“The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.”
(Heart of Darkness)
What has happened to Greece this past week needs an expansive and tragic frame of reference. Substitute 'Ivory' with 'Debt' or 'Money' and perhaps Conrad's Heart of Darkness might give the moral and imaginative comprehensiveness needed. Conrad used the European exploitation of the ivory trade and the inhumanity associated with it to show something rotten, corrupt and evil in colonialism and in the human heart. To contemplate this is to draw close to the ultimate metaphysical darkness - that darkness of Hell as Milton expressed it Paradise Lost.
That is the framework against which I see what has happened to Greece.
It is a tragic irony that after the clear decision against austerity in the Greek referendum nearly two weeks ago, the moral strength that Alexis Tsipras believed that vote would give has proven useless against the might of the Troika's banks. What I find morally incredible is that Greece has been punished for its protest and the final settlement is far more punitive than the deal that Tsipras originally walked away from.
I cannot think of any comparable example for such humiliation of a sovereign nation. No wonder Varoufakis's ominous but prescient comparison of it with the Treaty of Versailles has been echoed around the world. No wonder that the compliance of the EU in this matter has been compared to the violence of colonialism - though accomplished through banks rather than tanks.
The moral and spiritual bankruptcy of neoliberal economics is clear and - as Kurtz would say 'the horror'.