“Who’s driving this flying umbrella?”
I think I stole that one from the cartoon version of Robin Hood.
One of the things that has struck me repeatedly about the (extended) global economic crisis – which has been going on for the past three years now, is just how small today’s global political figures seem against the problems that the world faces.
One of the things I never quite understood about the Euro in the years between 1999 (when the original currencies had their exchange rates fixed) to 2002 (when the Euro currency came into being) was why there was no speculative attack against the Euro at the time. The response of my economics professors was that the politicians of the day were absolutely rock solid that they were going to make the Euro work.
Fast forward ten years to where we are today and we see political disunity across the EU on how to deal with this stupendously massive crisis that is also seeing some seismic changes in geo-political power and influence. How did they get to here and why?
“Above all, Europe needs to find a leadership group and a joint narrative; otherwise the centrifugal pressures will pull the whole project apart.
The problem: every one of these measures flies in the face of where the European electorates and peoples stand right now. And because nobody is offering to inflict significant losses on the banks, or taxation on the rich, or credit easing for the poor, there is nothing out of which to construct a narrative.”
That’s what we don’t have: A leadership group and a joint narrative. Perhaps never can have simply because of the significantly different political traditions and colours of national governments.
Bear in mind that all of this is being played out at a time of global climate change and the seemingly eternal global conflicts reflected in global arms spending rising in 2010 despite the global recession.
I am struggling to work out just how the world can get itself out of the situation it and we find ourselves in. I can’t help but feel that the standard policies that have been used have failed – and perhaps always were. The sense of injustice over ease at which those that got us into the crisis are not being held accountable is also striking – did we really get into the situation we are in by people acting completely legally? If not, why have there been no prosecutions? Why does Fred Goodwin still have his knighthood?
There is then the issue of the alternatives. The Financial Transactions Tax is one that has been gaining ground from a growing number of well-known names – as well as opposition from its detractors. At least these and other ideas are being discussed beyond the ‘usual suspects’. Business as usual for me can no longer be an option. But what does ‘business not as usual’ look like?
It’s how these things are playing out locally that are just as important as how they are playing out locally. The heartbreaking accounts of people who have taken on huge levels of debt to go to university only to find themselves in a jobs market where there are so few to go around, to the housing crises that have now come to the fore but as far as I am concerned never went away during the so-called ‘boom’ times. Rises in public transport fares are not making things any better for those who are in employment, ditto with rising food and fuel prices.
I don’t know whether it’s something to do with our conditioning – my conditioning even, in that I find the fact that no one seems to be in control of what’s going on being quite frightening. I go into further detail on this in my post Is middle class no longer magical? where I look at the desire of middle class types for stability and the quiet life. This extended economic crisis has ripped up the stability for a lot of people – myself included.
Finally, the one thing that has been a feature of the past few weeks – days even, is the sheer speed of these huge events. I’m still trying to get my head around what has happened, and I guess there are more than a few people on the inside of what’s going on trying to do the same thing.