And what have you done?
Apparently, the central banks of a lot of the World’s big economies did something earlier this week that pumped a bunch of money into the Global economy, which then increased investor confidence, which sent markets soaring, which creates an assumption at least in America that everyone is rushing to the Mall to spend money on holiday stuff. Merry Christmas.
Christmas—the Christian celebration of the Birth of Christ and its various secular reinventions—is largely viewed as a polyglot holiday by most Americans. Having said that, a lot of what we Americans actually do at Christmas, from Christmas trees, to sitting around a burning fire, wearing bright colors, eating cookies and gingerbread, hanging ornaments and lights are really Nordic traditions that were “Christianized” by the early Catholic Church to turn Northern Europeans on to Christianity. And by and large, it worked.
Of course, there is a certain narcissism in my description of Christmas—I am Northern European and grew up in a part of the United States that has a similar geography and climate to Northern Europe and has a lot of Northern European tradition in its culture. You might also notice that my description doesn’t say a lot about gifting and shopping and huge budgets.
I know this year we’re all supposed to be talking about buying stuff and hitting the Malls and helping get the economy back on track and get job creation going through retail therapy. Well, one, I personally am not in that mode as one of the 8.6 percent of Americans who is currently unemployed (and that’s still more than 17 percent who are un- and under-employed) and two, that’s just not what Christmas is ever about for me. Not any year. Ever heard “Don’t spend all your money in one place?!?!?!?”
Which gets me back to the World economic crisis. Some guy who writes for the New York Times, Joe Nocera, wrote a column earlier this week analogizing Germany’s current stance on the World economic crisis to Nazism, stating that Germany has contempt for Greece and Greek culture because Germany won’t give Greece more money to pay for Greek social programs. I’ll agree, there’s an aura of contempt—among upper class Greeks to their own people.
Greece has a deplorable social equity imbalance, exactly they formula that lead to the rise of Fascism in Europe in the 20th century (and actually in the United States as well). I’ll give Mr. Nocera that, there’s something big to worry about here—see the Occupy Movement and the name-gathering motivated arrests in many cities around the country. Now the FBI has something to do for another generation.
When Greece was loaned money to stabilize its economy, rather than using the funds to cover itself while it revamped its tax policies and dealt with a structural deficit, they spent it and then went back to “we’ve fallen and we can’t get up.” Currently compliance with the individual tax code in Greece is essentially non-existent—meaning that the upper twenty percent Greek “ruling class” live a Gilded Age Robber Baron existence. And they just don’t understand what the “little people” are upset about.
You know, maybe it is my own idealism, but I really think there was a time when having an education or other position of community leadership was about stewardship, rather than owning a gated home with multiple pools and driving expensive imported cars. I think that sense of community leadership as a responsibility rather than privilege has eroded in the United States in recent generations. Now an education, membership in a profession, and resources seem to be about having a ginormous house and twenty dollar martinis and buying Xbox. (Except pretty much every American household has a gaming system now, regardless of financial status.)
At any rate, it now looks France and Germany are going to do as Mr. Nocera asked. Be careful what you wish for. They are going to work toward an integrated European Mainland. I guess the British and the Scandinavians are staying out of it for now. Probably because they can’t take it, and because it is less critical to their economic and national security.
I visited Italy a number of years ago, where I was introduced to the saying, “Everything south of Rome is Africa.” I could speculate on exactly what that means, but I’m not going to, at least not here.
Nonsequitur Warning: Apparently, in an attempt to do something about deplorable air quality conditions in Rome years ago, Italy instituted a program where cars in Rome could only be driven every other day based on license plate numbers—if the license plate ended in a even number, it could be driven on an even numbered day, and if it ended in an odd number, it could be driven on an odd numbered day. Romans—at least the ones with enough money to own cars—responded by buying multiple cars and bribing front-line government officials to give them odd and even numbered license plates. What’s the price tag on that? Larger or smaller than an Xbox?
So, thanks to much sought after integration of the European economy, I think the bus system in Rome may see a surge in popularity. May the Spirit of the Season Fill Your Heart and Mind, Mr. Nocera.
Well, that was a lot of contrarianism for early December. As I said, I’m caught up in that Nordic idea of Christmas, so this really isn’t my vibe this time of year. I think I’ll try to go for something a bit more seasonal next. 🙂