Many member states in the Eurozone, not Greece alone, overspent so lavishly that, for the sake of the global economy as well as themselves, the excessive consumption had to be stopped and a process of re-balancing the debts introduced. Help was needed. While there was a strong element of self-interest in stabilising those faltering economies, nonetheless the wealthier countries agreed to subsidise those which were in trouble – but only on punishing terms. The situation reminds me of a Victorian workhouse in Britain where the poor of the parish were fed, clothed and housed through the patronage of the gentry but usually in conditions of appalling hardship and cruelty. The sponsors did what they felt was their duty and no doubt felt virtuous for it, but there was little kindness for people who needed kindness desperately.
So it is in this European situation where handouts have been provided but much is demanded in return without thought for the impact on people’s lives. In Greece an ignored, forgotten population has become so desperate for respite from intolerable austerity it has used the ballot box to demand relief from conditions, for many, that are worse than the Victorian workhouse. The situation is similar in Spain and Portugal too, and the prospect of austerity as decreed by EU leaders is creating much unrest in Italy and the Netherlands also.
An approach based on pragmatic compassion is what is required now, and indeed has been always, where there is inclusive problem-solving rather than autocratic decree with no democratic foundation, a recognition of shared responsibility for shared mistakes but based on what is fair and achievable. The voice of the people cannot be ignored any more, but it may be too late to prevent the house of cards which is the EU falling apart.
Whatever happens, all is well.]]>