The obvious question is just how long can it all go one, and by ‘it’ I mean, of course, what might well now be regarded as the ‘phoney war’ in the euro crisis. Superficially, it might all seem to have gone quite, with good ole’ Mario Draghi trying desperately to calm nerves by insisting he and his train set will do everything to make sure the good folk of the island of Sodor will continue to get a rail service second to none - no, look, I’m getting confused: Draghi runs the European Central Bank, not Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends.
It’s all so confusing what with everyone being so brave and insisting the euro is here to stay, you mark their words, and this is all just a glitch, a rite of passage through which the currency will pass from adolescence to adulthood. In years to come they, the bankers and politicians and commentators, will crack open a find bottle of brandy and swap anecdotes and memories, and reflect on the high drama when - well, if the truth be told it did, at times, seem touch and go for the dear little euro (such a sweet little currency, who’d have thought it was capable of potentially bringing such grief when all it was intended to do was to be the cement the great European Union and bring peace and goodwill to all good men and true).
But, of course, I’m rambling (as I am apt to do), a mood brought on by some troubling news. There was a demonstration in Madrid today outside Spain’s parliament by the Occupy Congress movement who feel that the government returned by a large majority at the end of last year hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of solving this crisis or any future crisis. But it wasn’t the demo which rather alarmed me - demos come and go and are largely forgotten within days. What I thought more notable was that the Spanish province of Calalonia (do they call the provinces?) is getting mightily fed up and its government has called a snap election with a view to gaining more independence, both political and financial from Madrid. This is not very good news. You can read about the latest developments here and here.
Ordinarily, such a move could well be pooh-poohed as just so much sabre-rattling, signifying nothing, but these are surely not ordinary times. Is it really conceivable that a part of Spain could declare independence? Isn’t that the kind of thing which happens only in history books and which we debate many years after the event?
More than 20 years ago, the American historian Francis Fukuyama published an essay called The End Of History (and later developed his thesis in a similarly entitled book) in which he argued - if I have got it right - that the world had more or less evolved politically as far as it would ever evolve and the our liberal democratic form of government (in the West, at least) was more or less the end stage of that development. What he had so say was a little more subtle, but the general idea was that ‘lads, this is it’. I remember at the time thinking what a crock of shit the idea was, but at the time I didn’t really know what he was suggesting.
Now I know a little more, I can see the point he is making, and although I no longer think it is total bollocks, I do feel he is being a tad optimistic. My point is, though, that the West generally, which has, despite one or two local wars, most notably in the Balkans in the Nineties, enjoyed a sustained period of peace and prosperity, is finding it increasingly difficult to imagine (and accept) that things will not always be like that. Were I here and now to suggest that, for example, there is a distinct possibility of another civil war in Spain, the consensus would be ‘the chap’s off his head/doesn’t know what he’s talking about/has he been drinking?
Truthfully, I know very little about domestic Spanish politics and affairs, but merely suggest the possibility of a second civil war in Spain as the kind of utterly unexpected development we find it almost impossible to get our heads around. And because we find such things impossible to grasp and thus give credence to, they are deemed to be utterly implausible. Brussels and the rest of the EU wouldn’t allow it, you could say. Or you could argue that Western Europe has become far too civilised to countenance any such action on its soil. All I will say to that is: never count your chickens.
The total disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc was, for almost all of us, a pretty unexpected development, but it happened and it happened pretty damn quickly. We are accustomed to hear of massacres and wholesale slaughter in, say, the Congo or Uganda, or Afghanistan and other points east, but we never expected any such wholesale massacre in Europe. Then several thousands Bosnians were massacred in Srebenica. And, most tellingly, they were massacred while Dutch ‘peacekeepers’ more or less looked on and did nothing because any prevention of that massacre ‘wasn’t in its remit’. That would have seemed impossible just days before it happened. And the total inaction of the Dutch to do anything to stop it would have seemed even more unbelievable.
So when this loudmouth points out that things aren’t looking too healthy in Spain and could even perhaps lead to the kind of violence we haven’t seen in Western Europe for 70 years, jeer at me by all means. But at least be a little more prepared to expect the utterly unexpected.