So the European Union has decided to set up an economic defence mechanism. Said mechanism, reports euobserver.com, amounts to “half a trillion euros to protect weaker eurozone nations from market speculation”. Let’s remember that prior to this everyone was invoking the “no bail-out clause” in EU treaties that explicitly prohibits member states from taking on the financial commitments of a national government. In order to get around this uncomfortableness, the EU has cited Article 112 of the Lisbon Treaty –
“Where a member state is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance to the member state.”
The first circumstance then is what insurers term an Act of God. The second - “beyond its control” (and I assume this is the relevant part) leads us to understand that the Greek disaster is not an aggregate of human, i.e. rational, activity, but of something else, something like an act of God, an earthquake, a tsunami, a hurricane…, but secular.
In his preface to his play St Joan George Bernard Shaw argued that modern man was a more credulous animal than his medieval forebears, who at least had the excuse of Christian superstition to back their world view. In our supposed scientific age you will read almost everywhere today that with the eurozone defence mechanism EU leaders are seeking “to calm the markets.” It is now taken completely for granted that the markets are something to be propitiated just as tribesmen once offered feathers and beads to the fuming volcano god spewing up lava onto the slopes on which they lived. Austerity budgets are on the other side of this new black magic. Though they give rise to chirpy articles about their tonic effects, they are nothing less than 21st century versions of human sacrifice drawn up on Excel sheets.