Posts tagged portugal

Misc. links May 31st - June 12th

What is College good for? I’ve recently had a student ask a somewhat more brutal form of the question the author mulls about — “Why do we have to learn this?” (‘this’ being, by the way, a short tutorial on sound recording in the context of a Multimedia Lab course with a very high amount of audiovisuals in its syllabus) — and found myself unable to provide an answer. I always figured someone who goes to college has a interest in learning stuff, no questions asked (much less when the ‘stuff’ is a downright obvious part of what you commited yourself to study for three years).

In the United States, the advertising industry says the middle class is over.

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman on the ‘rule by rentiers’. No better example than the recent Portuguese election, in which the media (owned by people with a vested interest in the privatizations-to-come) conspired not only to utter demonize the outgoing PM — the only way to ensure a ‘stable’ government by the right, given the overall perceived mediocrity of the right-wing leader and new PM, Pedro Passos Coelho —, but also to present the IMF’s prescriptions as palatable and inevitable (and a good 80% voted pro-IMF, fucking A!). And of course, not content until the country descends (or, as the media would put it, ‘ascends’) into a kind of feudal post-democratic ‘Berlusconianism’, pundits now call for a new ‘modern’ Constitution, stripped of such ‘nagging aspects’ as electoral and labour regulations, then freely available to the MPs and the lobbies to change as they please. And it seems people will gladly take it, as envious dreams of bling are the true opium of the masses. (via Boing Boing)

On a lighter note, about one year ago two players fought a three-day, eleven-hour battle in the Wimbledon lawn. The fifth set of the match ended 70-68.

Everything is stupid

There’s been much noise and disinformation about the so-called IMF/EU ‘bailout’ of Portugal, which I chose to spell with quotes because it’s not really a bailout, but rather a loan made under such paradoxical draconian conditions — eg. restoring ‘competitiveness’ by lowering corporations’ welfare taxes while raising taxes on the energy they spend; privatizing only the public companies that actually made a profit for the State — the portuguese economy won’t be able to pay it. It’s no stretch for conspiracies theorists to see Portugal (and Greece, and probably the rest of Southern Europe) out of the Euro before you can say ‘loanshark’.

There’s a saying about “nobody is ever right in a home without bread”, which no-one seems to acknowledge. Our incumbent Prime-Minister, José Sócrates, is perhaps the most hated man that ever lived, and there’s no shortage of newspaper articles, viral videos, tweets and remarks on Facebook blaming him for everything, from gasoline prices to the shortages of second-gen iPads on retailers. Most common though, is the charge our PM and a small cadre of ‘boys’ “ruined our country”.

I mean, they did. But so did you and me and everyone else. Our politicians are our representatives, and I don’t mean this in the democratic sense that we elected them. When people say our ministers and MPs and public company execs ‘lost touch with reality’, I contend they didn’t: they’re our hyperreal selves. Whenever I see someone linking to a blog post listing the salaries of politicians, or to a video clip of a report about the Parliament’s luxury car fleet, quite often it reeks of envy-fueled outrage. For it is hard to detect a feeling of injustice in a people who generally like to brag about their own consumption.

Most of us in Portugal live damn confortably. When our grandparents tell us their personal stories of hunger, of their shoes being their most prized possessions, we fail to believe it. Most haven’t seen something like Las Hurdes, the shocking documentary Luís Buñuel did in 1933 about the misery in a part of Spain just the other side of the border (and we can be sure this side of the hill wasn’t any greener), and those who did think bygones. We’ve come a long way, and we’re spoiled brats, who yearn for a past that never existed just because the cable TV bill went up. So spoiled, a whole generation of graduates has the luxury of considering themselves ‘slaves’ after volunteering to work for free, basically sending the job market the message that their knowledge and studies are worth zero euros per hour.

Politicians have the responsability of their leadership. But we, the portuguese people, fell well on the turbo-capitalist addiction. It starts at home, from credit cards to car loans (and I do have one), from the habit of dining out on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to the home-owning mania, from plasma TVs to tablets to holidays in Brazil. We hear people complaining that because of the crisis, they’ll have to keep the same car for two years. We see parents buy their twelve year-olds all game consoles known to Man. We made tax evasion a national sport, and mistake being gentle for being a loser.

Still, for all their self-righteousness about their being Workers and our being lazy pigs (spend a year in our climate and try being anything else — someone said “geography is destiny”, rightly so), there’s something quite critical the leaders of the richer countries of Europe like to forget about: although in the past two decades their taxpayers contributed a lot of money to Portugal via the European Union, they weren’t actually giving it away for our politicians to mismanage at will. All that money actually came with a lot of strings attached, and all those countries bought something from us — a dismantlement of a great part of our agricultural and industrial capacity, and our conversion to a EU-enforced services-based economy —, basically an almost irreversible ‘non-compete’ clause that made Portugal and other Southern European countries utterly dependent on foreign imports — Northern exports — and credit. Part of their growth was our loss.

In the end, though, it’s our collective fault, and no better proof of that than our denial to acknowledge we ever did anything wrong, as if our Prime-Minister was the only obstacle between Portugal and Paradise. So convinced only a supervillain kept us from glorious destiny, take as an example the absurdity of this discussion over at Metafilter, regarding a YouTube video called What the Finns Should Know About Portugal. That video was a desperate plea for Finland’s approval of the EU bailout put together by bored employees at some right-wing municipality, full of unproven (or even disproven) factoids regarding Portugal’s delusions of historical awesomeness, with a bit of ill-willed moral blackmail at the end. Despite the obvious fact we are not so awesome anymore (and who gives a shit, really, “our Ronaldo is better than the brazilian Ronaldo?”), this video spread like wildfire through Facebook and Twitter, and its only practical effect was convincing the rich Northern Europeans we are in fact all a bunch of douchebags. PIGS, in fact.

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

While about the US, I think this article is as pertinent regarding our situation in Portugal. Today our government starts negotiating with the IMF and the EU. They’re going to ‘help’ us, ‘support’ us, ‘bail us out’.

Just as “War is Peace”. (via Instapaper)

±’s EGO SUM PANIS VIVUS, shot March 23rd 2011, the day the Portuguese PM resigned.

A little context: amidst the uproar about further austerity measures, someone at the Finance Ministry thought a consumer tax cut (from 23% to 6%) on golf equipment would be just what our economy needed. It’d turn out to be one of the last Moments of Zen from our government.

However, given that for all practical purposes our capital moved to somewhere between Paris and Berlin, I don’t believe the coming elections will do us any good. The outgoing PS douches will most probably be replaced by PSD douches, a single letter difference that contains all the golden parachutes paragovernmental workers will get when shown the exit door, all the dodgy deals and comissions that will get renegotiated.

And we’ll probably get the IMF’s ‘help’ in the end anyway. And just look how great that worked for the Greek and the Irish. I guess I’ll start stockpiling ramen noodles