Reprinted from Empire Burlesque
The people of Greece are being driven to their knees by a gang of brutal religious extremists, willing to destroy whole nations for the sake of something that doesn't even exist. Yet the "civilized" world cheers these barbarians on as they despoil the cradle of Western democracy.
Greece is facing total collapse unless it knuckles under to the draconian demands of the bizarre cultists known as the Troika, a sinister union of three extremist groups (the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission) who seek to impose their harsh and rigid way of life across the world. They insist that control of a nation's wealth be given over to a few powerful emirs and the Troika's favored moneylenders in its richer satrapies.
All measures designed to aid the common good and build a decent life for ordinary citizens are ruthlessly suppressed by the Troikaists. Public resources are forcibly sold off -- at knock-down prices -- to foreign interests or local lordlings. The fact that millions of people are left destitute, living diminished lives in crumbling infrastructure, growing sicker, weaker, more hopeless, even dying from want and neglect -- none of this matters to the ruthless fanatics. All that matters is obedience to their will, and adherence to the Troika's bleak and joyless system for the regulation of life, which its learned theologians call austerity.
The supremely comfortable, self-satisfied burghers and bankers who control the Troika's factions, along with their dutiful servants in government, are watching, impassively, as the Greeks twist and turn in the poisonous shirt of Nessus that the cult has forced upon them. Already brought low by years of austerity adopted by their leaders in a vain attempt to placate the Troikaist hordes at the border, this week the Greek people face the final reckoning: complete submission, which guarantees more ruin, or a terrifying leap into the unknown, refusing the demands and suffering whatever acts of revenge the Troika will wreak upon such heretics.
It's a remarkable situation. Millions of human beings are suffering, and for what? To repay a few powerful financial institutions for the loans they gave to the Greek government -- loans which, by odd coincidence, were actually spent almost entirely on servicing previous debt to those same financial institutions. Very little of it went into the Greek economy, as the NY Times notes. It was a case of taking on new debt to pay off old debt (a situation not unknown to many of us, I'm sure), as the country slipped further into decay.
Yet it was not enough for the cultists to loan money for Greece to give right back to them; they also required that Greece restructure its society, government and economy to fit the Troika's neoliberal straitjacket. Taxes had to be raised. (For ordinary folk, of course; rich Greeks -- like the rich everywhere -- can still use complex tax-dodging schemes to stash their cash offshore.) Government spending -- especially on such useless trash as pensions, welfare, education, healthcare -- had to be ruthlessly slashed. The labor market had to become more "flexible" -- that is, stripped of job protections and workers rights, making it easier to fire people or pay them less. Deregulation and privatization were also commanded.
But why? The ostensible reason was that these austerity measures would make the Greek economy roar like a lion in his prime. But even an economist is smart enough to see that making a bankrupt country even poorer and more desperate while preventing it from injecting bailout funds into its economy is a recipe for ruination, not a blueprint for growth. And the past four years have proved that Troika's austerity sharia has not and cannot produce "growth" in a broken economy with 25 percent unemployment. (The same percentage as in the US during the depths of the Great Depression.)
And why this time limit on the repayment? Even on the relatively small downpayment (around $1.5 billion) being demanded immediately -- a payment that the bankrupt nation simply can't pay at the moment. Why not stretch the payments out -- way, way out, if necessary? After all, Britain only paid off its post-World War II rebuilding loan from the United States in 2006 -- exactly 50 years after it was given. Why couldn't Greece be given the time to work out its economic problems -- in its own way, without mutilating its society -- and pay back its debts over the long haul?
But of course it's not about the money. As many have already pointed out, the Troika knows that Greece is bankrupt and can't pay back the money. (Unless, as with the UK, they are given generations to do so, on easy terms that don't require them to bleed their people dry and gut their own society.) No, the current squeeze on Greece is about the system, the imposition of austerity sharia that is the lodestar of the Troika's blinkered religious beliefs. If Greece will not accept the system, then it must be punished, it must be made an example. In short, it's an act of terroristic PR, like the ISIS beheading videos: a warning that this is the fate of all those who refuse to submit.
What, in the end, is at stake? Literally nothing. Numbers on a computer screen. It's not as if Greece has a hoard of German gold hidden in the Acropolis and won't give it back. It's not even as if the Greeks have warehouses full of banknotes that they can send back to the Troika. All of it -- the debts, the loans -- are abstract notions. The debt could be written off with the press of a delete key, or reduced by the subtraction of a zero or two on a digital spreadsheet. So could the losses of the lenders. (Although why shouldn't the lenders lose their money? You put up your money, you take a risk, and if the venture fails, you lose. Isn't that the 'free market' way? But of course there is no free market; there are only systems of exchange that powerful entities seek to control and manipulate to their advantage. There is no free market in any system where some enterprises are "too big to fail" and must be bailed out by the sustenance of ordinary citizens.)
Money is a myth, sustained by the faith of those who accept whatever is the arbitrary measurement of value in any given time or society. (Beads, shells, axes, coins, ingots, strips of paper, liquid crystals dancing on a screen.) Yet throughout history, these myths have led to the deaths and despoliation of millions of innocent people. It is a myth that perpetuates inequality, servitude, suffering, and the dominion of a powerful few.
The latest installment of this ancient tragedy is being played out right now in Greece, where tragedy was born. And the extremism being displayed by the Troika is just as mindless, destructive and merciless as that of the violent Islamists that the "defenders of Western civilization" have done so much to foment in their global power games.