ARE WE ALL PIIGS NOW?
I picked up the term from an article by an academic called Gregory Jourdanis, referring to Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain, and others labelling them, especially Greece, as somehow unworthy to be part of the Northern European club of Civilized, progressive Nations. Because the implication is there that there is something endemic to Greece, deep in the Greek character perhaps, that encourages corruption, laziness, or whatever it is that had lead to the default and the risings in Sintagma Square. Then knocking down this kind of prejudiced ‘orientalism’, especially in comparison to the tabloid and phone hacking scandals in Britain, but finishing on an upbeat note by talking of a democratic fight back, like the Arab Spring, and us all being PIIGS now! Very good point.
Yet horrifying as the scandals of British Journalism are, just watch a film like Gomorrah, about the Comorra ‘mafia’ gangs in Southern Italy, and especially Naples, before you go over the top on the simple benefits of a United Europe and the Euro Zone, or where the money actually goes in the face of corruption. Apparently money has been laundered to even support projects like the Twin Towers replacement. How they have controlled rubbish collection in Naples, and the whole sale toxic polluting of the countryside, is just a terrible story, human and environmental. It may be be that where the State fails, they provide ready forms of ‘Justice’ the ordinary man understands and respects, but Berlusconi’s links, his character and the way he both runs and controls the Press in Italy is glaringly awful and it seems no one can do anything about it. The way he made a macho joke about a paper cup on TV, relayed on a recent documentary, and putting it in the bin, just showed the scornful stamp of the man, or he has long felt he is untouchable. The problem is with today’s cultural values, the average Italian male seems to wants to be him and have all that money.
Perhaps we all expect that corruption can always develop, but then must be cleaned away again, but my experience of a Greek friend on the island of Lesbos showed me how she was falling foul of corruption, over property she had inherited from her father, and had little chance against ‘the system’. Perhaps the stamp of our times is the complete loss of value, that could allow Rupert Murdoch to admit ‘we have no ethics’ on the Sun, and the Comorra to get so far in Italy. Who wants to stand up to it and who can? But there is a different and just as insidious kind of corruption, inherent in the banking bonanzas we have ‘enjoyed’. Was it the arrival of ghastly ‘super casinos’ on late night British TV that announced Tony Blair or Labour’s ‘monstrous breaking of the Bank’ in Britain, as the poet had it? But in America and the US, banking methods, onselling of toxic debt, absurdly comoplex futures and financial ‘instruments’, then the tax funded propping up of the system, has surely led us to believe everyone is both implicated and corrupted by it all. The problem is it is the vulnerable and those at the bottom that go on paying the real price, as banks then take some so-called moral highground and refuse lending. Also, perhaps there is a needed call for tolerance and understanding too, rather than an easy search for scapegoats, though big rotten apples have to be weeded out. Perhaps it was ever thus, we should take a leaf out of the Ancient Roman’s book and start again with some new laws of Solon, or perhaps any life cynicism is just a natural disillusionment at the human condition, and we all need more poets…
Louis MacNeice – Bagpipe Music
It’s no go the merrygoround, it’s no go the rickshaw,
All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow.
Their knickers are made of crêpe-de-chine, their shoes are made of python,
Their halls are lined with tiger rugs and their walls with heads of bison.
John MacDonald found a corpse, put it under the sofa,
Waited till it came to life and hit it with a poker,
Sold its eyes for souvenirs, sold its blood for whiskey,
Kept its bones for dumb-bells to use when he was fifty.
It’s no go the Yogi-Man, it’s no go Blavatsky,
All we want is a bank balance and a bit of skirt in a taxi.
Annie MacDougall went to milk, caught her foot in the heather,
Woke to hear a dance record playing of Old Vienna.
It’s no go your maidenheads, it’s no go your culture,
All we want is a Dunlop tyre and the devil mend the puncture.
The Laird o’ Phelps spent Hogmanay declaring he was sober,
Counted his feet to prove the fact and found he had one foot over.
Mrs Carmichael had her fifth, looked at the job with repulsion,
Said to the midwife ‘Take it away; I’m through with overproduction’.
It’s no go the gossip column, it’s no go the Ceilidh,
All we want is a mother’s help and a sugar-stick for the baby.
Willie Murray cut his thumb, couldn’t count the damage,
Took the hide of an Ayrshire cow and used it for a bandage.
His brother caught three hundred cran when the seas were lavish,
Threw the bleeders back in the sea and went upon the parish.
It’s no go the Herring Board, it’s no go the Bible,
All we want is a packet of fags when our hands are idle.
It’s no go the picture palace, it’s no go the stadium,
It’s no go the country cot with a pot of pink geraniums,
It’s no go the Government grants, it’s no go the elections,
Sit on your arse for fifty years and hang your hat on a pension.
It’s no go my honey love, it’s no go my poppet;
Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit.
The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall for ever,
But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.