Would someone like to tell me what the difference is between the military ‘stepping in for the good of the country’ and the bankers doing so? Don’t the generals always say it is a temporary emergency measure designed to restore order? Isn’t there usually some sort of window dressing, ‘government of national unity’ which forms like a scab over the wound in democracy?
It seems to me that the main difference is that we recognize the military junta as a danger to civil society, the rule of law and democracy. We recognize that the generals taking over is a sign of the fragility of a paper thin, 3rd-world democracy. We expect it in Pakistan. And can vaguely remember it as having happened in Greece. But can you even imagine the generals stepping in ‘for the good of the country’ or ‘to maintain stability’ here? Can you formulate in your mind the state which would be sufficient for you to imagine it happening and for you to allow it to happen? Can you? I cannot.
And yet in Europe, in countries we either live in, or have visited it is happening. We do not see the bankers and their puppets for what they are – a financial junta. We seem unsure. Like an immune system presented with a virus it does not recognize, no danger is detected, none of the defences are roused. The virus has free reign to hijack all the mechanisms of the body to suit itself.
The virus of debt is reproducing. It has infected us, our political system, our regulatory systems, even our politics and courts seem now more concerned to protect the wealth of debt than the right of the people to decide for themselves, to govern themselves, to determine their future for themselves. All the organs of our state have been perverted.
What is a ‘technocratic government’? On radio and television and in print this phrase is suddenly being used as if we all know what it means. But do we? What Greece and Italy had before, whatever you think of those governments, they were just that – governments. Let us leave to one side that they were the governments which oversaw and colluded in the erosion of the very democratic system that underpinned them. However feeble and corrupted, they were still, though only just, democratically elected, with a mandate from the people.
Now Greece and Italy are to have ‘technocratic governments’. In Greece’s case one specifically forced upon them, by politicians who had already lost what little mandate they had from the people, and by foreign bureaucrats who never had any mandate from the Greece people ever. And it was quite clearly and openly done in a great and determined hurry, precisely in order to negate the ‘threat’, that the people of Greece might exercise their direct and truely democratic right to self determination.
So now we are entering a whole new era in European history, the era of ‘Technocratic Government’. Why the extra word? Is it there to make it sound ‘expert’. Has someone decided that the political form for which countless young men and women laid down their lives, and many more died defending, is now no longer wanted or up to the job? If so who? Not me. I was never asked. The Greeks were decisively refused any chance of having any say at all. Instead the rump of an utterly contemptible, corrupt and craven political generation have surrendered our democracy without so much as a murmur.
My grandfather went to fight in Europe and stood for hours in the shallow killing grounds of Dunkirk against impossible odds. There the threat was to fall under the heel of totalitarian oppression and occupation. Then, the odds seemed impossible. But my grandfather and millions like him stood up and ignored the threats and the council of cowards who said we should sue for peace at any cost. Today our leaders are surrendering our freedom and our democracy on nothing more than the threat that the ATM machines might not work and their pensions might lose money.
The Technocratic governments, we are told, will be temporary. Just a steady expert hand till the financial crisis is over. But how temporary will they really be? How temporary will the cuts they are making actually be? Will the experts retire and return their power with grace in a year, or two, or three, or longer? Or will they get used to the kind of smooth technocratic, expert decision making that suits ‘the markets’ and benefits people, like them, whose wealth is invested in those self same markets,? How long till they come to think it irresponsible folly, in such a technological and complex global world, to return to ‘the bad old days’ of the rule of the ‘uneducated mob’?
What we allow to be dismantled or diverted now, will not return. Power will carve itself new channels through which to flow. The old bed, the old landscape will be gone. What we give away now we will not get back.
The pundits talk of a two tier Europe. They imagine some sort of inner group of nations still inside something like a smaller EU with the rest in some liminal half way house neither outside nor quite inside either. Perhaps ‘in’ the EU but not using the Euro. No one is clear about what a two tier Europe would be like or even if it could work at all. But I would say one thing is already coming in to being, a two tier politics. Those inside who still have democracy, still have the right to self determination, and those who do not. The elite, those inside, will be allowed to vote and decide for themselves. Those outside will now be ruled over by technocrats. There will be no voting other than to decide between this group of technocrats and that. Any attempt to vote on anything more fundamental, such as choosing neither group or neither of their versions of the same plan – that sort of voting has already been deemed too dangerous and is no longer allowed in ‘the periphery’. Those on the outside have been deemed to have fallen too far short short of the required Protestant Work Ethic to be considered worthy and are not to be ‘saved’ except from their own follies and weakness. They are to be spoken of and treated as colonial masters always speak of and treat the restive, child-like, ignorant and feckless natives.
Tell me what the difference is, between the modern ‘technocrat’ and the colonial governor and his ‘expert’ administrators? Is there one?
Once upon a time in Europe there were those who had the right to vote and those too poor, too ignorant to be allowed. It was the era of the Debtor’s Prison and the Poor House. The wealthy said of the poor, “Since we have to carry the poor, care for them in Poor Houses when they have fallen, provide the wealth to build the factories which give the poor their work, it is only right that we and we alone should vote how our wealth is spent. By what right do the poor feel they should have a say in telling us, those who provide the wealth, how our wealth should be spent?” How different is that argument to that I have heard used about the Greek people.
We are entering a new historical era in Europe. And perhaps in the world. The era of the Techocrats. Democracy is now no more than it was under the Ceasars. When Senates were the outer ramparts of a system of privaledge in which the scions of the leading families jockied for patronage and power. The American Congress is already little more than this. Europe and its structures of power are little if any better.
We face a new tyranny. A tyranny in suits. A tyranny of technocrats and experts who, in the name of doing ‘what must be done to save the system’, are actually doing no more than all those like them have done throughout history, defend the structures that empower them.
But should it ever become commonly accepted that this technocracy is tyranny, then a dangerous new phase begins. For there is nothing to protect the tyrant save naked power. Jurists, as far back as Cicero in ancient Rome, to St Augustine, to Emmanuel De Sâ in the Middle Ages, forward again to those who condoned the killings of Tyrants in the modern age, all agree on one thing: The one exception to the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, is the killing of a Tyrant. When once a leader or a ruling class resorts to tyranny and is branded as Tyrant, then there is no law at all which protects them. No injunction which stays the hand of justice or stands between them and a bloody end.
That we should even contemplate such things after our societiy had shed so much blood in order to leave such barbarity behind is a catastrophic failure of the imagination of the people of this continent. It is our shame and will haunt us to our graves if we let it happen.