More news over the weekend regarding the European Debt Crisis (EDC), including calls from business magnate George Soros for Germany to take on more of a benevolent role in leading the eurozone. In a fascinating Project Syndicate column, Soros explains that the real tragedy of the current situation is the misunderstanding whereby German taxpayers think they have already gone way over and beyond what was necessary in terms of supporting Europe’s debt-laden periphery, whereas in fact they have done the bare minimum, from the beginning. Soros, never one to mix his words when it comes to the ups and downs of the global financial markets, singled out Germany as the country that should take responsibility for this “class divide” in the eurozone.
How did we get here? In the interests of keeping a long story short, I’ll spare you the rehash. I’m in a bit of a ranting mood anyway so probably best you just click here for a better understanding of what the Crisis has actually been about, here for a 20-page paper on 7 myths that you didn’t know you always wanted to know about, and here for a detailed analysis on what seems like the only way out, or at least it did at the time it was written. Speaking of which, with the benevolent leaders of the European Union (EU) seemingly hell-bent on blowing any form of solidarity to bits as fast as everyone can arrange it, this begs the question: is it time to start mixing things up a bit? Maybe try something that hasn’t been done in a while but hey, it’s still good. It can be rolled out again. Something so bold and front-footed, it feels amazing it hasn’t been rolled out already. In short, after the failure and mistep of everything tried by the EU so far , is it time to consider full-blown enslavement of the Greek nation? Boom!
Controversial though it may sound, things hardly seem like they can be any worse. More pointedly, could a collective decision by Europe’s chief paymasters, namely Germany, France, and the United Kingdom (G-FUK) to turn this tiny Mediterranean outpost into a slave nation, effectively secure the future of their currently bankruptcy-threatened banks while at the same time crystalise ithe growing sense of superiority to all things south of the Vienna? Let’s explore.
Taking a read of press clippings since the outbreak of the Crisis, or in fact simply mentioning the word ‘Greece’ to anyone that has, is a sure fire way to hear diatribes on the poor southern European work ethic, profligate spending of a corrupt government, tax evasion of a thieving populace, and always, always, a rolling of the eyes about a country that has finally had its comeuppance. Pointing fingers and sniggering into a beer while mingling with fellow corporate types has never been so much fun, it would seem.
Leaving aside for a moment that the Crisis has in fact been a charade to keep German and Frank banks solvent, we can attempt to summarise the plethora of stereotypes and generalisations vomited out by all and sundry at every opportunity, thusly:
- Although the Greek debt is public debt, and Greek citizens have one of the lowest percentages of personal debt in the world (you may be surprised to learn, that Greece has the highest owner occupancy rate in all of Europe), and pretending that the concept of ‘odious debt’ (a legal notion that the national debt incurrred by a regime that does not serve the best interests of the nation is not enforceable, and that such debts should be considered personal debts of said regime, rather than the State) does not exist, it is Greek taxpayers who should bear cost of government economic mismanagement, because they voted for their inept governments in the first place;
- Greeks don’t want to work. While pre-Crisis data released by the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation (OECD) show that Greeks have both a longer average of annual hours worked than Germans, and a later retirement age on average than the French, that’s just putting facts in the story. Speaking of which, don’t click this link so you won’t see that Greek workers spent more hours working in 2010 than those in Chile, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Turkey, Mexico, Slovak Republic, Italy, the US, New Zealand, Japan, Portugal, Canada, Finland, Iceland, Australia (RC Note: AUSTRALIA?!), Ireland, Slovenia, Spain, the UK, Sweden, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands – and in that order;
- In addition to their state of financial bankruptcy, there is an additional moral bankruptcy associated with dragging Europe down and highlighting the inefficiencies of a monetary union that is not tied to full blown fiscal union. Heirs to the most influential civilisation in the Western world, and living in the most beautiful country on this planet, they simply should have done better;
- In the glory days of 2000-2008, Greece as country spent and borrowed beyond her means. Rather than using this opportunity to reform outdated labour market restrictions and encourage the growth of export business, the money was directed towards social programs (also known as handouts for those with the right connections, aka clientalism), particularly in election years. Accepting money that is being thrown at you from an inept, corrupt, and power hungry government that has given you sweet f-all opportinuty for career advancement unless you are in some way affiliated with their party structure, is ethically wrong;
- Nevermind that the average Greek was a net loser from this arrangement, the fact that the country was not a meritocracy is something for which law abiding and connection-less Greeks should suffer a double penalty. Or, put simply, if you were a double degree qualified Physicist, studying for a PhD, and were forced to work as a pizza delivery boy because your parents lacked the requisite affiliations with the governing party, it is you who should personally bear the cost for the system being so rotten. And you know what, you’re probably the best equipped to deal with disappointment and the disintegration of hope anyway;
- The supposed use of strategies for tax minimisation or the avoidance of tax payments all together, makes Greek citizens different to everyone else on the planet, who actively go out of their way to pay as much of their hard earned dollars as the government can take, even in cases where the government does not bother to try collecting it;
- A Greece that is not willing to countenance the selling of territory, nor give up the riches of her antiquity – that is, apart from ones already in the British museum – can hardly expect more bailout funds (note, bailout in this instance = loans funded from the ECB [with interest] that are routed through Greece to French and German banks that weren’t able to figure out in the Noughties that lending vast sums to a small, dysfunctional economy that would clearly be unable to repay them, might not be a great idea) from the their European brothers. Accepting further ‘funding’ would be akin to tossing it down a bottomless pit, it has been said; and finally
- As a nation, they apparently spent beyond their means. Look it’s a crime. Perhaps not a war crime, but a crime against humanity, if people’s vitriol is anything to go by anyway.
But wait a minute, aren’t we all brothers?
Funny thing that. Sadly, the EU is a union in name only. It’s not an actual union of anything, like say in the United States of America or United Kingdom. Or Australia, where it would be hard to imagine the citizens of one booming state, like Western Australia, saying that citizens of another (New South Wales, anyone?) should starve and go without medicine because they poorly managed their economy. This is the same Europe where in the last century, Germany went to war with France because of the former’s harsh reparations and conditions ascribed it as part of the peace terms from the previous war, only for Italy to then invade Greece (approximate casualties and losses: 154,000 souls) to send a message to Germany that they knew what they were doing. Only they didn’t know what they were doing and lost the battle. So Germany invaded Greece (13,325 Greeks killed, 42,485 wounded, 1,237 missing, and approximately 25,000 incapacitated by frostbite) in a chilling battle of one-upmanship.
Occupied Greece resisted however (unlike France), leading to the Germans “perishing” a further 300,000 Greeks from famine alone [RC note: this doesn’t include the 90,000 Greek Jews from Thessaloniki transported to ‘work’ concentration camps or, for example, the 3000 men aged between 18 and 45, that were executed in Drama for daring to attack occupying troops].
The good thing was that eventually the war ended, only the country had been so split after manipulation of one side of the resistance by the Soviets, and the other by the US and her allies that a civil war ensued. How annoying! After another 158,000 died during this period (and a further one million were temporarily displaced), mass emigration from the impoverished nation took place in the years that followed, in which over 900,000 Greeks uprooted themselves and settled in Canada, Australia, and the United States alone, peace reined in the land.
So yeah, that Europe. Anyhow. Now that we’ve established a moral case for the enactment of enslavement, and explained how this is in many ways a traditional European way of doing things, we can get stuck into the nitty gritty of what enslavement would actually mean. Because if the last 100 years are anything to go by, its not like Greece can’t handle a bit of further upheaval or civil strife. Time for some fun with that old game of Pro Versus Con. Man-a-mano, just the way blood-thirsty Europe likes it:
- Cheap labour: After three decades of factory closures and being told that manufacturing jobs didn’t belong in the country, as the move to a service based economy got underway and investment was instead moved to neighbouring Albania, Turkey and Bulgaria, it turns out this was a mistake. As slaves, labour would never be cheaper. And with unemployment currently approaching 30% after 5 years of recession, at least people would be working;
- We’re here to s(l)ave you: As it turns out, the German government is already used to turning a blind eye to the slaying of its southern European migrants. As slaves, they would at least have an interest in their on-going survival. A dead slave, is not a productive slave;
- Transparency: If nothing else, by announcing the enslavement of the nation as a whole, there would be a certain transparency in the actions of the EU. Moves to force a change to a standard working week of six days are cute, but hardly seem fair when Greeks already work longer hours than Germans. And besides, even a 7-day working week wont fix a crisis that has at its root in the stupidity of their own banks;
- Platform already in place: No need to look too hard for well worn stereotypes, folks. Nothing says ‘I am not capable of coming up with my own views based on a range of different sources’ quite like firing off the latest sound bite and newspaper headline to make you feel good about yourself. This includes the delicious use of the acronym PIIGS (to collate the crises in Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), something that is happily farted out of the mouths of people trying to equate European citizens living in countries overly indebted to French and German banks as swine. Side note: you stay classy, anyone that uses the PIIGS acronym. No, really;
- It’s what everyone wants: Speaking of which, it didn’t seem to take much for people to come up with lazy, corrupt, lazy, thieving, tax avoiding, lazy, ungrateful, obstinate, lazy, and again, lazy, as stereotypes to explain away a crisis in governance of the EU and the poor lending practices of Northern European banks as the fault of a nation of shirkers. Drawing a line from there to full blown slavery doesn’t seem as far fetched (or horrible) all of a sudden; and suddenly
- Goodbye refugee problem: Once enslaved, we could use the country as a processing centre for asylum seekers from Afghanisan, Iraq and Pakistan who are chasing a better life in Europe. Oh wait, they are already using Greece for this. Could the enslavement of Greeks inadvertently transfer the burden of trying to keep out the 90% of illegal immigrants to the EU who enter through the country’s porous borders every year to their own governments? Actually, just forget I said anything.
- Semantics: Negativity associated with the word “slaves”. An obvious one. Perhaps we could borrow from the Turkish word giaour, known in the English speaking world as ‘infidel’. Used in the Ottoman Empire to rationalise the
killingunfortunate passing of 1.5 million Armenians and 750,000 Greeks (by lowest estimate), the word infidel could be applied to modern day Greeks as well, with emphasis placed on the fact that by being lent more money than they could ever have hoped to repay, Greeks are de facto enemies of the State;
- Aryan Awkwardness (aka corruption by non-monetary means): In classical times, slaves could win their freedom. Often this was done through loyal service to a benevolent master while in other, less frequent times it was granted by the Emperor to a select gladiator or two a la Oliver Reed’s Proximo in the movie Gladiator. Are the G-FUK’s really interested in the possibility that freed slaves could end up migrating en masse and ipso facto diluting the bloodlines of their super races with lazy, tax avoiding southern European scum? Didn’t think so;
- Hot Gates: If history is anything to go by, Greeks don’t seem to take too well to the concept of enslavement. Just ask the Persians who threw a million soldiers at 300 Spartans and all they got was a lousy portrayal in a 2006 Hollywood blockbuster to show for it;
- Banks Without Clothes: Who can they use as scapegoat for their banks after that? One possibility is Ireland. Their national debt is rising anyway, as beautifully illustrated here. So-called bailout funds could be promised to avert a further escalation of the Crisis, with cash routed from Brussels to the Republic, and then transferred back to Franco German banks, with the addition of some interest for good measure. After-all, for all the talk about Greece being the aforementioned bottomless pit for European taxpayer funds, so far it has been the only such pit in world history to return the money thrown into it in full, with interest;
- Public Relations (and that whole, ‘having a conscience’ thing): From a PR perspective, if nothing else, is it a good idea for Germany to be associated with the forced imprisonment and labour of 7-10 million of her fellow citizens, for purportedly bringing about the demise of the State? Didn’t seem to work out so well last time (for more information on the Holocaust, click here: http://www.auschwitz.dk/);
- Border security: While enslavement of the nation would allow the country to be used as a processing centre, G-FUK’ers would then need to deal with how to cope with a land and sea border with Turkey, who has to date hardly shown an interest in preventing millions of refugees passing through her borders in search of a better life. With Greek sovereignty no longer in existence, the Middle East would suddenly feel that much closer to the Muslim fearing citizens of G-FUK’s. Warrants mentioning;
- Arms Sales: Following on from the last point, this has an ancillary drawback which is the negation of lucrative defence contracts. In short, who will G-FUK’s be able to sell weapons to? As noted by Dimitris Papadimoulis, an MP with the Coalition of the Radical Left party: “If there is one country that has benefited from the huge amounts Greece spends on defence it is Germany. Just under 15% of Germany’s total arms exports are made to Greece, its biggest market in Europe.” France is not far behind, with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reporting that 10% of its total arms sales go to Greece. Interesting. Maybe they could try instigating some tension between Turkey and another one of her neighbours to drum up some additional business. Cyprus anyone?; and not to mention that
- In fact Greece, a NATO member, was the fourth biggest importer of conventional weapons in the world for the years leading up to the Crisis in 2008. Back in April, Papadimoulis went on to add, “As a proportion of GDP, Greece spends twice as much as any other EU member on defence. Well after the economic crisis had begun, Germany and France were trying to seal lucrative weapons deals even as they were pushing us to make deep cuts in areas like health.” Being ordered to cut spending on health care so that you are able to buy more weapons from one of your allies (for defence against a [supposedly] future European ally and fellow NATO member, Turkey)? How charming.
But, which type to choose?
For those of you still with me – anyone? ANYONE?! Oh, “Hi Mom!” – lets quickly look into some of the options that could be employed by G-FUK’ers once the decision has been made to get things done – assuming the above cons have been completely ignored, as is usual in a Europe where salvation = austerity = punishment = “you can thank us later!” – and whether or not any might be in play already:
1. Forced Labour: In many ways the most productive and legitimate form of slavery, particularly from the point of view of moral finger pointers. Forced labour occurs when an individual is forced to work against his or her will – kind of like pigs, I guess – under threat of violence or other punishment, with restrictions on their freedom;
2. Chattel Slavery: The original form of slavery and, many would argue, still the best. Some of you may be familiar with the term chattel. Partly because it sounds a bit like French brand name, Chanel, and partly because it’s a form of borrowing whereby the purchase of movable property (often motor vehicles), is funded by a lender who then secures the loan with a mortgage over the chattel; When it comes to slavery, chattel is the term used when people are treated as the personal property – ‘chattels’ – of an owner and are bought and sold as commodities; and finally…
3. Bonded Slavery: The most popular form of slavery in the world today, debt bondage or bonded labour occurs when a person pledges himself or herself against a loan. The services required to repay the debt, and their duration, may be undefined.
Looking at this expansive list, and despite that recent directive that the country should move to a six day working week – something that would fly in the face of evidence that a four day working week is both optimal from productivity and morale standpoints – ‘forced labour’ as a type of slavery can’t be said to be presently in play because currently, over 50% of those aged under 25 have no employment at all. So lets move on.
Analysing the situation from a chattel standpoint, the whole ‘movable property’ thing could work, if only there was a place to send them once they’d been enslaved. As things stand at present, with the German government covering up the aforementioned murders of Greek migrants, and with David “Imbecile Face” Cameron preparing to halt the immigration of his fellow EU citizens to his United Kingdom, there just doesn’t seem to be a way of making this happen without getting everyone’s (snooty) noses out of joint.
Hmmm. Looking a little deeper into the fine print of the
reparations conditions imposed by Greece’s lenders, we note that the best case scenario calls for repayment of Greece’s national debt within an unspecified number of decades. Awesome! That however, was based on assumptions that EU-imposed austerity measures wouldn’t shrink the economy by as much as 10% per year, as it has over the last 3 years. Damn, not so awesome.
Luckily, as US economist Nouriel Roubini highlights in the EconoMonitor, the recent haircut taken by private investors not only resulted in the transfer of up to 80% of the country’s debt from banks to the nation’s taxpayers, but it is the case that:
The new bonds will also be subject to English law, where the old bonds fell under Greek jurisdiction. So if Greece were to leave the eurozone, it could no longer pass legislation to convert euro-denominated debt into new drachma debt. This is an amazing sweetener for creditors.
And to top it off, thankfully, debt bondage is something that can be passed on from generation to generation, with children required to pay off their parents’ debt. So not only is Greece now further on the hook as a result of its recent debt renegotiations, but its children and grandchildren will continue to carry the burden, way into the rest of the century. Yay!
We. Have. Come. Full. Circle.
After analysing the case for enslavement, and delving into the pros and cons of carrying out such an arrangement, it became obvious that the answer was in fact staring us in the face. While not yet a candidate for all types of enslavement, bonded slavery can already be said to be in place and, as mentioned, will continue to be for many, many, many decades into the future.
The next time you hear someone else gloat about the deserved misfortune of Greeks now – and other southern European nations, in the near future – and/or whenever the opportunity strikes you personally to throw the PIIGS acronym into a sentence to generate a few smirks, you can now smile that much broader. Laughs can be that much more hearty, when one is safe in the knowledge that enslavement of the people that suffered so much at the hands of, and gave so much to the Western World, has already taken place. What a moment.
This is The Rogue Couch.