The lies that bind

Up here in the High Doganate, we are discussing whether we should vote “no” to austerity. The Germans haven’t sent us any money. (Well, there was one who sent us 50$, but that was months ago.) We’re wondering if a Greek-style “Big Fat No” might open their hearts and purses. I’m sure they love us (me, purple finches, some other birds up here) as much as they love the Greeks; maybe more.

So there, … we’ve just voted. Me, and after some rhetoric, the finches, … who are parading in celebration on the balconata as I write, like the people in the Plateia Syntagmatos. For after I explained the matter to them, they voted eleven “no,” to seven “yes.” (The rest ate their ballots.) And when the banks finally reopen, hooo are we going to live!

The idea that you are broke, and vote for no more austerity, is so “democratic.” No to austerity; no to paying debts; and no to the rich not giving us more money. I hope you Germans hear that: No, No, No!

Shades of Arab Spring; shades of Orange Revolution; shades of Venezuela. I have noticed, everything that gets the crowds out in political euphoria, ends badly. (Not “almost everything.” Everything.)

As ever, I think of all the people out, across Europe, on all the constitution squares, one hundred and one years ago, demanding that their governments “get tough” with all the other governments. Democracy truly spoke, in the spring and summer of 1914. Seventeen million dead, after all the euphoria. It was not the largest death toll, even to that point in human history. Millions more died in the Taiping Revolt in China, which had ended fifty years before. (That was China’s first essay in popular democracy.) And more, far more, would die in later conflicts.

It is now fifteen years since a socialist government in Greece fudged the national accounts to get into the euro in the first place. And that was on the tail of twenty years’ other fiscal games for subsidies from the EU. It wasn’t just a little lie: some of their numbers were (knowingly) off by an order of magnitude. It is a tiresome business to look back over: lie heaped on lie. And all these men in suits, too polite to call one; too fearful of the mob.

The party that now rules Greece, Syriza (an acronym from the merger of all the battiest, most demonic leftwing parties), has done a remarkable job of splitting the country, in just five months. You’re either with them or against them; they won’t leave you alone. They have every intention of nationalizing everything, and all of their assurances are worthless. The resemblance between Athens and Caracas has emerged: in Tsipras the Greeks have elected another Chavez; another Rattenfänger von Hameln.

I think all democracies end that way.

Honour, and honesty, are personal things, as all the other virtues; a person may have or lack them. Persons may be individually held to account, for what they have done; for the lies they have told. But this is not so for the collective — be it mob, or nation, or corporation. “Collective responsibility” means no responsibility at all. The best we can do is stand back from the mob: not bind ourselves to it.

But there is nothing to be troubled about. The world is as it is, and not different.