Europe’s impending Phantom Limp Syndrome

This being the weekend, and waking up in Adelaide about to be immersed in the performance and visual arts (also known as the Adelaide Festival), permit me a different kind of thought/post for the day; an impressionistic comment on all this talk about severing some of the eurozone’s member-states in order to ‘save’ the eurozone; i.e. in order to keep Italy, Spain and France attached to the DM-zone.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing, and disconcerting, phenomena involving the senses is what medical science refers to as Phantom Limp Syndrome. When an amputee still feels that the severed limb is there and, in some cases, continues to feel that the absent limb is causing her excruciating pain.

My simple thought for the day is that a eurozone breakup will afflict the remaining currency union with a case of Phantom Limp Syndrome so debilitating that  the rump eurozone will simply not survive. Greece, Portugal et al may not be there anymore but the pain they caused Europe’s surplus nations will not only remain but grow exponentially until France is severed too. And then Phantom Limp Syndrome will give its place to a postmodern Great Depression for all. So, the moral to this story, for Europe’s elites,  is this: Think before amputating. And since the only alternative to amputation is a systemic solution, stop focusing on Greece and Portugal and re-focus on the eurozone’s structural ‘deficits’. (I think the time is approaching for Version 3.0 of our Modest Proposal).

For a brilliant radio documentary on Phantom Limp Syndrome, courtesy of the BBC, click here.

44 Comments

  • Please, you give way too much credit to Merkozy.

    You are elevating an ignoramus villain to the post of a surgeon?

    There are way too many opposing forces for Germany to ever contemplate such.

    What we have here is a typical German campaign. It all starts brilliantly until the panzer divisions roll into Stalingrad. And then the tide turns and the brilliant campaign becomes a shameful mark carried for generations.

    At present, army intelligence confirms that the first German troops have been spotted in the outskirts of Stalingrad. The main act is about to begin.

    • Always the same old anti-German WWII analogies. As if it’s still the 1940s. Jerks like you are so behind the curve, Dean!

      But if you want to play that game, pls be reminded that it actually was Italy who invaded Greece, that wasn’t a German idea. And that Greece ain’t Russia, so the proper comparison wouldn’t be Stalingrad, but rather Kleisoura pass, Thermopylae or Kalamata.

      However, in reality, today nobody is interested in invading or ruling your bankrupt country full of anarchists. This whole conspiracy theory is simply utter nonsense. It would be vastly preferrable if you stopped investing so much time and energy in fingerpointing and instead came up with some realistical ideas about how to modernize the state. Many of you folks act as if you were ok with the status quo and see no reason to help reforming Greece. This is totally irresponsible.

    • @Gray, Germany

      Yea lets blame the Italians! They were the main cause of WWII. What you dont udnerstand you Germans is that YET AGAIN you are at the center of another global turmoil. But its not your fault. Its USAs fault. Instead of giving you the last hit back then and literaly vanish you from the map they gave you free money (Marshall Plan). UNBELIEVABLE!

    • Gray, do not criticize Dean. He will insult you and he is the only person who is allowed to insult others in this blog. Look at his posts, he constantly insults or crizizes Germany or Germans.

      If he would use his energy to improve his situation instead of looking for mistakes of others Greece would be in better shape.

    • Why is it OK for Germans to refer back to Greece’s past with defaults (when in fact Germany is the biggest defaulter in Europe) or to Greek culture (learned behaviors through history) or to hyperinflation, but anyone else mentions German history, and you get a totally hypocritical reply?

      The tone deafness of Germany demanding austerity that literally wipes out Greek families, sends them to breadlines, drives down minimum wages, etc., and now Germany demands Greece’s gold reserves, all while depicting Greeks as untermenschen is shocking and appalling. So get off your high horse Gray.

    • Gray:

      Let’s get something straight!

      If Greece is ever to be reformed it will be done by the likes of me and not by the likes of you.

      If don’t like the heat then stay out of the kitchen.

      If you don’t like the anti-German rhetoric then you should never have started your hideous game. You are now in it and you are going to get your comeuppance.

      Is this clear?

    • Ok folks. Enough discord between Germans and Greeks.et’s go back to isigoria, the art of judging what one says and not the one who says it!

    • Dear Gray,

      I agree Greece has to change. State should become cost-efficient and productive. Greece has to capitalize on its potential, import less foreign goods and export more of its own.

      It should focus on different sectors (than it did in the recent past).

      The political leadership should be purged. Corrupt and inept leaders should be eliminated from the political life (if not jailed for many of them).

      Nonetheless, I think that the recipe implemented by the current Greek inadequate political leadership and orchestrated by EU leaders will not bring any of that.

      They are not interested in fighting corruption or helping the economy. On the other hand, they only implement scorched earth policies.

    • I don’t know if Dean’s analogies are to the point or not.
      But the german government tends to forget that there is an ongoing isolation of German political influence in Europe. It may sound false but it’s not.

      Independent of economic power, upcoming elections in Europe countries will definitely change the political balance and it seems that Germany is losing the communication game.

      Given that you don’t live in this house alone, my friendly advice would be to get rid of this corrupt german government of yours. It’s proving itself even worse than the greek one.

      You may say that this is my personal opinion and that it’s probably wrong, but with every person i discuss (english, german, french) i see an initial accusation on past greek management and then shortly after a harsh critique on Europe management (Merkel, Sarkozy). Sooner or later, the center of discussion will shift from Greece to Paris and Berlin.

      Why? Because the last two years, french and german government have been fooling themselves and your compatriots with false dilemmas and communication tricks. And most importantly, german government didn’t take advantage of all this time to fix what was truly to blame. On the contrary, it played the game of bankrupt bankers worldwide.

      Even worse, in two years, your government ridiculed every european institution which took decades to build.

      It may sound stupid but it seemed as if you believed your own communication tricks…

      If you don’t want to hear WWII analogies then stop acting likewise!

    • And as far as german products and your outward economy, you have broken the most important rule in trade. Customer is always right!

      Maybe Greece is a small market but i don’t think that french and italians will continue to prefer german products, now that they know that they are ruining their own economy by doing that. As far as china markets, they are building their own chinese car factories in Europe!!!

      Arrogance is a bad consultant.

  • The Greek State definitely needs “reforming” and that is acknowledged by my fellow citizens and its being done and Germany is (I hope) helping us, e.g. several tax specialists are coming over This has also been stressed many times by Prof. Varoufakis. BUT, my personal opinion is: we shouldn’t humiliate either individual or whole nations. I think German people should know that. Humiliation brings or bears violence and revenge and memories are here…….

    • Right, it would be vastly preferrable if the specialists came from Sweden, Switzerland or the Netherlands. Quite obviously, our folks aren’t welcome in Greece. And the widespread hostility would negatively affect their work. Not a good idea.

  • reinvention of the state indeed! now there is a thought….

    I agree wholeheartedly with Prof. Varoufakis that the ranks of grasshoper and ants evade national and ethnic boundaries….

    I also agree Gray that we must we really must find some measure of responsibility within our boundaries, our political system and cultural norms for making us the weakest and first link to crumble under the contradictions of global financial capitalism.

    • well that’s the very problem of such mainstream perspective which attributes a whole society some kind of ‘weakness’ respective to others. So the only thing to do for the corresponding society in such kind of discourse is to find ways to pass such characterization to a different one in the chain. Thats what I mean if I write that under their formal democratic guise, fundamentally, european societies have retained their fascistic core, society which fight each other for supremacy in a struggle which divides them into winners and losers concealing the fact that the real struggle occurs within each society itself, between upper and lower classes

  • Germans reacting childishly every time they hear a WWII comment/analogy. Try to reconciliate with your past and move on…

    • I think we should all exercise restraint and avoid the assumption of collective responsibility. Most Germans have come to terms with the past.

    • “I think we should all exercise restraint and avoid the assumption of collective responsibility. Most Germans have come to terms with the past.”

      I live in Germany and be half German myself, and my opnion based on personal experiences is that the Germans have absolutely not come to terms with their collective past. I think that most european societies which have had a more or less distant fascistic past fundamentally have remained the same. As Arno Gruen wrote. it was no problem for most Germans to get rid of their nazi identity as soon it was necessary faced with their military defeat and to submit to the winning authority coming in the guise of formal democracy. I’m pretty sure that the reverse process would occur rather smoothly given the hegemonial position Germany has established.Unfortunately, fascism has remained the unreflected core of most european societies.

  • Good thoughts as always. On a sidenote, I believe “ghost limb” or “phantom limb” is the operative term here.

    Synaesthesia (συν + αίσθηση) refers to the blending of senses. It’s merely mentioned in the BBC article you pointed to to as something that’s linked to phantom limb treatment, where the person seeing a mirror image of his existing hand tricks his mind into feeling that the amputated one is there too.

  • @ Gray, Germany

    There are plenty of us that think the status quo in Greece is fundamentally wrong but still disagree with the bailout packages “recipe”.

    If the loans came with the requisite that Greece modernizes its public sector and economy rest assured that some loudmouths that want to keep their cushy positions would eventually be silenced since they would have little public support.

    I am not entirely sure what the German media is feeding people there but the vast majority of people (working in the private sector) see nothing like that in the troika’s demands. All we see is them putting forward wage cuts, social security cuts and a plethora of new taxes (aimed mostly at the weak).

    I don’t like embarking on WWII analogies because in my mind they are counter productive even if we can find common traits between the two situations.

    German politicians fail to think big. Instead of leading Europe into a new era they are digging a hole to bury the “bad children” in it (ie Greece and Portugal) but will slowly fall into in themselves and the rest of Europe.

    Yanis has thoroughly explained why this is the case so I will not repeat it.

    • Well, Zois, I would have come up with better (ha! Imho) refoms, too, like less increase of the VAT and higher taxes for the rich instead. But all in all, I have to say that the troika plan wasn’t that unreasonable, and it apparently worked much better for Spain and Portugal. As I see it, Greece is different because it delayed necessary reforms for way too long. You need more than two years or so to succesfully implement all the changes that are necessary. But there’s no political support in Europe (especially in Germany) to put the country on artificial life support for a decade, sorry. And then, what was the alternative? Neither the government nor the opposition came up with a realistic plan. You can’t reasonably blame the troika when your own politicians (which should know their country and its problems much better!) essentially gave them a monopoly on reform proposals!

      “I am not entirely sure what the German media is feeding people” Well, would you believe me when I say that the coverage is generally less harsh than that of Ekathimerini? German tabloid “Bild” (which I don’t read, because it’s widely seen as sensationalist and demagogic (like the British Sun)) may be an exception, of course. But “serious” publications and TV news focus on the facts and try to avoid putting oil into the flames. Even the “Focus”, infamous in Greece because of the “Aphrodite’s finger” cover, provides a much more balanced reporting than Greek moderator Yiorgos Trangas on TV (ok, that’s not hard, it would be difficult to sink so low).

      However, you’re right, our politicians don’t think that big. That’s because we’re not a big country, just 80 million people in the 340 million Eurozone. We’re simply not big enough to bail 120 million people in the GIPSI nations out. See, if we would be more generous to Greece, the other struggling nations would demand the same conditions. Sorry, but the numbers don’t add up. Our credit line isn’t indefinite, neither, and we’re already much too close for comfort to the limit. If we get downrated, too, where shall the rescue funds come from, really? Pls be realistic.

  • Dear Gray,

    1. Germany in the 20th century. Two crises, two totally different solutions

    Germany in the previous century was at least twice in the position that Greece faces today. For totally different reasons though.

    After WWI Germany had a huge debt, which led the country to default in the 1930s and a period of inflation, unemployment, economic misery and a political turmoil. This period led Hitler to power, with known consequences.

    On the other hand, in 1953 Germany had a debt to GDP ratio of 600% (!!). A totally different course of action was taken, which led a 30-year period of growth. West Germany realized the highest growth rates among Japan, Italy and Greece. Now Germany is 4th largest economy & 2nd exporter in the world and the largest economy in Europe.

    In Greece today, the first pace of action is implemented. Thus, some Greeks that are disgruntled for the coming future. They are disgruntled with their leadership which not only brought this mess but also serves foreign interests. Moreover, they are disgruntled with European leaders who choose only the first option, which leads Greece to an economic death.

    2. Responsibility

    If Greece is so irresponsible and Germany so responsible. Why Germany does not pay to Greece the money it owes (according to international economists are around 500 billions)?

    Greek private sector has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in Europe (along with Italy). Furthermore, Greeks have the highest home-ownership ratios in Europe.

    How is that irresponsible? Of course, Greeks are irresponsible in voting responsible leaders.

  • @Gray, Germany

    May I ask you, on which findings you take your judgements about the Greek society? Quote: “Your country full of anarchists” or “Many of you folks act. as if you were ok with the Status Quo….”

    Where do you live? In Germany, I suppose. How deep is your insight into Greek society apart from what German media (and most of the anglo-american) report?

    If this is your main source, you do nothing else then what you are critizising: Convinient fingerpointing.

    • Dear Gaby,
      I’ve read lots of Greek media and blogs for a year, almost every single day, and this is the impression I’ve got from that information. Pls note that I’m not saying everybody is an anarchist, just that the country is full of them (which should be obvious from the news and reports of the riots). I also don’t say that everybody is against reforms, I wrote “many” instead (shouting “no” at everything, without proposing a better idea, is a vote for the status quo). All in all, it looks as if the country is almost ungovernable. Lots of opposition, but hardly anyone comes up with realistical plans for a different course. No democracy can work under these conditions.

      Dear jctergal, I don’t really understand your point. Greeks are disgruntled? Sure, understandably so, but so what? Are they coming up with better ideas for reforms? No. Are they pushing for the other realistic option, default and exit from the Eurozone? No. If they want to change things, they have to make a choice. Wishful thinking is not an ersatz for reasonable policies!

      @Perisomeone (sry, I can’t read Greek). Germany is only at the center of the Eurocrisis because we’re the biggest contributor to the rescue fund. But that may end soon. Polls show 62% of the people here are against more Euros for Greece. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since obviously most of that money is wasted, the situation has only become worse, and all we get back from this are insults. If there are no positive news within the next 12 months or so, our parties will have to draw the consequences from this. They can’t ignore public opinion forever, there’ll be national elections in 2013.

      @ Dean: “If Greece is ever to be reformed it will be done by the likes of me and not by the likes of you.” Hahaha, the arrogance! Where are your plans? When will you start reforming the country? Less talking, more actions, pls! We Germans would love it if someone else took up responsibility for the reforms and exposed himself to all the criticism. Don’t hesitate, pls!

      Dear jctergal (again), indeed, the poltical leadership should be purged! Everybody is pointing the finger at the troika, and especially Germany, but where are the realistic alternatives? Not to be found in Greek government, and nothing from the opposition, either! Sadly, the best the left has to offer is a delusional idea that Greece should default but stay in the Eurozone, without a hint where the money shall come from, then, or how that shall increase competitiveness. That’s too meager.

      Of course, it’s true that the reforms obviously aren’t working well for Greece. However, a big part of the blame has to go to the Greek government and administration, too, because even the best plans will fail if their implementation is screwed up. And also, bad plans can’t be improved if there’s nobody making any realistic suggestions. The upcoming election may change that and bring a new generation of politicians to the front row. Hopefully many among them who will offer more than just lipservices to reforms or shouts of “ohi!” in opposition. A more constructive, engaging government, correcting the wrongs and coming up with better proposals, would be the last chance for Greece to make a turnaround. But more of the same would inevitably lead to default and an Euro exit. It’s up to the Greek people to decide soon. Let’s hope their vote will bring change to the political landscape.

    • Gray:

      Mine was not a statement of arrogance as you put it, rather a statement of fact.

      But let’s humor your line of thinking for a moment.

      Say, Dean was in charge of reforming Greece. I hope you fully understand that German desires and wishes on the matter are totally irrelevant. You wouldn’t expect me to reform Greece as a German employee, would you? The very idea of reforming Greece because Germany or any other state wishes it is self-defeating. I hope you understand such simple and elementary point.

      Now, if you want to talk about arrogance and see it in full display, then please do this for me. Gather Merkel and her entourage into a single room and let me have a heart to heart talk with these fellows for no more than 15 minutes and I promise to give them religion in a manner that would make Martin Luther very proud. 🙂

    • Dean, I actually expected you to come up with a somewhat detailed crisis management plan, but letÄs humor your arguments for a moment. Well, firstly, it should be obvious that any rescue plan that relies on German financial support has to take the interests of the German government into account. Secondly, there shouldn’t be any argument about the necessity for reforming the Greek state, since it takes a competive economy to create a sustainable recovery. Greek (just like Germany and most other nations) isn’t a self supporting economy, it depends on imports and so it needs exports on a similar scale, too. so, you can’t simply ignore the problem of global competitiveness, I’m afraid. Pls keep those points in mind when you work on your proposals for a better futrue for Greece.

      As for your idea about a 15 minute talk with Merkel & Co, I suspect you seriously underestimate her. She may look like a harmless housewife, but she didn’t become chancellor, in a fierce ellbow fight with a lot of macho rivals, by being nice. She’s much meaner than you probably think, so pls don’t complain if you come out of that discussion with some important body parts missing, but having a higher voice instead! Just as a warning from a German who isn’t much of a Merkel fan.

    • Gray:

      You are an entertaining fellow, but let me give you a hint of the material you are dealing with here.

      Your little Chancellor is but a well known soft crab (a Cancer in astrological language). Tough on the outside but a delightful meal in the making on the inside,

      As to yours truly my birthday is only 2 days later (April 22) from the birtday of another Fuhrer of yours (actually I firmly believe mois to be an improved version of his surprisingly German, but ultimately imperfect model).

      So here is the deal about your choir voices. 15 minutes is all I need; I promise no body parts will be involved but when I am done with Angie (I promise I won’t steal the apartment refrigerator when I leave) she will be hot and steamy nice little crab meat that you can consume at your leisure with the famous German beer (oh yes, you can produce something of value after all).

      As to your Finance Minister on wheels, a Virgo I am told, I am sure he will recognize in an unyielding Taurus his natural boss.

      Do you want to take the bet? Could you provide the room arrangements please? 🙂

  • Yanis, I re-read the Modest Proposal last week, and have to agree that 3.0 version is needed. The conditions that prevailed at time of original Proposal have so changed that a new “start” point must be incorporated somehow to deal with, first, the deteriorated fiscal condition of the periphery, as well as the now complete capture of EZ “governing” institutions. Of course, the third member of the troika, the IMF, was always a staunchly neo-liberal institution – actually, conceived and created to undermine the very idea of democracy and further the neo-liberal “orthodoxy” around the world. The irony of the IMF being discredited in the countries of the developing world after decades of spreading poverty and misery in most of those countries while extracting everything of value in them, and now making a huge comeback in Europe beggars belief. I mean, who would have thought such a thing possible only a year or so ago?

  • It seems that Munchau changed his point of view during last week (from “Why Greece and Portugal ought to go bankrupt” and “Greece must defeault if it wants democracy” to “Greece really needs a year to prepare for a total defeault”):
    http://www.ft.com/intl/comment/columnists/wolfgang-munchau
    About the same is Krugman’s standpoint: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/euro-agonistes/
    Although they recognise that the true nature of the Krisis lies in the flawed architecture of the EuroZone (i.e. see here: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/25/european-crisis-realities/), for them Greece has no other alternative than to accept the impossible-to-meet terms of its new rescue package, waiting for the things either to improve (more desirable) or to worsen (more probable).
    Maybe Munchau and Krugman don’t know, but their proposal refers only to the elites of Greece, not to Greece itself. The only certain result will be the persistance of the same political status quo, which will have the effect that none of the necessary changes will be well planned and properly implemented.
    For me, as a citizen of a faltering state, it sounds as the end of rationality in the (battle)fields of politics: do nothing of your own, cast aside the only political tool that could make things go better, i.e. the democratic factor, and wait for the turn of events to lead you to the only possible ending, which is your end. Unless a miracle happens.

    • Yani, I actually intended to post my comment to “Winston Churchill on Greece’s Bailout Mark 2 (almost)”. Could you move it there?
      Sorry for the inconvenience.

  • It is clear, from the comments below, what is the main problem with Europe. It;s not economics or not even politics. It’s nationalism. Nothing has changed in Europe! Same old story.

    • Priceless is your sentence Dean:

      “If Greece is ever to be reformed it will be done by the likes of me and not by the likes of you.”

      I’m still laughing XD

  • Let me just make a blanket statement, without inflaming passions again.

    Yani said that the “Germans have come to terms with their past”. Quite frankly, I don’t know whether such statement is true or not, nevertheless, I consider it highly irrelevant.

    You see, universally speaking, it is always about whether the victims have come to terms with the past and not the perpetrators of the crime.

    Henceforth, I would like to counter Yani’s argument by saying that is almost self-evident that the Greeks have not come to terms with German history and actions injurious to the modern Greek state.

    This is a basic fairness and justice issue. It’s only a matter of time before Greece raises this issue officially and asks for due compensation. When such compensation is fully paid then the healing process can begin.

  • Lovely lush metaphor. But please, please change the “p” to “b.” It’s phantom limb, not phantom limp.

  • Lovely lush metphor. But please change that “p” to a “b.” It’s phantom limb, not phantom limp.