Many of the pundits and newsreaders who refer to the current economic malaise threatening Europe use one term more than any other: contagion.
The suggestion is that the troubles that have afflicted Greece and now Ireland are a sort of water-borne disease, transmitted through the sewage-laden streams of international finance. And all we want to know is: how do we protect ourselves against this nasty infection? How do we beat the contagion?
The problem is that the crisis affecting Europe isn’t bacterial or viral at all. As Portugal, then Spain, Italy and France stand like dominoes waiting to be toppled, economic ministers (who often know nothing of economics) flail around looking for a vaccine. They don’t seem to realise that the contagion isn’t contagious at all. It’s a cancer.
The cancer of neoliberal capitalism has metastacised in multiple countries. It sucks the marrow from the bone and leeches the oxygen from the blood. The only way to get rid of it is surgically. By removing the financial sector from the centre of our national economies, we free ourselves from the carcinogenic effects of its vapours. We might be weakened after the operation but we’ll come back stronger.
If there is a spectre haunting Europe at the end of this miserable decade, it is the spectre of neoliberalism. And socialism is the doctor we need. Or the ghostbuster, or something.
I’ve just discovered that Spain is the world’s third largest producer of wine. Behind France and Italy (I must admit that I can’t remember the time I last tried a glass of Italian), Spain produced nearly four million tonnes of wine in 2005. I suppose that it makes sense: from the ubiquitous Rioja, through Cava to the Valencian fare sold for four pounds a bottle in England, almost every region in Spain produces its own variety of God’s greatest gift. Personally, I’m a great fan of Priorat. The Catalan county which gives Priorat its name has a minuscule population of fewer than 10,000. And yet it manages to produce a wine whose quality and richness is even now being ‘discovered’ by the bodegas of New York City and London. Read more about Spanish and Portuguese wine at Catavino.
Speaking of wine, Gemma and I watched the film ‘Factotum’ tonight. An adaptation of one of Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical novels, it tracks the jobs, drinks and women of Henry Chinaski who weaves his way between work and bed and racetrack in the form of Matt Dillon. I hadn’t read Factotum before. I loved Post Office and Ham On Rye and so knew – more or less – what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed. The direction and acting in the film were smart and well adapted to the subject material. I laughed my head off at parts. And it stars Marisa Tomei… always a good sign, right Costanza?
Graeme at South of Watford drew my attention to the mad ravings of a Libertad Digital blogger today. Pio Moa (or Pio Mio, as I call him) wrote a piece yesterday which basically argued for the use of violence to wrest power from the democratically elected socialist government. The justification he offers for starting a new civil war is that the socialists conspired to bring about the Madrid bombings two years ago in order to steal the election which followed days later. Naturally, this theory is totally lacking in evidence but then most crazy conspiracy theories are. It would be easy for me to say that this guy needs to drink either more wine or less wine, depending on his current wine consumption.
Pio, I’d be more worried about the crack if I were you.