A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of spending cuts. All the powers of the European Union have entered into a holy alliance to enforce this menace: President and Prime Minister, Chancellor and Monarch, the duly elected and the dubiously installed.
Since late 2007, with governments everywhere searching for a quick buck to pay for bailing out a globally irresponsible banking sector, supposedly ‘flabby’ public sectors became scapegoats of choice.
This meant the wholesale destruction of services ordinary people across the continent rely on to survive, within an increasingly volatile economic system. Austerity is now in full swing across the EU, and it’s biting hard.
Nowhere is that more apparent than the ‘Med-Zone’. Perhaps most notably at the moment, Greece and Spain have both been ravaged by the ill-prescribed medicine of public sector cuts to solve debt whilst society’s elite continue to evade paying their way.
Through pension cuts, unemployment and increasing disparity between haves and have nots, the poor and the put upon are constantly assured there is no “plan B”, by politicians and EU technocrats alike.
However, both Greek and Spanish citizens have demonstrated they are committed, more than ever, to exorcise the apparition of slash and burn economics. Last month Greece saw its first general strike since their new government formed, Molotov cocktails were hurled in Athens and anger erupted into the streets of Madrid, as thousands marched against cuts and 25% unemployment.
In the UK, meanwhile, you might be forgiven (though not by me) for thinking everything on the mainland was hunky-dory. At the time, there was a conspicuously protest shaped hole in the output of most media, from the papers to the BBC.
Special mention must go to the Daily Mail though, who whilst thousands of outraged Spanish citizens – beaten mercilessly by police – surrounded their national congress, treated us to hard-hitting stories like “The woman who says biscuit 1600 times a day.”
But this isn’t the only hole in the tapestry – there’s one closer to home. If a visitor from another planet were to skim British news, they might come to conclude this island is a safe-haven, a bubble without trouble.
This is because, despite the NHS being sold off, benefits slashed, pensions stolen, and education savaged; debates over trivial matters such as topless Royals have been given prominence. The subsequent discussions have been so frantic and hyperbolic; it might look as though we, unlike our Mediterranean cousins, have nothing better to complain about.
Certainly, during the week of the Labour Party conference, there has been little to suggest otherwise. Ed Miliband’s feeble sub-promises and his party’s lack-lustre excuses for “opposition” to cuts suggest, come 2015, a Labour government ensures “Things can only get similar”.
But step outside this surreal vacuum of acceptance and you’ll find raw anger bubbling in the public consciousness. Far from the caricature of the tea-drinking, grumbling British, it’s manifesting itself in the ways of Greek and Spanish resistance.
This autumn protests, occupations, and strikes, from our campus to the capital, are signs that the public here too, are in the process of exorcising our own austerity demons.
It begins on October 20 in London, at a demo entitled “A future that works”. In the spirit of mainland resistance, when the government try to bleed us dry, we must not cower in submission; it’s time to unite.