Category Archives: Greece

Left and Right – once more

In one of Woody Allen’s more casual movies, Everyone Says I Love You, a New York liberal, played by Alan Alda (of course), has a teenage son with reactionary republican ideas, driving his father wild. In a short scene late in the film, almost as slapstick, it’s revealed that the son had an innate illness affecting his brain, and when cured from that he’s converted into a normal liberal, to everyone’s happiness.

Woody Allen is in my view one of the American gifts to the world. In the many of his movies I’ve watched there were, to my recollection, scarcely any outright political themes. So when he in this movie, as script writer, deliberately equates right wing politics with brain injury, it seems as if he just want to state that some kind of liberalism is obvious for “normal” people.

The rift between left and right, liberals and conservatives, workers and bourgeoisie propagates around the globe. It’s like two different worlds each with its own cognition, logic and ethics, making intelligent communication difficult, if not impossible. A recent illustration was given in the reactions to the Greek financial problems and their solutions.

On those articles on the subject in the New York Times where the comment’s section was opened, the readers’ comments where divided into two distinct groups. Around half of the entries pointed (sometimes fiercely) at the Greek’s bad habit too live beyond their means, their governments granting them too generous pensions and allowances, their notorious tax evasions and other misdemeanors. The usual conclusion in those posts was that the Greek had to pay their debts, and if they happened to suffer it was their own fault.

The other group of readers focused instead on the role of the banks that had poured loans over a country that everyone knew was in bad economic shape, and that capitalism requires that banks, like other companies, bear the consequences of their risk-taking, for which they are paid interest. One could often read that the much debated bailouts in fact were the European governments (primarily the German) making their tax payers save their own countries’ banks from losses on Greek loans, and that very little of the bailout money really helped the afflicted Greeks. This group found it unreasonable that the fairly innocent Greek people should be forced to bear the burden of problems caused by others, who enjoyed impunity.

Right and Left are obviously two entirely different ways of viewing human beings and society, naturally based on material interest, social heritage and other such environmental factors, but in part going deeper, so that the divide also has to do with morality and the way we look at other people, factors that probably are engraved in more fundamental biological structures.

Right-wing thinking entails disregarding others, more or less blatantly. It’s everyone for himself, in full compliance with the egoism and even narcissism that is considered a basis for human nature in these circles. Sophisticated studies of things like reciprocal altruism don’t appeal to this group. (It’s not surprising that we often find a capability of utter contempt for human life among right-wing extremists.)

But why care about other people? Noam Chomsky was once asked why he had sacrificed even greater scientific achievements, plus a peaceful family life, to man the barricades in the fight for a better world. He answered that on the day he died he wanted to be able to answer the question: Why did I bother living for at all?

We dwell in a world where right-wing policies has ruined the conditions for the life of millions of people, kept surviving poor in a miserable state, upheld the threat of total destruction through either nuclear weapons or environmental breakdown. There are all reasons in the world to oppose these forces and to fight for human decency aiming at solidarity with others. It’s as simple as that, as I see it.

Syriza and Podemos – steps on the road

First Syriza in Greece and now Podemos in Spain. Citizens take to the streets for serious efforts to exchange the neoliberal political paradigm for a policy obviously aimed at relieving ordinary people’s grievances. The only thing one likes to ask is: what took them so long?

The answer is not too far fetched. It’s obvious that austerity measures can be pushed quite extensively in time and in suffering before people walk out in protest. Bourgeoisie politics protecting the banks and supporting the rich relies on a middle class, also hurt but not as bad as those below them, but nonetheless defending what they got by sticking to those above. And the enormous propaganda machine to beat is overwhelming.

For us who were young in the 1960s the developments in Greece and Spain evoke memories, and thus also hope for a change of direction. We know from experience that a lot can be achieved. During the 60s the traditional masters of mankind where on the defensive. In Sweden the basis was laid and laws enacted for much improved workers rights, for publicly driven child care to facilitate women’s liberation, for upgrading workers protection, for strengthening job security and for many other progressive measures. NGOs engaged in numerous different topics were growing like mushrooms and it was a vibrant atmosphere of freedom and hope for the future.

Well, the real masters didn’t wear their swords in vain. They made use of their economic power and stroke back, successfully. The period of remarkable liberation was cut rather short. As a Swedish poet and newspaper man said when the defeat seemed inevitable: now it all depends on how the left deals with its disappointment.

Well, the left didn’t deal with anything; they were overpowered by neoliberal forces mobilized among politicians, economic “scientists”, journalists and other pillars of society prepared to fight for the only ones that really profited from it all: the minuscule percentage of the rich that really owned a lot, and ended up owning almost everything. But: not all the gains were lost, the ground level was raised.

Setbacks also this time shouldn’t discourage anyone. The underlying progression is there; the human brain will in the long run prohibit unreasonable developments. We need only to look back and compare our time with any other human era to find evidence for such a trend. But with every battle new territory is gained, and the important thing is to not lose all of it in the next counterattack.

There Is No Alternative: reason will prevail!