I won’t pretend that this is the most fascinating subject ever or the most instructive video either but it is three minutes showing you what to do and what not to do when you want to fit a new window pane. You’ll need to measure the glass at 1mm less on both dimensions that the actual frame, some panel pins, a light hammer, some putty and some warm weather. Fitting a window on 15th February was not a brilliant move. Here’s the video:
Whilst these two countries have many differences, they also have much in common: neither can pay their debts without severe measures being imposed on them by the international banking ‘community’. It’s difficult to show quality footage from the Greek streets without showing the overly partisan propaganda from the political rioters or borrowing the gloat-fest from Russian TV or certain channels in autocratic states but here’s a taste of what went down on the streets of many cities on Sunday evening when the Greek Parliament agreed to another round of austerity measures six years into their recession. If you don’t want to watch it, this shows five minutes of attacks on police motorcyclists. It begins with them racing through a crowd, which responds aggressively. One of the police officers swerves to kick a protestor, loses control and then the violence really kicks off. This scene has been repeated throughout many cities in Greece for months.
As with most riots, there is much confusion and much that is clear. Large numbers of Greeks are now in contempt of anyone connected with official politics. There have even been reports of opposition MPs being attacked in the streets! They voted for the austerity measures too. Talk of choosing which taxes to pay has become commonplace and it seems likely that serious social unrest will continue in a chaotic manner for months to come. Huge numbers of people are now sleeping in the streets in Athens, not because they have joined some sort of new version of the Occupy movement. They have become homeless in the relentless recession.
Compare and contrast this situation with Iceland. Relative to the size the country, Iceland’s banking collapse is the largest in history. Curiously the UK’s elderly middle class played a key role in Iceland’s economic woes. They invested heavily in the Icelandic banks, having been attracted by interest rates that were too good to believe. There’s an old proverb for purchasing, which applies as much to investments as anything else – if a price appears to be good to be true, it probably is. Nudged on by trusted commentators like Robert Peston (who can hardly be blamed for reporting the facts), when the UK’s elderly middle class realised their mistaken financial adventure they commenced a run on the Icelandic banks, which failed. This is, of course, a crude summary. The point is that when their banks failed, instead of pumping the people’s money into them to keep them afloat, the Icelandic government just closed them down. The Icelandic government ignored the warnings from the apparently all powerful ratings agencies and let the banks fail. International Capital issued all sorts of dire threats and made various menacing remarks but look what has happened: the Icelandic economy has recovered, they’ve been able to get loans again on reasonable terms and there has not been a massive wave of social unrest. In fact they all got together and rewrote their country’s constitution instead, crowd sourcing the details. Sure, there have been protests but of a rather different nature. Here is a video of the Icelandic government walking close to a booing crowd. Apart from a few egg throwers it is very civilised. In fact the President’s wife peels off from the politicians and joins the crowd!
In the UK our biggest bank failed. Our government bailed it out with our money. Whether they had our consent or support to do that is definitely arguable. The banks then turned on the people that had bailed them out by raising interest rates and refusing credit left, right and centre. Time and again David Cameron talks about the ‘benefit’ the City of London has for the British economy. The political consensus between all the three main political parties makes listening to the news similar to being in Stalinist Russia – there is no longer a meaningful political debate. Even the journalists have bought into the new political hegemony. They don’t challenge those in charge.
Bankers have continued to receive enormous pay packets and the poor get poorer. Same old story, except that previously there was a labour movement which had the spunk to complain about this vast inequality and demand action for change. The Green Party has not yet obtained sufficient mass support to seriously challenge the political status quo. Essentially the UK’s economy is mired in scam-ridden financial services which exploit the rest of the world and cause much of the economic problems. Ever since the dark days of Thatcher, we have been relentlessly told that businesses which fail cannot be protected by the state even if their unmanaged disintegration will cause massive social upheaval. The hypocrisy with which our established politicians protect the banking industry is starkly obvious. We are told that these companies are too big to fail, that too many jobs are at risk, that too much is invested in them. Yet Iceland’s banks failed in a much bigger and more spectacular manner than the UK’s and the country let them go without suffering the problems that the UK economy has had.
The truth of the matter is that the major banks are now holding much of the world’s population to ransom. They pretend to own the world. The Greek situation demonstrates this very clearly – there were a series of secret derivative deals between their government and Goldman Sachs over much of the last decade, which lawfully circumvented financial reporting rules. Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob the world. Give a nation an unpalatable political option and there will be riots. Give them a choice and they will take sensible decisions.
Democracy requires there to be a choice of political options for people to choose between. Sure, there is a choice – anyone in the UK is free to vote for the Green Party but the fact is that the traditional big three parties have abandoned their democratic duties. There should be a meaningful opposition in the UK. Traditionally the opposition to the worst excesses of capitalism was provided by the Labour Party and, when they were in power, by the Liberals. Now they all sleep in the same bed. They compete only to show off what efficient managers of capitalism they can be. This situation does not lead to better political ideas emerging, it leads to people distrusting politicians even more. It leads to riots. We had some of those didn’t we? Our political class was quick to dismiss socio-economic factors as being causative of the riots. Our journalists weren’t quite so sure but generally went along with the established body politic. The rioters themselves were not offering alternative visions of society, apart from shopping with violence, but they were definitely contemptuous of political and moral authority which for many years has been a blanket smothering all opposition. The people who Newsnight spoke to (in the video below) repeatedly talk of wanting revenge on the police for the daily inconveniences they visit on people. Their world has become polarised into stark choices, where you’re either able to afford material goods and are treated properly by the police or you’re poor and are treated like shit.
Occupy London and other encampments around the UK attracted a huge mount of popular support but did not offer a coherent alternative vision to the status quo. My support for the Green Party is pretty obvious – even the background colour of this blog is Green! However, this is an appeal to all political parties and interested groups (except the thieving Tory bastards, of course). We need a choice of political ideas for our economy and society to tick properly. Without options, people feel straight jacketed and make their own rebellions: they stop paying taxes, they stop other forms of economic activity because to be without choices is to be without hope. This truth has been much adopted by modern capitalism. Our markets are bombarded with endless choices. Hundreds of types of shampoo do not enlighten our lives but the prospect that there might be a genuine debate between competing visions for society does act to preserve societal values. The present political hegemony pits us all against anyone powerful.