The question is, how much collateral damage will be done before things start working again?
In the wake of the sociopolitical and economic turmoil facing the Eurozone, and the West in general, one thing is becoming clearer: beyond a certain point, there’s no point talking about fixing something without addressing the reasons it doesn’t work.
In other words, to create something that works, one must first get rid of what doesn’t.
As things stand, Europe is dysfunctional, if not close to the brink. We’re at what one may call the ‘tipping point’ in the Wave Function (or Experiments) known as the European Union, post-war European democracy, and the free market economy.
The results speak for themselves. Political parties across the board vacillate, bicker, and kick the can down the road. Fear-mongers like Dijsselbloem, finance minister of the Netherlands and head of the Euro Group, enforce haircuts on bank deposits, appropriating private savings, while politicians of questionable value, like Wolfgang Schäuble, German finance minister, and Jyrki Katainen, Finnish Prime Minister, swell with hubris, insulting entire nations from the platform of economic righteousness.
Demetris Christofias, ex-president of Cyprus, ran the country like a third-rate grocery store
These agitators are joined in rank by the likes of Silvio Berlusconi, former premier of Italy, who behaves as if Italy were a circus; Demetris Christofias, ex-president of Cyprus, who ran the country like a third-rate grocery store; and the up-and-coming populist leaders of right and left parties across Europe, who spew vitriol and hatred, finding fault with everyone but themselves.
All signs point toward general conflict, political or other, that will culminate in the clash between opposing interests.
The focus is the growing economic divide between north and south Europe. The south is inefficient, dragging everyone down, while the north is belligerent, failing to lift up the weakest members of the union.
Let’s see how this plays out. First, the inefficient south has proven itself unable to run its states at sustainable rhythms. Something in that model has to give. Reform is imperative, and so is a change in cultural attitude. Without it southern Europeans either become slaves to their own vices or subjects to the disciplined northeners.
Second, the self-righteous and amnesic north has proven itself belligerent and ugly. It has forgotten about the aid it received not so long ago, when in dire straits itself; aid which helped it get back on track. It instead sits on its high horse, screaming at those in trouble to get their act together or fuck off, while filling its coffers with the money it makes by taking advantage of the crisis.
Problem is, if the periphery falls, so will the trade that comes with it. And down will come the Northern economies, crashing from Valhalla all the way to the foothills of Olympus, Vesuvius, and the Sierras, leaving the Umlauters wondering how it all went wrong.
Southerners need to become more disciplined and efficient. Northeners need to become less bellicose and more sensible.
Europeans in both the North and the South have to understand that both sides ought to relinquish what doesn’t work, adopting more functional models of behavior, to each their own. Southerners need to become more disciplined and efficient. Northeners need to become less bellicose and more sensible.
Should this not occur, because reform is often tricky — and Europe too culturally diverse to the point of dysfunction — change will come through protracted austerity, tension, civil unrest and, possibly, war.
Yes, there’s the possibility of war after all. Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and former head of the Euro Group, made a deliberate note of it recently, saying that ‘The demons have not been banished; they are merely sleeping.’
Having said that, there’s some merit to war, despite its grave consequences. Like an earthquake, it releases the tensions building up between conflicting tectonic plates, destroying whatever can’t stand the pressure, making space for something new.
That’s the cynical approach (although I prefer to call it ‘realistic’).
Let’s hope we don’t reach that stage. Change may yet be exercised through civil reform. A downgrade of living standards across the board may be exactly the kick necessary for everyone to start working together again, toward a viable union, from the politicians in the summits to the people on the ground, from the northern plains to the southern shores.