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09 September, 2013

The self-reproducing language of economic cynicism

by system failure

Despite the fact that the stance of people in Greece and Europe seems to change, rather slowly, against concepts which in the relatively recent past have been considered almost taboo, such as the concepts of collectivity and solidarity, the systemic establishment uses all available means to keep the culture of extreme individualism and brute economic pragmatism undamaged.

This culture which spread rapidly over the past two decades in Greece and in the Western world - perhaps in a different form from country to country due to local particularities - serves fully the interests of the economic elites. Extreme individualism and economic pragmatism, were not just the main components of this peculiar culture, but ended up to be the basic building blocks of modern rationalism of Western societies, what one could name as Western neo-rationalism.

It is characteristic that in Greece of financial crisis, the language of economic cynicism which propagates to a great extend by the domestic major media, is being reproduced automatically by the society itself, although the situation in Greece is a result, in a high degree, of the economic irresponsibility of a certain privileged class which not only left unaffected by the crisis, but rather, in many cases gaining from this situation and is the class which controls these media mouthpieces. At the top of this privileged class are the bankers and the business and political class which fully controls Greek governments until today.

For example, the broadcaster of the central news program announces, almost with satisfaction, that tourism has gone up this year in Greece because of the events in Turkey and Egypt, severing the fact that some people there suffering, or even lose their lives. The news comes with some necessary “decorations”, such as statistics on the total number of visitors, etc., or various phrases-cliché such as "tourism is the heavy industry of Greece", so that the mouthpieces to give a false hope for some imminent economic recovery and to distract public from the new austerity measures that will come, layoffs and further downgrade of labor rights and the welfare state.

So, finally, although the dramatic situation and death of many people in these countries are often the first news on the same TV channels, the stereotype being reproduced by the society in the storm of economic crisis, is the fact that tourism in Greece shows a "promising" rise, and this is something that happens in everyday conversations, even by people who have nothing to gain from the rise of tourism in Greece, but instead, their financial situation is likely to worsen in the near future.

The language of economic cynicism takes many forms and literally overwhelms the mainstream media. Another example is the recent statement by the Greek finance minister who said directly and bluntly that auctions for the primary houses must be done (which means that many borrowers will lose their primary homes), otherwise the banks will collapse, despite that banks have received so far billions in bailouts supposedly to survive. Despite that the banks' major shareholders with their enormous responsibilities have been rescued and the debt has been transferred from the banks to the Greek and European taxpayers.

Within a financial war where everyone is trying to survive, the language of economic cynicism is exceptionally useful. Another characteristic example is a letter published recently in a newspaper's website which belongs to the largest journalistic organization in Greece. The letter was written on the occasion of the layoffs of about 30 journalists from the organization and declaring a 24-hour strike by the journalists' union.

At the beginning of the letter, the author and director of the newspaper writes the following:

A lot can be said about the crisis in the press and media. The blame – political or otherwise – can be pointed; newspapers, television, radio and their emergent internet editions can be accused for their bias and attitude, for ideological distortion and an inability to detail the real conditions in Greece and the world.
One can argue with the owners who enjoyed huge profits and didn’t look out for the rainy days, with the “star journalists” who were seduced by the glory of the good old days and cannot face reality; with all those who served and continue to serve without assuming their objective and subjective responsibilities they have, which always exist in failed ventures.
All of the above though are not a solution to the problem that the great financial crisis has caused in the press and media world. The sector of information has been hit the hardest in the Greek economy.”
(http://www.tovima.gr/en/article/?aid=528454)

While in essence the author admits the enormous responsibilities and the corruption of the media establishment in Greece, a part of which is this journalistic organization, requires more or less to forget about these responsibilities, as he says that they "are not a solution to the problem". So, in the midst of an economic crisis, ethic and accountability become a luxury as they "are not a solution" to the economic collapse.

And the letter ends - always with the characteristic language of economic cynicism - as follows:

There are no magic solutions, the media will either limit themselves or they will disappear.
For better or for worse, without a dramatic cut in expenses they have no luck.
The journalists and their unions are obliged to recognize the circumstances.
When the circumstances have been understood the solutions will be found. Otherwise the eradication of the media will be inevitable.”

Which in simple words translated as: "stop strikes and accept layoffs and drastic reduction of your wages, otherwise you will be all left without a job".

The deficit of ethic in the Western neo-rationalism has been replaced by the brute economic pragmatism. So, for example, societies accept rationally that the tourism sector goes well, without wondering if some people suffer or die elsewhere, that banks should not in any way fail because this will bring chaos, or even that the bankers are greedy due to their nature and therefore it's somehow inappropriate someone to deal with their own responsibilities, or that some must necessarily be fired, otherwise the company will close and everyone will be fired.

Fear is, therefore, what enforces this logic. With phrases-cliché like "there are no magic solutions", the language of economic cynicism prevents societies to imagine and try a different way of organizing incompatible with the interests of the economic elites, but compatible with the interests of the majority.

But the expulsion of ethic from the Western neo-rationalism impose another kind of fear: anyone who talks about ethic, or "worse" acts on the basis of some moral principles, is considered anachronistic and naive, displaced gradually from every social activity and usually stays in fringe, threatened with an economic and therefore biological extermination, since ultimately everything is expressed through the language of economic cynicism.

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