Something very important is happening in Greece. On the surface it appears to be terribly complex. High finance usually is. But there’s something beyond that. Something fundamental. It has to do with standing up to a system that hurts the many while helping the few. The old story of haves and have-nots and the haves wanting to have it all.
The Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, is giving the middle finger to the world’s bankers and billionaires, telling them he will not agree to a cycle of endless economic bondage enforced by an ongoing program of “austerity.” Basically, it means taking away even more of what little the average Greeks have left to further bolster the coffers of the world’s wealthy, including the bankers, billionaires, millionaires and others who pulled their money out of Greece when the big financial collapse hit in 2008, leaving the Greeks even worse off than before.
Here in the U.S., our bankers were “too big to fail,” so we bailed them out with huge infusions of cash. No such luck for poor little Greece. They were in economic trouble before the crash and bigger trouble after it occurred. Now, the bankers and the billionaires want them to suffer on, until somehow they pay back every last Euro and Dollar they borrowed to keep their system up and running. Possibly through the rediscovery of a long-lost mystical process of turning lead into gold? Or perhaps they can search their islands until they find a cave with a money tree in it? Until then, they are being forced to get down on their knees in a state of ongoing austerity to get it done, even though years of experience have proven beyond a doubt that austerity does not work.
More jobs and the money that accompanies jobs are what’s needed, not less. Not more austerity. It’s the very same nonsense being pitched by the wealthy far-right in America. When you see what’s happening to the Greeks, think about what’s happening to the American middle class.
And so Mr. Tsipras is telling the European Central Bank, that his country will be defaulting on their enormous debt. They will, he says, choose Democracy instead, by letting the Greek people vote on what they want, austerity, or something else. It’s speculated that this could eventually mean that Greece would leave the European Union and return to its former currency, the Drachma.
EU officials, including Angela Merkel, are saying they will continue to be open to negotiation even if the Greek people vote “no.” Imagine if Greece did leave the EU and was better off? Where would that leave Merkel and the rest of her EU states? Would Portugal and Italy be far behind?
A national referendum in the birthplace of Democracy is scheduled to take place on Sunday. To a simple thinker, this would appear to be earth-shattering, with the ancestors of those who invented Democracy, standing up to the bankers and billionaires and saying “Enough! We’ve had it with your demands for an ongoing cycle of poverty for us, while you continue raking in billions through derivatives only you can understand as you change the rules of the economic game to meet your shifting needs at any given moment in time.”
As Mr. Tsipras puts it, “On the one side, there are workers and a majority of people, and on the other are global capitalists, bankers, profiteers on stock exchanges, the big funds. It’s a war between peoples and capitalism, and Greece is on the frontline of that war. And, as in each war, what happens on the frontline defines the battle. It will be decisive for the war elsewhere. Greece has become a model for the rest of Europe because it was chosen as the experiment for the application of neoliberal shock [policies], and Greek people were the guinea pigs. If the experiment continues, it will be considered successful, and the policies will be applied in other countries. That is why it is so important to stop the experiment. It will not just be a victory for Greece but for all of Europe.”
So, Greece is threatening to leave the rigged banking system, where millions of shares change hands at the blink of an eye in cyberspace, to return to something they understand. Something based in human decency and dignity rather than raw greed. Something called Democracy.
The vote will probably be “no” on caving in to the bankers demands for continued austerity. I doubt Mr. Tsipras is seriously considering leaving the Eurozone, but having his people’s approval to do so will give him a bargaining chip when negotiations resume.
All of this is most certainly something Americans should carefully watch, since the U.S. Government has been purchased by some of those same bankers and billionaires who are now causing the economic suffocation of Greece. The time will likely come when we too may have to give a big middle finger to the bankers, billionaires and oligarchs. When, like the Greeks, we too will demand a return to Democracy in America.