Archives for posts with tag: Germany

Maybe it’s to early… I’ll take my chances though.

Germany has weathered this crises a lot better than most of her neighbors.

There are no toll- booths on the German highways. Not that I know of, anyway.

And what has this to do with anything?!?

Well, does your heart bill you for its services?
Your lungs? Your gut? Brain?
The immune system?
Even if each of them works at a cost… for the whole organism!

The health care system is the social equivalent of the immune system.

We, each cultural community around the world, might treat it as an industry. Fine tuned to maximize profit.
Or as a social service. Meant to protect the society from the consequence of disease. And run as efficiently as possible, of course. But sized to be able to cope with reasonably estimated ‘loads’.

There is a fine balance to be held here, of course. A multi-dimensional equilibrium, actually.

It depends on us, as individual members of the brain, to fine tune that equilibrium.

Or else…


People may find themselves in three situations.
‘Coasting’, trying to climb back up to their former position or hitting a glass ceiling.

All societies – past, present and future, were, are and will forever be composed of various mixtures of ‘coasters’, ‘back climbers’ and ‘glass ceiling hitters’.

Please note that I’m dealing in self-referentials here. This is about how individual people describe themselves when speaking to themselves.
The coasters enjoy the life they had designed/expected for themselves.
The ‘back-climbers’ attempt to regain the position/status they believe it was rightfully theirs but had been robbed of in circumstances outside their control.
The ‘glass ceiling hitters’ are… busy hitting the famous glass ceiling.

If a society is composed of a ‘healthy’ number of coasters combined with a manageable number of ‘back-climbers’/’glass ceiling hitters’ then the frustration felt by the latter – which tends to tear apart the social fabric, can be compensated by the sheer mass/inertia of the joy experienced by the former. Hence the society can be described as being ‘stable’.

Whenever the ‘back climbers’ or the ‘glass ceiling hitters’ get the upper hand, things start to unravel. Or to fall apart…

To understand what I’m driving at, please consider the pre-revolutionary Russia and the German society after WWI.

Russia was an extremely hierarchical social organism. The birth-place was ‘definitive’. And most of them led to very unpleasant lives. The vast majority of the population, from muzhiks to intelligentsia, could not break through the glass ceilings allocated to each of them, at birth.

The defeated German population had found itself in a very unpleasant situation. After having been told they had been instrumental in preserving order in Europe – as the back bone of the army who had defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and kept in check Napoleon III, they found themselves at the receiving end of history… After their fathers had witnessed the Parisians eating their zoo animals during the 1870 siege, the Germans were reduced to hunting food scraps themselves.

A horse being butchered on a Munich sidewalk in 1918 or 1919.

Hence the difference between communism and nazism. Both equally authoritarian in nature, each of them springs from completely different social circumstances.
Which explains why ‘progressives’ have such a high tolerance for communism…

While the ‘back climbers’ attempt only to reinstate the order they were accustomed to – order which has already been proven dysfunctional by what had happened, the ‘glass ceiling breakers’ are always attempting to open new roads. Very enticing from the ‘progressive’ point of view…

Fact is that both communism and nazism/fascism are artificial.
Figments of frustrated intellectual imagination.
Both ideologies have been put together by thinkers and only followed by ordinary, desperate people.

I borrowed this title from the BBC because it frames nicely what I wanted to say.

First of all I’m at a loss to understand why so many people considers this to be a ‘Greek debacle’? Did the Greeks lend money to themselves and then refused to pay or this whole mess started years ago, when some private banks supplied huge amounts of money to a country notorious for her shoddy ways?
Then, when Greece was way outside the European norms about how much debt a country might have if it wished to join the Eurozone, the Greek Government lied blatantly and the European officials knowingly turned a blind eye in that direction.
Later, when Brussels started to make noises about this issue the Greek Government, instead of finding a way to pay some of the debt, used another ‘creative solution’ – a currency swap organized by Goldman Sachs. This time Euro-stat rubber-stamped the deal. Now the blame is put entirely on Goldman Sachs.

In 2010, after it became apparent that Greece was no longer able to service its foreign debt – at that time owned mostly by private banks, a first bailout plan was arranged. In 2011 a second one. This way ownership of most of Greece’s debt was transferred from private to public hands.

On the other hand giving Greece a ‘haircut’ now, before they had even started to mend their crooked ways, would be an insult towards the Irish, the Portuguese and the Spanish – who had all swallowed the bitter austerity pill.

And yet.
Moral hazard aside we have to consider two things. Greece is different from the rest of the Euro-zone and Greece’s accrued debt is so huge relative to it’s GDP that none in his right mind would ever expect it to be payed back. In this respect what is happening now is nothing but an exercise of ‘kicking the can down the alley’.

Now let me explain in which way Greece is different and why this is important for the future of the EU.

Samuel Huntington has put forward a very interesting theory in which he argues that “The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.” And as you can see in this map, borrowed from Huntington’s book, via Wikipedia, Greece does not belong to the same cultural space as the ‘Western Europe’.
Huntington has drawn that map using the dominant religion as a criterion, in Europe as well as in other parts of the world. Nevertheless he probably has ‘felt’ that his method has it’s shortcomings. America is divided into ‘Latin American’ and ‘Western’ but Europe is not divided into ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’.
And rightly so because what happened in Catholic South America is currently happening in ex Soviet dominated Eastern Europe AND in Greece: rampant and casual corruption that tears apart the social fabric.
What if the nations that inhabit these two cultural spaces have something more in common than ‘top-down’ religious systems – both Orthodox and Catholics have a rather rigid ecclesiastical hierarchy?
Relatively little experience at being independent? At thinking with their own heads, as nations? At being proud of their constant success as teams instead of defining themselves relative to something that had happened in their distant past?

A modern independent nation is, or more precisely used to be, defined by the fact that the elite understands its mission and takes it seriously. Because of that – the positive results, that is, the masses are content with their current elite and follow it – consciously or not so consciously.
A country where the population hasn’t fully reached the ‘national’ stage of development experiences an almost schizophrenic situation. The individuals who should gather together, coalesce into an elite and run country are more preoccupied with their individual short term well being than with making sure that their own children will be able to live in a fully functional country when they grow up. For this reason the general public doesn’t trust the ‘leaders’. And this mutual distrust/disrespect has a very practical consequence: corruption becomes the modus vivendi of the entire society.

It is relatively simple to understand that a relationship of mutual respect between the elite and the general public needs a rather long time to develop and that the process has to take place unhindered by outside intervention. That’s why it cannot take place while the country is dominated by a colonial power, by an imperium or in any other way.
That’s why the peoples that live in South America have only recently started to make peace with their politicians – and not in all countries yet:  they might have conquered their independence from Spain and Portugal almost 200 years ago only their elites had everything in their minds but the general well being of the countries they were running. On top of that the former colonial powers and later the US have all intervened in the daily life of their former colonies/neighbors, further hindering their natural development.
Same thing happened in Eastern Europe. The Baltic States, Poland and Hungary have been, on and off, under foreign occupation but not for so long as to severely damage their development. In contrast Romania, Bulgaria and Greece had not enjoyed real freedom since the XIV-th century. And after they did became independent their elite went looking elsewhere for inspiration. Towards Western Europe at first and to the Soviet Union afterwards.  A somewhat natural thing, given the circumstances, but which did little to forge fully functional nations out of their populations.
Meanwhile the ‘man in the street’ has developed a particular strategy for surviving. He trusts nobody but his family  and close friends and doesn’t pay taxes unless he really has to. He has no qualms to take ‘bribes’ from the state – early retirement, subsidies, etc. – but that doesn’t mean he will trust the politicians that ‘distributed’ those ‘gifts’.

What is happening now, when the European elites are supposed to take their cue from Brussels, is not helping much. Ms Merkel is preoccupied primarily with her own constituency and the EU top brass are fully aware that Berlin has the last word about who gets what top notch European position. Any wonder smaller nations feel ‘neglected’? We should keep in mind that, as Great Britain is just one example, that Europeans do not feel towards the EU what the Americans feel towards the good old US of A.
Eastern Europeans have a particularly hard time. They want to get in the EU – they are both fed up with their local politicians and would like to be part of a working environment but at the same time they have a rather ambivalent attitude towards the EU institutions. This institutions enjoy a lot of respect from the Easterners, because they had worked properly – until not so long ago, at least, but at the same time they are watched with great apprehension. People who have had to take, in the past, their cue from ‘foreigners’ are somewhat weary of this whole thing.

So yes, I’m afraid that the euro-zone will be damaged by the current crises only I don’t think we should be speaking of a ‘Greek debacle’.  In fact the union itself – the European elite, to be more precise – has not entirely fulfilled its duty.

The sooner we understand that, the sooner we’ll know what to demand of it. And maybe we’ll be able to bridge the cultural divide mentioned by Huntington.

The alternative would be dire. The Russian elite – not the Russian people itself, only a fragment of its elite – will grab the opportunity to extend their influence. And by doing so to continue to hinder the natural development of the Eastern European nations. Including Modern Greece.

“The wiser of the two equally matched opponents will give up first.”
This is a Romanian proverb oftentimes interpreted as a justification/rationalization for cowardly behavior.

It’s anything but!

In a protracted conflict, where none of the opponents has a clear advantage or when the price of wining would be so huge that no one is willing to underwrite it, it is essential that at least one of the interested parties comes up with something new that might defuse the situation. Otherwise the whole thing drags on, people get bitter and calloused and what might have started as a misadventure or as a badly calculated move eventually becomes a festering wound that changes, for the worse, the life of many generations to come.

Think of what happens when two families become embroiled in a ‘vendetta’.
Or about the outcome of the WWI when the people of Germany were punished for the ‘mishaps’ perpetrated by Kaiser Wilhelm.

After WWII the victors have built on previous experience and didn’t fell anymore in the same trap. Instead of inflicting further pain on the already tormented German population they came up with the Marshal Plan. Now, 70 years after the allies landed in Normandy, it would be inconceivable that war might start again between France and Germany. The victors of the Cold War weren’t as wise as their predecessors.

What is happening right now in Ukraine is completely unacceptable. Occupying, in full or in part, the territory of another country, under any pretext, puts the aggressor outside the realm of the civilized world.
But who is the aggressor in this case?

Not so long ago (historically speaking) Louis the XIV-th used to say “L’Etat c’est Moi”. In those times political decisions, including those that had to do with the neighboring states, were made by the rulers while the general population could do nothing but endure their effects. Up to a point of course.
Meanwhile, in a large number of states the political system has evolved considerable. Elections are held periodically so that political leaders and general policies become sanctioned by the electorate. Because of this most of the time there is a certain compact, however fragile and contested, between the political class and the general population.
Unfortunately there still are a number of states where the political situation is ‘ambiguous’ and where the link between the powerful figures of the day and the general public relies more on deceit than on mutual respect and informed consent.
Whenever a country like this is involved in a less than savory encounter on the international scene a very fine line has to be toed when communicating displeasure with its actions. While firm and unambiguous, each message must be very carefully calibrated/formulated lest the general population of the less than democratic country involved will feel besieged. And will naturally coalesce around whoever is in power at that moment. Exactly what that person would wish for and exactly what those who are displeased by the actions perpetrated by that person should try to avoid at any cost.

In modern terms this whole concept is called re-framing.
And yes, it involves ‘giving up’ in the sense that the ‘wiser’ makes the gambit of renouncing rigidness and maybe even some ‘face’ in exchange for a workable solution.
Any incurred costs are temporary while the benefits tend to stretch far out into the future.
I repeat, just look at what role Germany is currently playing in the European concert.

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