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Thread: Across Europe, Quality of Life is Dropping

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    Across Europe, Quality of Life is Dropping



    Ahead of the June 17 elections in Greece, Athens was the scene of a gruesome nostalgia trip. The ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party took to holding torchlit parades through the streets. The party rejects the term neo-Nazi, but there’s little doubt about its source of inspiration. Their symbol, the twisting maeander, is highly reminiscent of a swastika; they send teams of threatening young men into the streets wearing black shirts; their leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, specializes in flamboyant, melodramatic fist-shaking speeches, awash in self-pity; and several prominent members have openly approved of Hitler. These are not fringe figures in the Greek political landscape anymore. During the last legislative election, barely a month ago, they managed to take seven per cent of the vote. This time around they earned 6.92 per cent.

    They are not unique to Greece. Just as the 1970s gave rise to a slew of European left-wing terrorists in the wake of turbulent social and economic change in the 1960s, so the failure of globalization is inevitably coughing up a new breed of fascism across the Continent.


    The Great Recession has clarified underlying trends that were at work before the crash of 2008. The ranks of the European far right no longer come from the underprivileged and marginalized but from the middle class, the group most threatened by the inevitable outcome of globalization: rising inequality. The political centre has failed to acknowledge a simple reality. Integrated markets have not helped ordinary people in Europe. The globalized economy has seen a huge spike in productivity and GDP. In the decade before the crash, the Irish growth rate hovered around five per cent annually and in Spain around four per cent. But the benefits of that expansion have not been shared by all. Stagnant wages combined with inflation led to a decrease of middle-class purchasing power throughout the decade before 2008. That year, a German study showed a marked decrease in the number of workers who fell between 70 to 150 per cent of the median income—from 62 per cent in 2000 to 54 per cent in 2008. The middle class has found only deepening insecurity and a decrease in social mobility. A decline in the European standard of living is almost inevitable at this point. Children will almost certainly lead poorer lives than their parents.

    The only parties that speak to the failure of economic integration to improve the lives of ordinary Europeans are ultra-nationalistic. Both sides of the political centre are to blame in the current situation and neither seems to have a workable solution. Socialism from the centre-left created burdensome deficits before the recession; countries competed for the most outrageous entitlement programs despite sky-high debt-to-GDP ratios. (The French may have won with postnatal training in vaginal exercises). As Theodoros Pangalos, the former Socialist deputy prime minister, said, “We ate the money together.” Post-recession, the centre-right’s austerity plan has failed to create investor confidence, and led to a double-dip recession. Their ideology is equally inflexible and ineffective.

    The legitimacy of recent neo-fascist movements is what makes them infinitely more terrifying than the leftist terrorists of an earlier era who wreaked havoc in Italy, Germany, France and elsewhere. The nightmare of European fascism has never been entirely extinguished, but for the most part hard-line nationalism has, until recently, been a sociopathic residue of European politics, a self-consciously futile and anarchistic project. The new fascists are organized and sensible, with their eyes firmly set on controlling the machinery of the state rather than destroying it. They are policemen and bankers rather than students and workers. In Germany, political commentators noticed a shift in tone rather than substance—one from stiefelnazis, or “boot Nazis,” to kravattennazis or “tie Nazis.” Many nations in Europe have an expanding hard-right party, which points to a larger phenomenon. Austria’s far-right Freedom Party is consistently a leading party in national elections. France’s Marine Le Pen of National Front received six million votes in the recent election. Hungary’s Jobbik party proudly displays a symbol suspiciously similar to the war-era Arrow Cross and won 17 per cent of the vote in 2010. Even the Scandinavian countries—once beacons for tolerance and openness—are susceptible. Norway’s far right has defended mass-murderer Anders Breivik’s views on Islam.

    The underlying reasons for this spasm of hatred are obvious. The unemployment rate in Greece is 22 per cent. In Spain, it’s even higher, at 24 per cent. Youth unemployment tops 22 per cent for the entire European Union. The classic explanation for the rise of fascism in the 1930s was severe economic crisis and poverty. But hard-right parties have been prominent since well before the current economic crisis, although their messages have become much more mainstream since. The current explosion of racism and xenophobia is rooted in a more profound rejection of the open flow of money and people. All the ultra-nationalist parties are against the EU as an idea and in practice. In all of these parties, hatred of Jews is an ancient theme, an old song dragged out for the old-timers; their current preoccupation is hatred for Muslim immigrants and the Roma, vulnerable symbols of human mobility. Jobbik has organized “civic guards” to go on “civil activist strolls” in towns with large Roma populations; such euphemisms should be familiar to any student of European history.

    In his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama proposed that the global struggle of competing ideological systems had come to an end with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Whenever dramatic events have followed—Sept. 11, 2001, or the Iraq war or the rise of the Chinese economy—the idea has taken a thrashing. His theory nonetheless has a tendency to bounce back. Many of us want to believe that liberal democracy is the only sensible political ideology, and that the various insanities of the 20th century ultimately resulted in that revelation. Fukuyama assumed democratic systems would be able to work through internal contradictions, and the capacity of voters to throw out their political masters would correct the most egregious economic mismanagement. Twenty years after the book’s publication, Europe finally seems to be about to prove The End of History wrong. In a recent article for Foreign Affairs, Fukuyama questioned his own idea. “Can liberal democracy survive the decline of the middle class?” he wondered. The corrosive effect of the global flow of money around national borders, and around the capacity for any elected government to regulate it, is proving too strong.

    Democratic institutions began imploding before any neo-fascists came to real power. The failure of the political class and the threat of unbearable punishment from the bond market has led, in some cases, to the imposition of unelected officials, as with the appointment of Mario Monti in Italy. The technocrats’ solution to the deepening crisis is simple and elegantly self-serving: they need more power. The Economist sees a great opportunity in the crisis for European integrationists: “A consensus is slowly emerging that, whether a Greek exit is to be averted or weathered, there will have to be a greater level of integration in the eurozone, with tighter constraints on the freedom of national governments.” The European Commission and the IMF define lack of accountability. The failure of their policies calling for painful austerity measures in Greece has had no consequences. Who can fire them?
This situation presents a question that makes sense to more people than just fascists: what is the value of democracy if it is incapable of determining the economic system of its people?

    Financier George Soros, in a recent speech, declared his fear that the European Union is becoming “a German empire with the periphery as the hinterland.” Ultra-nationalism at least provides a kind of resistance to this future. The resistance is grotesque and violent, however. Michaloliakos, in his speech after the May election, shouted, “The new gold dawn of Hellenism is rising. For those who betray this country, the time has come for fear. We are coming!” A time of fear may well be coming. In a televised debate on Greek television, a spokesman for Golden Dawn, Ilias Kasidiaris, stood up in the middle of a typical televised roundtable, threw a glass of water in the face of one female opponent and then began roughly slapping another in the face. The other guests were too stunned to know how to respond.

    Even more troubling, Kasidiaris escaped from custody at the television station and only resurfaced last Monday. Several commentators have suggested such a flight would not have been possible without the complicity of Greek police, half of whom reportedly voted for Golden Dawn in the last election. The neo-Nazis have the support of the police as well as a sizable chunk of the electorate. Liberal democracy in Europe may turn out not to be the conclusion of history but instead a very brief chapter. The old madness has returned. What is worse this time is there is good reason behind it.
    Source http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/06/19/the-new-fascism/

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    Senior Member Olavssønn's Avatar
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    Even the Scandinavian countries—once beacons for tolerance and openness—are susceptible. Norway’s far right has defended mass-murderer Anders Breivik’s views on Islam.
    Which "far right" in Norway is he talking about here?

    Interesting article, anyway. Fukuyama's "end of history" will surely never happen, and I think we will witness dramatic developments escalate in the future - in Europe and elsewhere. The liberal system (and economic globalism) is creating problems that will end up destroying it.
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    Senior Member Patrioten's Avatar
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    In trying to explain the successes of the nationalist parties the liberals and socialists are using the same myth as their starting point, namely the myth of a cozy liberal consensus which emerged somehow, sometime around the end of world war two, reaching such a completeness or absoluteness that no other alternative viewpoints existed among the populace (as evidenced, using the logic of the liberals and socialists, by the liberal consensus among the parties and in the media). This is of course at best a delusion and historic falsehood, or at worst a self-serving lie.

    There never was a liberal consensus among the people and the post-war parties were supported by a divided electorate. What united the left-wing voters was not immigration, criminal justice or gay rights, but unemployment benefits, pensions and health care. There is no absolute majority behind the policies that are agreed upon inside parliament, among the voters themselves, or among the parties' own voters.

    On the most mundane issue there is division, it is an inevitable fact of society and humanity. Yet when it comes to issues which the liberals and socialists themselves claim are the most pressing and important issues of our age, we're told that the weight and authority of the people is firmly on the side of those who favor a fundamental transformation of society and its inhabitants.

    The way that the parties and the media present the issue as they see it, the rise of the nationalist parties, we are supposed to believe that 90% of the public supports the current policies, and that 90% (or a similarly outrageous percentage) of the parties' own voters support the policies. This is delusional, and not even the politicians and journalists themselves believe this to be so, they do however feel entirely comfortable with upholding the illusion of a compact and unwavering societal consensus, manufactured via a uniform press and uniform party ideology as it concerns the core issues.

    In Sweden up until the last election we had 7 parties in parliament. All seven were in favor of multiculturalism and continued immigration. In Sweden we have two main national tabloids. Both are in favor of multiculturalism and immigration. We also have two other major national news papers. Both of those are in favor of multiculturalism and immigration. There are also the local papers, typically two per larger town or city, one social democratic and one liberal. Each and every one in favor of multiculturalism and immigration. On the issue of multiculturalism and immigration there is only one opinion out there as far as the public arena is concerned.

    Is there any wonder then that the politicians and journalists have been able to create a bubble of imagination, or delusion, where there exists an ironclad and absolute support for the policies that they themselves have been responsible for? And who dares go against such an absolute and compact wall of authority speaking with one unanimous voice?

    The electoral successes of nationalist parties is thus a major annoyance for all parties, or stakeholders, which have been able to rule the roost in their fantasyland for quite some time. Not because there hasn't been any opposition to their policies or disagreement with them, but because there hasn't existed a voice in the public arena for this opposition.

    Let's hear it straight from the horses mouth, a professor in sociology interviewed about the importance of class and class identity. As a side note the article turns to class-based differences in voting and political views:

    - It is often taken for granted that workers stand politically to the left. And it is true that they favor smaller wage-differentials and government interference, rather than a free market, to a higher degree than higher civil servants or business owners. At the same time workers tend to embrace more traditionally conservative and sceptical views on homosexuals, immigrants and other minority groups. They also have a tougher attitude against criminals and other norm breakers than higher civil servants.

    In Sweden the Social democrats have moved to the middle over the course of several years, continues Stefan Svallfors. At the same time the New Moderates have taken large leaps to the left and are now praising the "Swedish model". In order for the parties to stake out a political profile they are now forced to focus on tougher measures against criminals and in school, citizenship tests for immigrants and such.

    - Studies show that if politics is dominated by a discussion about equality and distribution of resources the workers vote to the left. But if the debate concerns morality and lifestyle they vote to the right. But in those cases they don't vote for the market liberals but rather the right-wing populist alternatives. Similar to when the Swedish democrats - with an immigrant critical program - entered the Swedish parliament after the last election.
    In other words. Workers tend to support the economical policy of the socialist parties but they support more traditional, conservative policy as it concerns issues such as crime, immigration and morality. This was true before and it is true to this day. These voters have not had their opinions represented by the parties which they have carried to power, the same parties who have given us such joys as liberal sentencing for criminals, immigration, multiculturalism, gay "rights" and other liberal and or cultural marxist influenced policy.

    The great voter coalition that supported immigration and multiculturalism has never existed. It did not matter however. Even if so many as 50% of the voters for the socialdemocrats opposed their policies on immigration and multiculturalism the socialdemocrats still had their mandates inside parliament, and they still had a party whip which ensured uniform voting from their parliamentarians. 50% of imagined potential support gets translated into 100% support inside the parliament.

    - Studies show that if politics is dominated by a discussion about equality and distribution of resources the workers vote to the left. But if the debate concerns morality and lifestyle they vote to the right. But in those cases they don't vote for the market liberals but rather the right-wing populist alternatives.
    In other words, studies show that if the political debate is dominated by discussions on equality and distribution many of the workers only get half of what they want, the other half gets decided against their will by their elected "representatives". The workers do not change their mind on an issue such as immigration or crime depending on what the political debate is like, they merely get their views and values represented to a higher or lesser degree. The opinion is a constant, the pay-off is shifting.

    The fact that the voters don't get what they want in the political system which has been in existence for the last 80 years or so is not pointed out by the sociologist, which is hardly surprising coming from a university professor in sociology. They are more than content with the way things have been for this period of time, where voters get what they want only when the politicians want the same thing, when voters and politicians differ on policy the voters can and should be taken for a ride by sleight of hand trickery and political distractions (say a uniform media and uniform parties all presenting the same message of more or less wellfare or higher or lower taxes, leaving out the issues of immigration and multiculturalism entirely from the "public" debate and thus tilting the playing field in their favor since they wont have to actually promote and defend these unpopular policies infront of the public, they can leave those aside and deal with them behind the walls of the parliament where not just 40% or 50% of the voters support their policy, but rather 100% of the voters under threat of being replaced).

    Such is the state and nature of our democracy.

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    Senior Member Neophyte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrioten View Post
    There are also the local papers, typically two per larger town or city, one social democratic and one liberal. Each and every one in favor of multiculturalism and immigration. On the issue of multiculturalism and immigration there is only one opinion out there as far as the public arena is concerned.
    And I would bet a fair amount of money that the editors are both members of the same masonic lodge. Masons are like Communists, they spend all their days working in their respective organizations, and then they meet at night in the fractional groups to decide upon policy. I guess that is where the Communists learned their trade.

    Such is the state and nature of our democracy.
    Indeed. On all important issues there is total unity, the rest is presented as the "divisive" stuff and the people are allowed to vote on that.

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    Senior Member Patrioten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neophyte View Post
    And I would bet a fair amount of money that the editors are both members of the same masonic lodge. Masons are like Communists, they spend all their days working in their respective organizations, and then they meet at night in the fractional groups to decide upon policy. I guess that is where the Communists learned their trade.
    Well the need for coordination seems rather limited since the liberals and social democrats are partners in crime ideologically, the parties that the news paper and editor favors all have the same policy on these issues. They probably attend various job-related events together however, where issues such as the coverage of multiculturalism and immigration is adressed and discussed, by panels and such. But when everyone is pulling in the same direction by conviction, there's no need for secret handshakes.

    It also helps that they have a common enemy in the Nationalists and Conservatives. The conflict over economic matters is alot less fierce today between the liberals and the socialists since the differences between them in policy nowadays can be measured in single digit percentage points. This is of course due to the Conservative wing of the right dying off and the liberals accepting much of the social democratic wellfare state, whilst the social democrats on their end gave up on their plans to socialize the economy. The wellfare state paid for by taxes is a settled issue, it just needs to be managed by the liberals or the social democrats to work properly according to the respective parties.

    The big conflict nowadays is between the liberals and socialists on the one hand and the nationalists on the other, and that conflict is not one of economics but of culture, where the liberals and socialists are united in defending their common projects. Even as they are bickering over minor changes in tax rates or welfare expenditure, which they claim will lower unemployment in one fell swoop or save the wellfare state from being dismantled or falling apart, they can each use their editorial page or debate articles to push the same message as it concerns immigration and multiculturalism.

    One additional thing to note is the fact that many of the local news papers are owned, irrespective of their ideological position, by the same parent media company.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neophyte View Post
    Indeed. On all important issues there is total unity, the rest is presented as the "divisive" stuff and the people are allowed to vote on that.
    Well I wouldn't say that the rest is presented as the divisive stuff, I would simply say that it's the stuff that is divisive in the eyes of the politicians and the media, they squabble over the things that they want to squabble over. They agree on alot of things, but not everything. Then there's a certain amount of power struggle involved, of politicians and journalists taking up the opposite position just to be in opposition of those in power for the moment, leading to some rather strange twists and turns.

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    Senior Member Horagalles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olavssønn View Post
    ...Interesting article, anyway. Fukuyama's "end of history" will surely never happen, and I think we will witness dramatic developments escalate in the future - in Europe and elsewhere. The liberal system (and economic globalism) is creating problems that will end up destroying it.
    And damn aren't we glad about that? In a way I mean. I am pretty certain that this will not go over easy. I'd give this another couple of years, before the structural damage becomes visible in the forms of unrest, fundamental economic problems and even wars, with all the common responses by the state, which however are not going to solve the issue at all. It will put several tennets to the test, too:
    Multiculturalism Destroys Trust, Economic Well-being, Happiness and Social Cohesion
    "And God proclaims as a first principle to the rulers, and above all else, that there is nothing which they should so anxiously guard, or of which they are to be such good guardians, as of the purity of the race. They should observe what elements mingle in their offspring;..." Plato Politeia

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