Monday, May 10, 2010

Let Greeks be Greeks, Italians Italians – and an Italian Pope, please

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 5/10/10

Robert Samuelson, the economist at the Washington Post, has a good column today about the decline of the welfare state, citing Greece, and making the obvious suggestion that we face the same circumstances, simply calling welfare, “entitlements.” Samuelson seems to have been ahead of the pack right along. Earlier on he advised economists to study history. No doubt he is right this time too. But I’m sensing globalization is taking a hit as well. And opposition, which this last century and a half wore the mask of internationalism, may this time find the human face of regionalism. This “new regionalism” might even be called – to coin a phrase - federalism

What I found most interesting in his piece is this: “Euro coins and notes were introduced in 2002. . . It was supposed to lubricate faster economic growth by eliminating the cost and confusion of constantly converting between national currencies. More important, it would promote political unity. With a common currency, people would feel ‘European. ‘Their identities as Germans, Italians and Spaniards would gradually blend into a continental identity.”

Where did the idea come from that because Europeans had a single currency they would suddenly begin to think of themselves as one people? Did the same people who made this judgment which is essentially anthropological, make the same fiscal and economic judgments? Because it is a different realm of thinking and each requires different kinds and types of thinkers. My guess is that it was just post-war zeitgeist; the cult of the CEO. In the “participation mystique” of post-war, everyone in the world was an American by degree (or like the current Supreme Court, everyone a New Yorker by degree). Europe, China, everywhere, following the rising American post-war victory march of outwardly expanding capital. Europe was European because all the world looked to New York as its culture capital and to New York, Greeks, Italians, Bosnians, Slovenians, Ukrainians, Germans, etc. were and are all the same; generic Europeans.

What high contrast to the world of Roosevelt and Eisenhower. When the war was drawing to a close Eisenhower hired on Ruth Benedict to help determine how Japan would respond to American conquest and best recover. The result was Benedict’s classic, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.” I don’t recall and such classic initiated on the thinking of a unified Europe. But I do remember Yeats comment, “ . . . the center no longer holds” published between the wars. Eisenhower brought in Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung to answer the same question about Germany.

Was any such expertise brought in to actually explain how Europeans would react to a single currency? Why would they suddenly see themselves as one people? Would Greeks start acting like Germans and Swiss, getting up at 4 am to correctly align their wood piles in the mountains? Would Germans start acting like Italians? The assumption was, in fact, they would all start – continue –acting like Americans.
A variety of things outside the flow of capital including temperature, terrain and geography, tradition, religious heritage and traditional antagonism, make up a people. But many economists today, like Paul Krugman, see the world as a mechanical economic process; a clockwork orange – a clockwork Greece and Italy. It is painfully misguided. The price now will be high. People return to their nature to restore their humanity. Anthropologists from an earlier day, like Mircea Eliade, would have told them this.

Lest we forget, the world followed America to globalization in the post-war period even to the point of the Catholic Church abandoning its tradition and its “center culture” of centuries by bringing in a non-Italian pope in a new globalist marketing package, ignoring the ancestors and taking its cues from Fox news. But the globalization of the Church with the election of the Polish John Paul II in 1978 was immediately followed b y the rise of Ayatollah Koemenie in 1979 and the globalization on Islam, the “Shadow of God” which – as “Lost” watchers should understand by now - chronically follows her everywhere, like a “twin”, including here to Times Square, when the prelate leaves the island. ‘Twas ever thus. May I make a suggestion to the Roman Catholics? Put the wine back in the bottle. Next time around, please, an Italian Pope.

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