A world in flames



“Them belly full, but we hungry;
A hungry mob is a angry mob.
A rain a-fall, but the dirt it tough;
A pot a cook, but you no’ nough.”

by Bob Marley

I came across an article recently on the website of a fellow blogger, Maria Sevastaki, that really brought home what austerity means when it is implemented in its entirety and with unrelenting force. Here is an excerpt from the writers’, Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones, stunning portrayal of Greek life in the Age of Austerity©:

Probably most dramatically are the photographs of Athens which show it to be under a pall of thick smog caused by the explosion in burning wood to keep warm. It appears that hundreds of thousands of trees have been cut from the forests on and around Mount Olympus. Friends returning to the island after Christmas away told us that the smell of wood smoke was intense on the express bus which took them from Athens airport to the port in Piraeas. They looked out of the window to see if they could see a fire. It was the Athenians on the bus who told them this smoke was coming not from a single fire but from tens of thousands as people tried to heat their homes. And what made it worse was that most could not even afford logs but were burning any wood they could find, from abandoned homes, from the rubbish tips.

It is hard to grasp these conditions in America where we have not yet reached this level of misery and desperation but the train is coming down the tracks. I’m sure the bankers are at least selling the wood to the people at fire sale prices.

Anti-austerity general strike, 19/10/2011

Anti-austerity general strike, 19/10/2011 (Photo credit: 0neiros)

Another aspect the article touches on is the incessantness of the austerity measures:

There is a relentlessness about this crisis. It is hard to escape from its horrors. Monday night saw us eating with friends we had not seen for some weeks. A couple in their early 30s. Good people but now utterly desperate. Connie had hurt her hand from smashing her fist into a kitchen cupboard in total frustration. Her partner told us he had now disconnected the fridge. It was completely empty. It had not helped that they had also argued with his father who was telling them that they should make more an effort to survive. But how? What is so disturbing here is that the Greek state and its various agencies seem intent upon making life worse in every respect. It is not only that they continue to raise taxes, cut incomes, jobs and benefits but they are now insisting on implementing EU regulations that have been systematically ignored here in the past.”

Perhaps, the members of the ruling class were once students of the wise sage John Kreese who taught his followers, “We do not train to be merciful here, mercy is for the weak.” The even wiser sage George Carlin had it right when he said, “They don’t care about you…at all.” Until we realize this fundamental truth we will remain under the spell of our captors and the cycle of abuse will be perpetuated to future generations.

The Rape of Greece by ECB, EU and IMF

The Rape of Greece by ECB, EU and IMF (Photo credit: freestylee)

Please take a moment to read this article in its entirety, it may change the way you look at austerity or the fiscal cliff or the budget sequestration or whatever other euphemism is being employed to bring fiscal shock and awe to the people. Naomi Klein referred to austerity aka the shock doctrine aka disaster capitalism as “planned misery”. The designers and implementers of austerity knew full well and in advance that their policies were like guided missiles aimed straight at the people they claimed to represent. Klein also effectively showed how the use of force and repression of dissent by the state always accompanies these economic weapons of mass destruction as the people fully awaken to the horrorshow descending upon their lives and the lives of their friends, family and neighbors. Whether it is in Greece or Spain or Ireland or any other country the outcomes are the same…brutal, unrelenting concessions to the ruling class and by proxy the politicians and interconnected webs of global finance and multinational corporations they control. By keeping our eyes on an illusory fiscal cliff, we miss the fiscal chasm that has grown between the super wealthy and everyone else on the planet. While we are arguing over raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour, typical CEO’s earn in the neighborhood of $3,000 an hour. I guess all is fair in love and capitalism.

Italiano: Vada: Austerity

Italiano: Vada: Austerity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. another fiscal cliffhanger is on the horizon as the nation awaits anxiously and with bated breath the outcome of the fiscal “negotiations” between the the GOPS and DEMS. Will the GOPS succeed in turning the clock back on middle-class America to pre-industrial revolution era working conditions? Will the DEMS pull out a last minute, come from behind victory to lead the American people into a golden age of Wal-Marts and charter schools? Will the POTUS stop adding names to the kill list and recruiting new drone pilots from XBox Live leader boards long enough to give another beautiful, uplifting speech that rouses the masses and accomplishes not a darn thing in the real world? As any public education student in the United States would know to answer, “I choose C”. The ruling class is determined to milk the Obama cash cow for all he’s worth and to conduct the speeding locomotive of austerity at full throttle from sea to shining sea. The perspectives on global austerity shared by activists, bloggers and independent journalists that few in America are reading or hearing about on Ayy-Bee-Cee News or any of its corporate counterparts are what is in store for us all if we continue down the path of least resistance. Will we choose to begin to awaken to the reality that the world is going up in flames around us and start to look outside of ourselves to bring relief and compassion to others? Or will we continue to fiddle while it all burns down? Either way, its probably time to start gathering wood, its going to be a long winter.

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7 Responses to A world in flames

  1. Toadfish says:

    I like the connection between the fiscal cliff and the far more dire “fiscal chasm.” And what a terrible time the people in Greece are having… Perhaps we’re headed in a similar direction. Hopefully not. Along with all the other difficulties it would bring, if the population of the US ever had to survive on wood-burning stoves for heat, then the nations’ forests would disappear at an even more breakneck pace than they already are. Great writing as usual, Jeff.


    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      The POTUS is trying his best to lay the Golden Goose’s eggs on the table for the GOPS to crack apart. Social Security and Medicare are big sections of the threadbare safety net that keep millions of American from descending into some level of poverty. Unfortunately, we probably are not going to get much sympathy from the global community if we don’t show more concern or solidarity to the international citizens who are currently suffering under severe austerity. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  2. The more quickly we speed toward a defeat from which it will be impossible to recover, the more eye-poppingly stupid our national political vocabulary becomes. It’s like being in the Twilight Zone…Pre-Civil Rights 101. Remedial Feminism, Taking it Slow with Gay rights: A 30 Year Course. Economic Equity: Middle Class edition (Word ‘Poor’ Omitted), Why Does Colonialism Make People Hate us, Anyway? , A is for Arab, and last but not least: Wait Until it Effects White Kids: a New Strategy for Helping Inner City Black Youth/ Book One: Making it to Age 18.
    This is willful, active ignorance, sustained through effort. With an American Left that has largely abdicated its role, a liberal base that won’t criticise Obama’s astonishingly agressive Mid-East policies, and an African-American base that has (reasonably) placed its hopes for the survival of its trapped underclass on Obama, the Right has ample leeway to attack any gains the working class makes. It’s playing for keeps, as it always has, and it’s prepared to reveal just how expendable a majority of us are.

    Great post, Jeff! Really good – thank-you.


    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I like how you observe that it takes serious effort to sustain the level of ignorance found in the political (circus) arena. It reminds me of a child/student who puts more effort into getting out of his chores/homework when it would be easier just to get it done. I also agree that to the ruling class we are expendable, no less no more. Once we accept that fact, maybe we can stop fetishizing our political and corporate “leaders”. Thank you for your always insightful comments.


  3. petrel41 says:

    Congratulations, Jeff!

    I have nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger Award.

    The rules of this award are at



  4. “Shock doctrine” is an excellent book & you’re right, austerity measures underlie such principles. Luckily, since I’ve been in Athens during austerity, I have not experienced any riots but witnessed the tense military/police presence…especially during elections ~1.5 years ago. But in Spain (Madrid) there are manifestacións almost every other day.


    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Frances, it must be heartbreaking to see the suffering up close. The reports on Athens or Spain are few and far between in the mainstream American media. Best wishes to you.


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