Just prior to the outbreak of the First World War, the above assertion was what English writer and commentarian G K Chesterton wrote about the politics of Europe. His aphorism proved to be astonishingly prescient: just under two years later, a collection of foolish French, German, British, Russian, Austrian and Turkish leaders declared war and alliance by timetable and, after twenty years of largely perfidious diplomacy, launched four years of utterly pointless mass slaughter.
A hundred years later, we have pretty much the same cast of mendacious, foolish characters (with noises off from the Americans) declaring that unless something is done by X Hour, then Y will happen by Z day and we will all be vapourised by the hopeless inability of the Greek population to organise a Zorba Dance in a Taverna.
Olli Rehn has pulled the XYZ stunt four times in three weeks on the Greek debt talks – and we’re only a month into the year. Venizelos has done it twice, and Papademos (who told the media the deal was done 20 days ago) now promises all will be signed by the end of the week. Yesterday he promised it would be completed “within hours”. Rehn said last Friday it would be signed during the weekend.
Berlin effectively sent an ultimatum to her EU partners about seizing Greek sovereignty, since when Nicolas Sarkozy has denied there was “Ever any intention of enforcing guardianship on Athens”. One only has to read the German memorandum of last Friday to see what a gigantic lie that is.
Papademos said at 1.30 am today that “talks between Greece and the bondholders are ongoing, and progress has been made”. Neither of those statements is true.
Herman van Rompuy said yesterday evening that it was merely a question of “putting the current [Greek austerity] programme back on track”. The austerity programme was never on track, and has steadily exacerbated the Greek economic output since its half-baked inception.
Mathematically, short of a bondholder write-off at close to 90%, there is no chance at all that Greece’s debt repayment schedules are achievable.
And finally, for a fuller account of why none of this is about Greek tax evasion, idleness or debt-mania, see the Slogpost of last Saturday for the facts rather than the rhetoric.
Not much has changed in a century. The current lot are analogous to the generals in the Great War, calculating gains efficiency by men killed per square metre. “One more heave” is all we need. It will all be over by Christmas. The tank will change everything. The Dardanelles are Europe’s soft underbelly. Morale is high in the trenches. God is on our side. Gott mit uns, Gott strafe England, C’est pour la gloire.
Just the once – and don’t take this as an invitation to do likewise – I am going to break my obscenity rule.
The people running the world have always been, and always will be, fucking mad. It is the insoluble dilemma of our species that we seem to be incapable of breeding strong leadership personalities without the accompanying schizoid megalomanic tendencies.
And like every congenital disease, this one is easy to diagnose – but the very Devil to cure.