Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The age of being offended

Via Catfur:

Somehow, I think what follows is also relevant to understanding our offendedness in an age without much of a sacralized social order, i.e. an age of relatively free job, residential, and status markets where people fear no one knows his place, or where ordinary human respect for (un)acknowledged differences is lacking. And so instead of the formal offensiveness of past eras where signs of disrespect of rank and status were clear, along with the penalties for such offenses, we witness a not uncommon unwillingness to live in freedom, and hence a confused, hysterical offendedness, sign of an age that is perhaps clamoring for some way back to some kind of resacralized order (via Diana West):

As Paul Belien writes, in response to the monetary crisis racking Europe, and to Obama's snub of the latest EUtopia leaders' festival:
Messrs. Van Rompuy, Barroso and Zapatero all want to be the first to shake Mr. Obama’s hand and receive the deep bow which the American President is in the habit of making to foreign leaders. Because of the embarrassing intra-European squabble about who should have the honor, Obama has declined the invitation until the Europeans have figured out which of them is the most important.

Obama’s decision has come as an unexpected blow to the European leadership. It has upset them so much that they are considering postponing the summit to the autumn. Meanwhile, they have begun quarreling about who is to blame for the present debacle. The Europeans generally agree that the vainglorious Zapatero is mostly to blame, but others are damaged more. “The Spanish have made a mess of the summit but Van Rompuy and the post-Lisbon EU institutions will carry the can in the long term. The squabbling has damaged the EU in the eyes of the most powerful nation in the world,” a senior EU official said.

Although Obama’s snub hurts Europe’s pride, the euro’s monetary problems are far more serious. They not only affect Europe’s finances and economy, but may also tear down the political EU framework. When the European Commission placed Athens under EU supervision last week, Greece was almost bankrupt. Brussels has forced the Greek government to present a plan to drastically reduce its budget deficit from 13% to 3% by the end of 2012. The plan will cost the Greeks blood, sweat and tears. It includes a freeze on civil service wages and the postponement of the retirement age. Brussels has invoked new EU powers under Article 121 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allow it to reshape the structure of Greece’s pensions, healthcare, labor market and private commerce.

“The envisaged correction of the deficit is feasible but subject to risks,” says EU Commission President Barroso – an understatement. The Commission fears a backlash from the Greek unions, who might organize strikes and bring down the Greek government. Trade unions in other countries are nervous, too. They warn that it is unacceptable that the European Commission intervenes in setting national wages.

The EU’s Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia declared that the Greek targets will be enforced strongly and that, if necessary, even more draconian measures will be taken. “Every time we see or perceive slippages, we will ask for additional measures to correct these slippages. Never before have we established so detailed and tough a system of surveillance,” Almunia said. He has demanded quarterly updates on progress towards reduction targets, as well as a first report on 16 March. “This is the first time,” he said, “we have established such an intense and quasi-permanent system of monitoring.”
In an age of "multiculti" bureaucratic empires, one is ultimately offended by a lack of self-rule, even if one no longer wants the responsibilities and hardships of self-rule and just wishes a safe sinecure and pension be granted from on high, as befits one's offended status. Alas, I fear most will continue to be offended by imperial reality.

As Belien has been writing, we will soon have the chance to learn whether it is possible to bind people politically by first binding them to a common monetary policy. The EU project aims to force further political integration by first making the member nations conform to the demands of a common currency and monetary policy whose pricing of currency/debt serves some nations and regions better than others. But where there is not the common political will, can a common currency and policy detached from national self-rule succeed? There is some reason to doubt it. Anthropologically, the political unit, and not the economic one, comes first: a political binding must be prior to any reasonably peaceful economic distribution; the latter depends for its ethical license on the former. But this is not to forget that maybe the Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. have largely given up on the values of national self-rule and will be dragged, with only a little kicking and screaming, into a new imperial political order by their EU "brothers and sisters". The little ones' acceptance of harsh economic terms will be the sign of their political surrender to Brussels. And that will offend me. Tough!

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