Saturday, 4 October 2008

"I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more"

In a dramatic reversal, the House today approved by a comfortable margin a $700 billion financial rescue package that will bring the greatest intervention of the federal government into the private marketplace since the Great Depression, attempting to prevent the economy from sliding into a deep recession. Washington Post 3 Oct
How the worm has turned since the heyday of triumphal ideological enthusiasm for the genius, intelligence and efficiency of free market forces opposed to the stultifying bureaucratic incompetence of government. The sheriff has ridden down Wall Street with a sackful of welfare cheques donated by taxpayers to rescue the turbo-capitalist speculators on whose gambling we've depended for too long. Greedy men - like old apparatchniks escaping with illgotten bankrolls through a fallen Wall - now speak of the value of a strong state. [But see The Non-Ethics of the Financial Bailout by Dr. Annabel Beerel] [Back to the future 07/01/2009: See the assessment of 'broken government' at the US Center for Public Integrity] Unlike Roosevelt who led responses to the Great Depression with the words - "we have nothing to fear, but fear itself" - this US president, as is his wont, can only play the fear card. Yesterday's House vote feels, to many commentators, (and - back to the future - it's UK equivalent) like a tipping point - but I suspect a larger wave in a rising storm. I anticipate some reverse equivalent of the old Harry Enfield symbol of the Thatcher years proclaiming "loadsagovernment!" ... or perhaps not. The Paulson-Bernanke bailout bill is so bizarre, so contradictory - a flimsy wedge hurled in desperation under a roller coaster with broken brakes. "Perhaps" as Jack wrote twenty years ago in 'Crescendo', the last Chapter (pp.128-134) of his last book The Old Country, "man is just a blind horse with the bit between his teeth who can’t be stopped until he hits a hay-barn." Certainly people and nations must strive to substitute deferred gratification for deferred debt; governments will roam the world offering equity jabs, but the issue of how we live on and use the land that supports our teaming species must come to permeate our thoughts and actions. An ascetic future or none. A friend sent me this image - as a measure of the times, the changes needed and the distance to go. I just got an e-mail from Harry Tsoukalas 'I tell my wife and to the Corfiots that at least when my son asks me in the years to come what I have done about our huge problems in this paradise I could look at him straight in the eye and answer. How many people can say the same? It's all has to do with the future generation I think, it's too late for us. Thanks again for the great support.' * * * [Back to the future ~ a piece in Athens News of 10 October by Thrasy Petropoulos on reactions to Tsoukalas and like-minded Corfiots. The difference is that our English Civil War was 350 years ago. Sealed Knot re-enacts sanitized versions of its battles to entertain themselves and Bank Holiday tourists. 'Roundheads' and 'Cavaliers' enjoy beer together afterwards. Imagine colourful festivals celebrating the Eμφύλιος πόλεμος - re-enacting fratricide, the street fighting of Dekemvriana, the attack on the gendarmerie at Lithoro, andartes and monarchists slaughtering one another on the slopes of Grammos, to the sweet sad joyful sounds of Vassilis Tsitsanis. The butcher's bill is still being paid - in liminal grief, resentment and fear. It's still too close. See the recent comments after the Greek National Archive extract, if they've not already been disabled by YouTube. If I feel my eye's smarting at the sadness of it, imagine how it must be for Greeks, who, from Corfu, can see over towards Grammos every day.] * * *
Lots in the media about Peter Mandelson, Oleg Deripaska, George Osborne at a taverna at Agni and on a yacht called Queen K - events that happened around the third week of August. Corfucius collates with wry detach. I pretend to be above it all, but the British do political scandal so well. What other news is interred behind this chatter? "It is now a very good day to..."
Our old boat at Agni

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