WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? THE GREEK CASE
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
January 29, 2015
In Tuesday’s broadcast of “On Point,” Tom Ashbrook hosted a discussion of how the new Greek government can, should, or will handle its debt (http://onpoint.wbur.org/2015/01/27/greece-syriza-elections-austerity-germany-populism). As the Greek journalist or the Greek economist spoke of negotiating debt forgiveness, Ashbrook kept echoing a German’s willingness only to extend the debt, asking, “But who is responsible for the debt?”
I was reminded of the second time I went to Poland (courtesy of an IU-Warsaw U exchange), in 1987, to a conference of urban geographers, in the midst of a quiet political revolution that shortly make Poland a European Union member. It was also a moment when Argentina’s resistance to the IMF’s austerity package for repayment of that country’s international debt. In introduced my presentation on lessons Poles could draw from Argentina’s economic development with the chorus of a coalminer’s lament:
Sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’t call me ‘cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.
Loans or investments, as contrasted to gifts, imply servitude, in this case foreign and private ownership of public services. The Greek panelists on “On Point” kept citing Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, that corporate capitalists create the very crises they use as a pretext for intervention. Ashbrook didn’t seem to understand. Those who demand repayment of debts, ignore their own role in creating them. As foreign lenders required the Greeks to lay off their public work force, and to share the Southern European brunt of housing refugees from the land of the Islamic State, they were responsible for the relentless impoverishment of the Greek populace as a whole, with concentration of wealth in a Greek oligarchy.
Further austerity measures as a condition for rescheduling Greek national debt payments promise to increase the wealth gap within Greece, and between Southern and Northern Europe. I’m among those who postulate that institutionalized inequality is a root of violence in all its manifestations, and that we who enjoy relative wealth are responsible for sharing it, especially with those we and our ancestors have impoverished. As the wealthier party, I’d say the Germans are responsible to humanity (as creditors of the City of Detroit have been, for example) to negotiate writing off their contribution to the Greek debt in good faith. Love and peace, hal