Sad Europe, sad globe

A friend wrote to "congratulate" me on the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union— I suppose, because I live in a corner of Europe. I thought she was joking, but no, it's true. The Nobel Peace Prize seems like a sad joke, but maybe it's meant as a consolation prize. I had intended to write something about Europe's slow-motion disaster, as one after another of the hard-won social conquests crumbles, but the forces of disintegration have been speeding up. How Europe got into this pickle is pretty clear — I just reviewed a book (Indecentes in my Spanish-language blog) that sums it up blow by blow, the bungling miscalculations since Bear Stearns and then Lehman Bros., followed by the more-or-less covert campaign by Trichet and his successors (and allies in the Bundesbank) to shift the blame to the "middle classes" and the workers, and (the special focus of Indecentes) the totally ineffective and even counterproductive actions by the Spanish government under its man of inaction, Mariano Rajoy.

Anyway, there's no mystery about how we got this close to the impending crash that IMF head Christine Lagarde foresees. And there is no reason to expect the financial powers to change the no-growth, severe austerity policies that they are ideologically committed to and that, short term anyway, appear to benefit German capital while impoverishing everybody else. So what we need to focus on is how to force a change in those policies (while there is still some democratic room to maneuver, in demos, elections, etc.), and most importantly — longer term, for recovery after the foreseeable global collapse if we don't change direction — what kind of more egalitarian, more productive, more environmentally sensitive society we can construct. We can't foresee the future, we can only make it, by omission or commission.

I know there are lots of people working on this, and have been for generations. And though all those struggles — e.g., the Paris Commune, the Spanish 2d Republic, and later social revolutions — have failed their maximalist objectives, we can learn from all of them, to at least fail better. If you haven't already, check out the late Eric Hobsbawm's brilliant compendium of some of those efforts, How to Change the World.

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