Crisis tears us apart

Debt and austerity are the new reality for most Europeans. But for some, such a situation is an opportunity to turn a fast profit. In such a context, how can we still talk of nations and society? asks Irish columnist John Waters.

Published on 29 November 2011 at 13:05

"The euro may be about to explode, but that doesn’t mean you can’t profit,” declared an advertising link that caught my eye on The Irish Times website the other morning. The tone of this statement – so much at odds with the piety that normally attends these matters – begged me to click.

It turned out to be an advert for an internet publication offering to send out a daily investment e-newsletter containing “only the news you can profit from”. It promised subscribers the inside track on imminent developments in the euro crisis. The looming “inflection point” – the moment of reversal at which markets turn upside down – would provide opportunities for the initiated to “profit handsomely”. Roll up! roll up!

At one level, of course, the advert was offering only information, and who could object to that? And yet, given the current state of affairs in the euro zone, such calls to action suggest some hazy comparison with crying “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, which, as every journalism student learns on the first day, is beyond the protection of all reasonable free speech provisions.

For me, a strange, lurching feeling accompanied the reading of the advertising copy, which reminded me not merely that business continues in the face of disaster, but that disaster offers possibilities of lucrative business dealings. You wouldn’t expect to read such things in the comment columns or letters page, but here it was anyway, addressing the same audience: the thinking of “the markets” red in tooth and claw.

Of course we know about speculators preying on financial prospects and bearing away their “handsome” killings. But what we don’t think about so much is that, as the very existence of such adverts conveys, such people may be among us, beside us, right now, sitting at the next table in the cafe, reading The Irish Times. And such thoughts in turn provoke this odd sense that, underneath the dominant prevailing discourse, an entirely different version of reality resides – equally valid, and perhaps more relevant to obtaining a clear understanding of things. Read full article in the Irish Times...

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