The Indignants (Los Indignados) started off as a group of demonstrators in Spain protesting against their government’s latest economic measures.
The concept grew rapidly, expanding to Greece, the USA, and many other countries, spawning hybrid movements, such as Occupy Wall Street and the global Occupy meme.
The movement’s goals are simple and straightforward. They claim to represent the vast majority of the population, protesting against social and economic injustice, eager to hold the ones responsible for the financial crisis accountable.
They also want to bring the economy to functional, working order.
Like I said, simple, straightforward and inspiring. On the surface anyway. When you delve deeper, things get complicated.
In A Cracked Nutshell
The banking cartels and central banks of the world are at odds with the majority of the world’s population. At least this is how the story goes. The Indignant, anti-banking movements of the world reject and resist all forms of financial economic manipulation, anything that funnels a citizen’s wealth to the banks. They see a scam, behind which are the nefarious financial elite, whose aim is to make the banks and corporations richer and bigger at the expense of the average individual.
Part of the scenario is valid. Some banks have indeed gotten bigger and stronger over these past few years, from too big to fail to outright humongous, keeping for themselves a lot of the cash loaned out to them by the Fed, money they were given for the sole purpose of loaning it to customers, enterprises and small businesses. This means they didn’t own up to their end of the bargain. They kept the money out of circulation, within their inter-banking circuits.
On top of that they received a secret 7.7 trillion-dollar loan, behind the legislature’s back no less (in this case, the US Congress, which wasn’t consulted), for further recapitalization.
Over to Europe now. There’s nothing like an almost bankrupt country to spark a feeding frenzy. Greece, devastated by its shoddy finances and politics, had to call in the big guns to get the mess sorted out. After initial analysis, the diagnosis was clear: Greece was at the brink of bankruptcy and needed financial assistance.
Thus, the state came under the supervision of the Troika (IMF, EC, ECB), from which it would henceforth receive instructions on how to run its affairs.
It was an unpopular but inevitable move. Since Greece’s politicians had proven incapable of managing the country, leading it down the path to ruin, and since the bailout money necessary for refinancing the state came from these three institutions, it was only natural, if not fair, that Greece’s finances and politics be surrendered to the terms of those putting up the money.
The aim was to restructure the state and make it functional, productive and competitive again. To do so, the agreement stipulated the privatization and overhaul of public – and completely dysfunctional – sectors and services. Logical in theory, hard to implement in practice, at least over the short period of time dictated by the terms, it was the yardstick by which the efficacy of the agreement would be measured.
The overall package had a number of advantages for the lenders. The sectors that were up for sale were going at discount prices. With the country in dire straits, there was little negotiating power on her part and plenty of opportunity to squeeze it. Word on the corporate and financial grapevine was that brokers and executives were flocking to Greece for a fire-sale, acquiring assets at insanely competitive prices.
In other words, this was the perfect opportunity to make a killing.
And a killing they made. Greek sovereignty was handed over, in both paper (to the Troika) and practice (to the dealmakers and corporations), taking out Greek sovereignty in fell swoops.
No wonder the Greek people, regardless of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to shipshape the country, reacted with indignation. They realized that their infrastructure and assets were getting sold to the most connected bidder, and they didn’t like it. They had something to say about it. They demonstrated even harder, protesting everything that was thrown at them, from unbearable taxes to austerity measures, to unemployment and poverty, to callous policy-making that was inflicted on them from high up.
Now, given the severity of these developments, you’d expect the people of the world to be outraged by what the financial elite did to Greece and its people. Setting aside the imperative behind the Greek state’s restructuring process for a moment, which everyone recognized as absolutely necessary, our focus should have been on how this restructuring was carried out – on the severity and callousness with which it was implemented – on the lack of empathy for an individual’s problems in the wake of this abrupt transition. Making a killing on a nation’s resources and assets under international law’s blessing was an atrocious act. The Indignants and anti-bankers, in fact the entire 99% of the world, were suddenly presented with the perfect scenario, through which to make their long-standing case against their plutocrat despots, their brokers and minions. This was the exact evidence they’d been looking for to corroborate their claims, and the uproar should have been tremendous.
Yet, lo and behold, the globe’s indignation over what happened was moot. Apart from some Spanish, Italian and Portuguese stirrings, the world’s anti-banking Robin Hoods fell silent. Save a smattering of meta-Soviet communist garble, which no one took seriously, nothing of substance was said. In fact, the only loud and coordinated response was the mass anger and outrage against – yes, against! – the Greek people, holding them accountable for the European economy’s bad health, urging them to stop protesting and get on with the program i.e. obey the Troika’s instructions, restructure their country as fast as they were being told, and shut the hell up.
A strange reaction from an anti-banking, anti-corruption movement that wants to prevent the banks and big finance from taking over people’s wealth, wasn’t it?
And Justice For All – Save Those Below Us
The above example, taken from the gritty headlines of everyday reality, illustrates with clear and damning precision the contradictions in the movement against financial corruption, unaccountability, and greed. In its aftermath, the people of the world, the proverbial 99%, have revealed themselves – a fragmented, disjointed, nonaligned movement, regardless of whether they protest on the ground, at the gates of corporate buildings, or from their homes and living rooms, behind closed doors and among friends. They (we) are a movement whose interests shatter and disintegrate as soon as they cross national boundaries.
People in the USA, for example, may protest against Wall Street and its corrupt agents, demanding that the plutocrats be held accountable for the economy’s state, commanding them to stop exploiting their buying power to suck Main Street dry – but turn around and look across the pond, where a crisis threatens to dip the US stock market and economy into another recession, and the Indignant Americans cry wolf, damning those pesky Greeks and Italians, who go on strike all the time, who insist on not getting with the program, who defy instructions at will.
These no-good, lazy bastards in Europe deserve everything they get, think the 99% of America and the rest of the world.
And there you have it! – a reversal of the roles within the movement. The 99% take a chapter straight out of the finance books, applying the same principles they so vehemently oppose where their territories and interests are concerned.
They have good reason to do this, at first glance, at least where Greece and Italy are concerned. Greek early retirement, mammoth benefits, institutionalized tax evasion, mis-allocation of EU grants for micro-political purposes, ingratitude at being bailed out at a price – all of them real, and unsustainable.
Add to that the Italian shadow economy, more tax evasion, a massive bond debt, a gigolo leadership, clown politics, and 60-plus governments since WWII, and there you have it: an outrageous, ridiculous situation that deserves no less than forty lashes, stat, and a kick in the backside. ‘You played and lost, suckers! Now surrender your homes and mortgages. And get with the program.’
Funny thing is, back in 2008, after the US banks had loaned loads and loads of money to people in what were later identified as bad sub-prime mortgages, there was a mass uproar at the foreclosures that followed. No one blamed the individuals who borrowed money way beyond their means. They blamed the banks for misleading and stringing people along, asking for the heads of the bankers, pointing out their inhumanity during the repossession process.
The Greeks and Italians got strung along by their bankers and politicians, just as Americans did.
Why aren’t they getting the same sympathy?
Et Tu, EU?
It’s not just the Americans, by the way. The German 99% are also being callous and opportunistic. Tired of being abused by corrupt bankers and their minions, they demand a return to saner economics – they want their lives handed back to them, and fair play restored – but where Greece is concerned, their standards change. Their indignation at the banks no longer applies. Greeks better get in line, or else, and they better do it schnell, if they want to survive. We, German taxpayers, are not going to bail Greece out, we don’t care about her people. This is German money, hard-earned with hard work, toil and discipline. Why should we hand it over to losers and failures?
So think/say the Germans, and make no secret about it.
And so do the Finns, the Danes, the Brits, the Swedes. And so do the French, who, having found themselves heavily invested in Greek debt, care of local and international bankers, are now afraid that their economy will go down, following Italy, of course.
So get in line Greeks and Italians, allez! There’s no time to lose. The Germans are breathing down our necks, and so are the credit rating houses. If we go down, Germany goes down, and we can’t afford that. We’re too big to fail, mon dieu! So are China, Japan, and the USA. Allez! Get moving, PIGS, hand over your mortgages and assets, and stop protesting the damn austerity measures.
Boom! (Crack! to be precise). There goes sanity, shattered to smithereens (factions?), flowing down the indignation drain, all 99% of it. The disappointment and uproar against corrupt high finance loses its meaning and credibility as the rich and accomplished parts of the globe vilify and condemn the poorer and struggling parts, reluctant to exercise the same indignation they displayed when their banks and corporations were bailed out with their own taxpayers’ money. They’re unwilling to redistribute continental/international wealth where others are concerned, but insist that wealth is redistributed in their countries.
Now do you get how the anti-banking, anti-wealth, anti-corruption movement has a long way to go before it has a chance to address callousness and corruption?
For now it’s business as usual. Everyone is hogtied in a perverse circus act, the banks on top, everyone else below, with the world’s citizens protesting the intolerable injustice perpetrated on them by the rich(er), while demanding that the poor(er) fall in line and do as they’re told.
No wonder the bankers watch all this from their balconies, laughing their heads off. They may not be laughing for much longer, but for now their amusement is an unmistakable sign of how fragmented and self-contradictory the indignant, anti-banking, 99% movement is.