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Greece on Benefits Street

June 30, 2015

Western and Northern Europe sanctimoniously berate the poor choices made by the Greeks, blame them for not working hard enough and condemns their pensioners for being too greedy.  TV and social media provide menus bursting with opportunities to make people be grateful for what they have.  Saints & Scroungers, Life on the Dole, Benefits Street. People need to get their kicks at others’ expense  from somewhere.  Once they would have knitted while being entertained by public executions. Now they look up (occasionally) from their tablets and smartphones to tut-tut at the poverty porn.  There’s no better way to make you feel life’s not so bad as to feast on a diet of unfortunates and  scroungers.  So who are the Greeks supposed to feel better than?  Is this really what the European dream was all about?  Why has everyone ganged up on Greece?  Is this just so they can all feel better about themselves?  Hopefully not.  After all, post-Greece, who’s next?

greek poverty

We can judge the morality and civility of countries by how well they look after their poor, their sick, their mentally ill, and yes, even their prisoners. By the level of humanity they show in helping other parts of the world. By the way they place education, health and social welfare at the top of their agenda. Some may prefer to judge based on how healthy their GDP is, how low their debt is, how well armed they are, or how much muscle they have on the world stage. But, to what end? Let’s assume you become top dog. What then?  Do you start dishing out your wealth, spread love and compassion amongst the ones you have subdued, change your spots into the benevolent but supreme leader?  This is not a long race to the top. We are on a sprint to the bottom. Only one can ever win the race, but there’s room a-plenty for all at the bottom.

What’s it like down there amongst the losers?  This is a place where there may still be a veneer of respectability and an illusion of success, but rife with corruption, hypocrisy, greed, distrust and envy. Is it really worth all the pain that everyone is being duped into going through to ‘win’ this basket of goodies at the end of the race?

Can it ever be anything other than this?  Of course it can.  But it would take a radically different mindset from every European government and every citizen.  What would real sharing look like?  Moving industrial production from one part of Europe (wealthy) to other parts (less wealthy) to allow redistribution, not just of wealth, but of opportunity, would be a real statement of intent. Rather than having people travelling across Europe to chase work, take the work to the people.  Channel money and resources into reskilling programmes in new technologies and creative industries. Increasing the skill base and redistributing hope, opportunity and engagement across all of Europe will benefit each country’s economy and well-being in the longer term. This would be planning for a true Union; a harmonious and well-balanced Union.  Not one based on haves and have-nots, nor one which damages its own markets, its own people’s dreams, and ultimately consumes itself in the false race for economic prosperity.

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