Posted on October 22nd, 2010If only the upheaval unfolding in the streets of Paris, London, and other European and non-European capitals were about the fragile egos of academics and the professional class determined to defend the validity of its position to the point of invariably excluding mitigating factors and nuances in each instance that may be important in understanding the other side and/or total picture. The reality of what is taking place in the streets in Paris, London and elsewhere has nothing to do with WAISers who have the right to defend their particular position from a coherent ideological/political perspective without having to apologize for it. The reality is much harsher and more tragic than the intellectual positions of WAISers; it is about lingering pain and frustration of those engaged in a struggle to sustain their jobs, wages and benefits, as well as those of their children; it is about consumers and small shopkeepers enduring ephemeral hardships owing to lack of goods and services; it is about fear of millions concerned about a bleak future if the current course in the political economy continues; it is about the view inculcated into our minds ever since we are children reading fiction where all ends well and everyone lives happily ever after, a view that now clashes with the ugly reality that neither life nor history (civilization) is a steady line of progress and development as Hegel wanted us to believe.
Perhaps there is some merit to Martin Heidegger arguing that the transition from one epoch to the next does not entail a rational process because epochs may be irreconcilable and gaps are inevitable; perhaps our actions are the manifestations of our irrational minds. The reality for many in the streets is that the social fabric is disrupted more abruptly than it would if there were greater socioeconomic harmony; that harsh reality translates to higher divorce rates, higher suicide rates, higher crime associated with the socioeconomic polarization–crime then feeds the cycle of greater fear, and the need for police protection and fear that our need for more safety and security may translate into fewer freedoms. If I do not experience the pain of the other suffering not just socially and economically but psychologically through unemployment, debt, divorce, and contemplating suicide, and if at the very least I am not prepared to offer a word of empathy–a word that reveals community over atomistic proclivities, what moral right do I the distant academic spectator have to speak at all using beguiling rationalizations to defend the “correctness” of my ideological perspective?
From the Balkans to Ireland, there is a climate of fear that has taken control of the middle class and workers who once believed the EU was the next Paradise, but now seems like Paradise Lost for this and the next generation. Maybe all of this will be a distant memory conveniently forgotten one year from today, at least I hope so, assuming Germany’s GDP growth can pull the rest of EU out of recession. The 2008-2010 recession, however, was very deep and it will have to cut very deep into the social welfare state across Europe in order to sustain finance capitalism. Let us not forget that the world did not recover quickly from the Great Depression, and that tragically a global war took place to set a new course for the international economy and social order. Let us not forget that the funds governments handed out to financial institutions have to come from some source other than the continued printing of money that causes monetary inflation, something that Germany at least adamantly opposes. The price of gold and precious metals is proof that there is too much money printed and finance capitalism must return to a monetarist course as the IMF advocates for the world economy to have steady growth under low inflation. This means that if money cannot come out of defense or corporate profits, as it clearly cannot and will not, it must be squeezed from the middle class and labor.