Friday 30 September 2016

Drama was not about the fall of Greece, but of 'Europe'

This story of Greece is one which clarifies everything, and which shows how it all works

Published 19/07/2015 | 02:30

‘When the IMF starts to look like the Vincent de Paul, you know that it’s all over’
‘When the IMF starts to look like the Vincent de Paul, you know that it’s all over’

Patrick Coveney, who runs Greencore and who is the brother of Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, spoke for all of his kind and their brothers, when he told CNBC's Squawk Box that the best thing that could happen for the Irish Government would be for the Greeks to be kicked out of the eurozone tomorrow.

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"If you have kept a country together and inflicted shared and collective pain for some medium to long-term benefit, and someone else comes in with the political equivalent of a get-rich-quick scheme, it undermines the entire narrative", he said.

Ah, the narrative. The story.

I have noted of late that business leaders are very sweet on "the story". You hear them on business programmes talking to business journalists about the "story" that they have to tell, which is always a very good "story", and you start to wonder if they are actually selling any product at all, or providing any kind of a service other than the telling of this "story" that is going down so well.

The other thing you wonder - just a small thing, really - is whether the "story" needs to be grounded in some sort of reality, or whether they are using a bit of artistic licence if they feel it's needed, or whether there's a bit of both in there.

Not that there's anything wrong with a made-up story, indeed it can be most entertaining, but if you are listening to what is essentially a work of creative fiction, you do like to know that before you sit down. Not when the storyteller has moved on to the next town, with his tale.

So Ireland has a "story" too, a narrative as Patrick Coveney calls it, and clearly this one falls into the creative category. Indeed, it is all essentially fiction, most obviously the part about the Government inflicting "shared and collective pain".

If Mr Coveney had said that the Government had inflicted "shared and collective pain on everyone apart from people like myself and my brother", then we'd be hailing him as a major new voice in Irish story-telling, with his dirty realism.

Instead, he's left a great big hole there, and with that other line about the Greek "get-rich-quick scheme", he just keeps digging.

Patrick...you're better than that.

But then it is just a "story", as insubstantial as so many of these stories from corporate fairyland. It is the Greeks, as is their destiny, who have brought us the magnificent sweeping drama, the story which illuminates everything.

For many years there has been a debate about "Europe" in its various aspects, and now that debate is over. The Greeks have gone on this journey which has clarified it all.

No more must we listen to drivel about straight bananas and other such bureaucratic outrages, we have seen the whole thing acted out, we have seen exactly how it works, and like any great drama, it has made people change their minds.

Personally I was never in any doubt that "Europe" was a vast slush fund for the political class, but I had also regarded it ultimately as a benign force. It had helped to extricate Paddy from some of the more unfortunate consequences of his enslavement to religion and to eejitry.

Now we see no benign force, just the vast slush fund, its beneficiaries with nothing much in their heads except the enabling of a form of economics so disgraceful and so deeply ridiculous, even the IMF has finally stood against it - when you're looking at the IMF and seeing some kind of a Vincent de Paul outfit, you know that it's all over.

There was also that argument about a "democratic deficit" in "Europe's" institutions, but the Greeks have ended that one too. They went and held a referendum and "Europe" responded as if some act of perversion was being performed on the floor of the Berlaymont itself, something so sick it must be made illegal immediately.

And as we sat there in the dark, waiting for the end, we tried to hold on to the last hope for "Europe", the notion that it may be run by some very bad people, but perhaps it is a kind of antidote to nationalism - which is the worst thing of all.

But in the chaos, it was hard to tell any more if "Europe" was offering a cure for nationalism, or actually spreading the malaise. Or if it was now, in some supremely twisted way, itself being driven by a form of nationalism - this being German nationalism. Which is the worst kind, of the worst thing of all.

For a long time we thought this play was about the fall of Greece, but it was only on the way home that its true resonance came through - it was eventually about the fall of "Europe".

A friend of mine who lives in London tells me that he was once as much of a "European" as Lord Jenkins of Hillhead himself, but that in the referendum which will decide whether Britain stays in or out, he will be voting "out".

Not that he wants to be with Nigel Farage on this, but he has been looking for a long time now at the "Europeans", at Merkel and Schauble and Juncker and Kenny, and how the Greeks have unravelled it all.

The reviews are in.

Sunday Independent

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