Saturday, June 27, 2015

The stupidity of cruelty - the special case of Greece

Mercy is essentially compassion, from the Latin "suffering with."  This is wisdom, because in this way we see through our own pains and needs into those of others, and so we are led to make it possible for others to work with us.  We don't force them to fight to the death by trying to make them do what they no can do, or to make them do without what they gotta have.

Cruelty is stupid that way.  Knowing and caring nothing for the pains and needs of others, commonly rationalizing such willful blindness by their wrongdoing, cruelty compels others to fight to the death - and because God hates such arrogance and cruelty, unpleasant and wholly unexpected results are pretty near a sure thing.  This is the real cause of such disgraceful US misadventures as Iraq and Vietnam, the Japanese stupidity of attacking the United States in 1941, and the short lives of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes.

So, then, today's special case - Greece.  Greece racked up its debts in the first place because European banksters and their governments made what they knew to be bad loans figuring - rightly - that they could use these to plunder the Greek nation when the Greeks couldn't pay - a game described by John Perkins in his     Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

For years, Greece was ruled by compliant puppets, Papandreou and Samaras, who obediently destroyed the Greek economy for the convenience of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank - and without reducing Greek debt at all, since inflicting all this misery reduced the tax receipts needed to pay.  So in January, the Greeks sensibly threw out these puppets and elected the Syriza party to push back.

Everyone knows that these debts can never be repaid - even European economists are not stupid enough to believe that they can be.  Here the wisdom of Moses on debt cancellation is especially pertinent - but who wants to listen to him? 

Even so, the new Syriza government negotiated with these fools and tried to accommodate them, but last week it became clear that this was useless.  Syriza couldn't betray the Greek people and knuckle under to the same futile stupidity that they had been elected to stop.  It was simply a no-can-do.  And having been elected by only 36% of the people, they couldn't take the responsibility for the train wreck that the default being forced upon them would cause, a weakness that the creditors were counting on to make Syriza cave.  And they did come close.

But since that was simply not possible, the Greek government did the only thing possible - they called a snap referendum on the creditors' ultimatum for July 5, thus giving the Greek people the chance to decide, and forcing the creditors either to back down or hit the wall on June 30, when a huge payment to the International Monetary Fund is due, which cannot be made and won't be. 

The recklessness of compelling the Greeks to default with a FU offer they could not accept reminds me of Austria-Hungary's ultimatum to Serbia on July 23, 1914 - designed to be a demand that Serbia could not accept, so that Austria could destroy Serbia before the Russians could get involved.  Well, the Russians did get involved - and then the Germans, the British and the French - and we all know how World War 1 turned out.

We don't know exactly how playing the same game almost exactly 101 years later will turn out, but one thing we can be sure of.  It won't turn out well for the perps, and probably not for anyone else.          

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"The cruel man troubles his own flesh"

I was reminded of the stupidity of cruelty as I was driving yesterday, when I thought of the massacre in Hue by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong while they held the city during the Tet Offensive in 1968.  The city itself became very much more anti-communist, and to a lesser degree, so did many others in South Vietnam.  Besides being probably the most cruel act of the Vietnamese Communists during the entire war, it was undoubtedly the most stupid.  Without it, the South Vietnamese regime would have collapsed far more quickly.

As it was, it made less of an impression than it otherwise would have only because of the far greater cruelty, and much more consistently, of the American occupiers.  They, too, were defeated by their own cruelty.

Then, too, every one of Israel's massacres in Gaza moves that state toward history's compost heap, as does its calculated and scientific cruelty in the West Bank.  Its massacres and systematic torture during its occupation of South Lebanon created Hizbollah from the formerly friendly Lebanese Shi'a population.

These principles work in the smallest conflicts in the same way - in our families, our workplaces, and schools.  Your own cruelty will defeat you in the end.  I know that you can bully and terrorize people by means of cruelty, which is why it is so popular, but it never ends well. 

The other half of the proverb also holds true, "the merciful man does good to his own life."  Let's try it, not to be nice, but to do good to our own flesh.