Today there is a General Strike in Spain and a sorry affair it is. Not that participation is low. Gosh no. The two big national unions can rely on a respectable, hard-core following. The socialist party is happy to turn out in numbers, to regain some prestige after their most dismal showing in the last elections. Quite a lot of normal, working people are fed up with ever growing unemployment and the concerted onslaught unto their rights and benefits. And many businesses, afraid of picket lines, simply keep their doors shut for the duration of the symbolic, one-day strike. The damage is small, and an extra free day in the beautiful spring weather we are enjoying is never unwelcome.
No, the sadness about such a strike is its futility. For no matter how immense or impressive the turnout, it will make no difference. At the end of the day, everybody pro and con will say something lofty, and then we all go home. Next thing tomorrow, the orders from Brussels will be enforced, since the once proud European nations no longer decide their own policies. An immense web of treaty obligations and gradual, silent hand-overs of sovereignty, absorbed by the bureaucratic sponge that is Brussels, make it impossible for a national government to refuse European Diktats.
This is by far the most impressive accomplishment of the paper coup d’etat of the last twenty years. Baudelaire once famously said that ‘the greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world that he did not exist.’ Brussels has done something comparable. It has made Europeans believe it is there to do Good, and that whatever goes wrong is somebody else’s doing.
In the terms of this general strike: Brussels imposes the budget cuts, the closing of schools, the destruction of national health services. It has ordered that your pensions be cut and that you get them later. It insists that worker’s rights be culled, social security be slashed and labour conditions ‘rationalised’. It parachuted unelected technocrats into national governments and takes sides in national elections so that pro-European candidates win. And so on and so forth, until our once prosperous continent be a blend of the worst sides of the Chinese and US systems, to the benefit of bankers and Beurocrats.
Then, when the shit hits the fan and populations rise, national governments get to take the heat. I have to hand it to them: it is a masterstroke. For no matter how many national governments you bring down, oh uppity working masses, you will never touch your real masters, and yesterday's docile politicians will only be replaced by equally sheepish lackeys tomorrow.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here…
But of course, there are far more important things in life, young readers of mine. Like whether you have the latest digital toy already. Or whether you managed to secure a ticket to that super beach party next weekend. Or whether your Facebook picture is sexy enough…
Old Baudelaire – to end with him - knew well enough how it worked:
C'est le Diable qui tient les fils qui nous remuent!
Aux objets répugnants nous trouvons des appas;
Chaque jour vers l'Enfer nous descendons d'un pas,
Sans horreur, à travers des ténèbres qui puent.
[The Devil pulls the strings which make us dance;
We find delight in the most loathsome things;
Some furtherance of Hell each new day brings,
And yet we feel no horror in that rank advance.]