20 years ago, we all worried Y2K was going to ctrl+alt+delete the world when it’s been the 2BS — bubbles and bonuses — which crashed our economy. We’ve gone from the recession to Brexit and we’re finishing the decade with a crisis that’s left us with nothing.
From the war on terror to war on want?
We started the century with most of Europe uniting behind a single currency — the Euro — and divided on fighting the War on Terror. It ended with the continent fighting a political and economic crisis. Will the next decade see us sparing any more of our soldiers’ lives for a lost cause and instead recruit a green army for a war on want at home and abroad?
From the stock floor to the handbag — give us back our money!
We may live in different countries but when even invisible financial transactions travel across borders can have a very real impact on our economy; it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the flu started by pigs could fly and spread across the continent. Will we see instead a tax on these same financial transactions go viral across the continent or even the world?
The lights are on, but no one’s in
We have the politicians we deserve and societies have the levels of poverty and inequality they choose. The poorest fifth of the population pays more of their income in tax than the richest fifth of the population. And even if the bankers are being bashed in the press, governments have still mortgaged our own futures to keep them paying out bonuses.
“We didn’t eat the money…they (the banks) ate the money” describes the sentiment that many people have as to why much of Europe has ended up with such big budget deficits that are motivating the cuts to public services. As a result for ordinary people, we’ll be lucky if we get a slice of cheese for our efforts.
All of this is leaving European citizens between disdain and despair. The ILO has warned of growing social unrest because it fears unemployment won’t recover for another five years. For many, this is the last straw and could lead to riots by disaffected young people, while others celebrate their despair by organising illegal raves.
The quote from a Tea Party billboard “keep your government hands off my Medicare” may be the defining tension for the next year not just in the US but across Europe as the welfare state is stripped away and unusual allies start realising that it’s only when they lose services they took for granted they suddenly want them back.
Just as in France, the people who Sarkozy praised as those who “wake up early” have woken up to face another day without a job. They are now wide awake to protest against a pensions reform that doesn’t take into account the fact they’re overworked and burnt out. They don’t believe in change any more. They never benefited from the effects of economic globalisation and have often succumbed to their pay, rights if not their jobs going out of the window as a result.
Towards new nomadism?
Will this develop transnational solidarity? In the era of networks and interdependence, transnationalism is the flavour of the day. But for those who believe in solidarity, we do need to resolve this contradiction. Economic transnationalism melted the solid structures not only of the nation-state but of the traditional bonds of solidarity.