, Spain, or South Korea cannot be mentioned in polite circles.
For anybody out there who still thinks that we live in functioning democracies, that the countries we inhabit are free and sovereign states, witht the capacity to decide policy based on the interests and wishes of their citizens, think again. Italy is a major world power. It is the 8th biggest economy in the world. It had an Empire. It has a rich history and culture. And even in Italy, the banksters call the shots.
It is now in hands of a technocrat, a technocrat who was magically appointed Senator for Life a couple of weeks ago. Let me just repeat that – an unelected senator is now the leader of the 8th largest economy in the world. This technocrat is a former adviser to Goldman Sachs, chairman of the European Trilateral Commision, and a leading member of the Bilderberg group. This plot reads like a script from a conspiracy theorists dream.
With the seeming collapse of the current economic model, are we witnessing the beginning of the formal end of Democracy, state by state? It is now time to fight back against the giant squid of financial capital. Get out on the streets. Occupy. Before it is too late. Fight for your rights.
Or, should I say, privileges.