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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Eurozone Crisis

This is the first new article for a couple of months, as I have been pretty busy with other projects (including the first in what I hope will be a series of Pony and Trap ebooks, which I will love you forever if you buy. £2.99 is pretty cheap for the love of another human being, it's certainly less than I would charge for sex, so you know, buy it.) and while I've been busy with other projects, I've been living in Italy. This came about because of a whole bunch of stuff, and I'm moving again early next year to the States so it isn't a permanent arrangement, but what it means is that I am reporting to you now from the actual Eurozone. My wallet has Euros in it. I spend them on wine in 2 litre cartons and these weird two tone biscuits called Ringo that I only buy because Kaka advertises them on TV. I'll buy anything a footballer endorses, except the services of elderly prostitutes, or the bible.

Italy is pretty pivotal in terms of the Eurozone Crisis. It is the third biggest economy in the Eurozone, and is also considered to be the next one likely to get into serious shit. And being here for any length of time you can sort of see why. Italians have their way of doing things, which all the Under the Tuscan Sun expats you meet seem to accept as a fair trade off for the agreeable climate, surroundings and "way of life", but for me, is a constant source of rage.

The town I live in is popular with tourists from Germany and Holland, who come in the summer months for the good weather and whatnot. Unfortunately for them, at the peak of the tourist season in August, the proprietors of all the local businesses decide that they too would like to go on their holibobs, and fuck off to the coast without arranging anybody to cover for them. So even during the arbitrary few hours a day when shops and other services would usually be available, they just aren't. Would a business owner anywhere else in the world completely close down their operation during the most profitable period of their entire year? Hell's to the no. They'd open around the fucking clock and take their holiday afterwards, going somewhere much nicer with all the extra readies.

Everything here is a massive inconvenience, customer service simply doesn't exist, and you get the distinct impression that nobody wants to take your money. Which is fine for them. In Northern Europe, if we are given the choice between making some money and not making some money but to make the money we have to do something not all that back breaking, like say, sit in our shop between the hours of 1.30pm and 4.30pm, we'll choose to make the money, or our bosses will choose to make the money and force us to do the work. Italians take the other path, and that's their lookout. As an individual, I can accept that if I don't like it, I can fuck off.

The difficulty comes, as it already has done with Greece, when the countries who work their pasty asses off and have very little fun, like Germany, have to bail out the guys who have been sitting in the sun drinking wine and sleeping all afternoon for all of time. Think about it, nobody moves to Germany for the agreeable climate or "way of life", do they? You might move there to make money though.

This is the problem with the Eurozone, and why it is proving so difficult for the leaders of the member countries to come to any agreement with each other (well, it's also partly because some of the member countries are run by cartoon 'Allo 'Allo type characters it is hard to believe actually exist outside of a farce writer's imagination, let alone hold any power on the world stage). Culturally, Europe is so insanely diverse that it just doesn't work. Whether you chop it up East to West or North to South, it doesn't make any sense for the countries at either end to be part of anything together. In fact, the only thing I think would be worse than a shared economy would be if people from the corners of the Eurozone formed a rock band. I'll leave you to imagine how that might go.

In the good old days, the differences were fun and you'd travel around and enjoy the good aspects of all of them, but now shit's got real, well, you can't blame the leaders of the different countries for resenting each other and the fact that now, they are going to have to pull together and come up with something that is unlikely to be fair for many tax payers in different Eurozone countries, because the alternative is even worse.

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