The European Union is on the brink of death, or so headlines would make you believe. One headline in London read “Eurogeddon”, another from the United States, “…Issue Athens with ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro”, and the New York Times reporting, “Creditors scramble”, ; as the rhetoric suggests, the European Union is facing impending doom if the Greek debt crisis is not resolved immediately. But, of course, the public reaction, and perception, is a result of cultural contexts, and rhetorical moves from the media.
The European Union began formation in 1953, with it’s most recent amendment in 2009. The union seeks to unify European countries in order to compete in a global market, and includes areas, such as Germany and England, France, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. In 2002, 16 of the countries switched to ‘Euros’, and began using the collaborative Euro for monetary purposes. Between 2001-2007, upon entering the union, Greece saw economic growth, due mainly to the 2004 Athens Olympics, and military needs. However, this economic growth was not sustainable, at the end of June 2015, Greece defaulted on $3.9 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The European Union refused to loan Greece anymore money, closed down their banks, and a political crisis erupted.
However, as clear in this ‘crisis’, the histories between these countries has certainly not subsided in order to create this hoped-for union, and as the previous headlines mentioned, a forced binary has been created in order to separate sides. The first headline, reporting a “Eurogeddon” is a direct allusion to the Biblical story of Armageddon, which is the final battle between good and evil on the last day before judgment. This reference is interesting for two reasons, because it adds to the threat of ‘impending doom’ of the Greek debt crisis, and also, because it suggests there is a battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and forces opinion-makers to pick a side, although how analysts are defining ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is a bit ambiguous; since this was posted in London, ‘good’ could be England, Germany, and the other capitalist nations, or it could be those who wish for a European Union collapse, which would therefore, by laws of binaries, cause ‘evil’ to be Greece, and socialism, and those who hope for a successful European Union.
The conflict, it seems, results from conflicting political ideologies and structures. Germany, a capitalist nation, and perhaps the strongest lender in the European Union, values work, production, and efficiency; and socialism, which values collectiveness, cooperation, and generosity. Of all the shareholders in the union, the largest conflict seems to between Germany and Greece. According to newspapers, Germany, with it’s ‘Nazist’ history, is being described as a dictator, and Greece seems to be taking the role of the innocent victim. For example, Richard Murphy tweeted, “Angela Merkel [the chancellor of Germany] has revived the concept of slavery in the modern political economy”. Germany has been accused of “pure vindictiveness” as well as “selfishness”, and “tightening the noose” on Greece, all terms that cast Germany as a dictator, an enemy, and a bully, and therefore, an unfavorable opponent. For global viewers, constant references to Germany’s dictatorship and Nazi-history, as well as these antagonistic headlines create a negative view of Germany, and all of Germany’s proceedings.
On the other hand, Greece is being cast as an innocent victim. The trending hashtag is #ThisIsACoup, which sends the message that Greece is being suddenly and illegally forced into surrendering power to the powers in the European Union. The hashtag stream includes pictures of Aristotle, a founder of democracy, with blood running down his nose, memes that attack capitalism by saying, “twenty-first century capitalism is a prison colony”, campaigns to stop buying German, and pictures of the globe that show Greek supporters. An opinion column in the Irish Times says states that, “tormenting Greece is about sending a message”, and calls for, “a Greek surrender”. The Greeks feel like they are being “forced into labor” and that “Germany is casting iron demands”, and this is, “slavery in the modern economy”. From the Twitter feed to the newspaper headlines, the image constructed of Greece is that they are helpless victims in this crisis; the ‘big bully IMF’ is withholding their money, and only allowing them, unfairly, to deposit $60 a day. Germany is calling for “enforced labor” that is similar to “slavery”. And it is a bit ironic that all of these “capitalist” countries are bashing Greece, the birthplace of democracy (which is a similar rhetorical tactic as referencing the Germans to their Nazi history).
(And, interestingly enough, the country that must play mediator between capitalist Germany, and socialist Greece, is a country that, historically, has bridged both gaps: France).
For the next few days, global opinion makers will turn their attention to how Germany proceeds, and how Greece reacts. Whether this is really a global catastrophe, we will just have to wait and see.
A 20 Something, learning to navigate this crazy, chaotic, and delightful world. Author of 'Happily Never After: A 20-Something's Guide to Breaking Up, Looking for Love, and Surviving Singledom in the Modern Age of Dating' A little more about me: I majored in English, psychology, and secondary [...]