The current crisis in Greece, the role of Germany in imposing austerity programs, and endless ongoing conflict in the middle east reveals how deeply the western world suffers from a case of mass-obsessive-compulsive disorder. Generation after generation these regions have been the focus of attention and still are, forming a repetitive cycle marked by disorder, violence and aggression.
Widely credited with being the birthplace of the western world, Greece occupies a unique place in the west’s psychic and political history. The ancient Greek experiment with democracy, which was, incidentally, deeply criticized by none other than Plato for its tendency to produce poor leaders, continues to provide fuel for America’s conception of its role in the world and plot lines of popular Hollywood fare, like Zack Snyder’s blood-soaked “300.” The subject of successive 20th century military coups d’tat, some aided and abetted by America’s CIA, the political swings in Greece have moved between repressive right-wing dictatorships and rebellious left-wing uprisings.
Germany, meanwhile, the homeland of Johannes Gutenberg, Martin Luther, Richard Wagner and Albert Einstein, is now a post-communist-era unified country with Europe’s strongest economy. With its characteristic moral fervor, Germany has imposed – with International Monetary Fund and World Bank complicity – conditions of paralyzing austerity accompanying loans to…hold your breath…Greece! Thus Germany, the birthplace of Nazism, itself the stupefyingly bizarre and perverted imposition of Third Reich “morality” intended to rid the world of “mongrel races” now sits in judgement against the economically vulnerable Greece, and like its WW2 predecessor, is using its might to force its will. Time was international debt was cured through military invasion; now it’s financial blackmail that’s the weapon of choice.
This brings us to the third in our Troika of geographic obsessions: Palestine. I use the word Palestine only to highlight the fact that the state of Israel did not exist until 1948. Itself a product of terrorism directed against the British, who controlled the area as a protectorate post-WW1, Israel in part claims its right to exist based upon Biblical references which are themselves so old as to be akin to granting America’s indigenous peoples title to the lands between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. According to that principle and the documented evidence of continuous habitation 40,000 years before the arrival of white Europeans, America’s native peoples actually have a stronger case. Be that as it may, for over two thousand years the attention of the western world has centered on a tiny piece of desert real estate. Now that qualifies as a full-fledged obsession!
None of this is say that the issues facing these regions are minor, trivial or inconsequential. The press of history bears its weight upon each player, which in turn is felt by the entire world. But it is worth noting with what difficulty the western world can detach itself from what essentially are regional and nationalistic issues, themselves increasingly anachronistic in a global economy. The OCD relationship with these regions simply highlights outmoded and damaging models of nationalism, itself a decaying relic of a world long-gone.
The problems facing our planet – global warming and surging population growth, among the most urgent – render such regional, nationalistic impulses mere manifestations of a world-wide psycho-political disorder bordering on planetary suicide. Thus our continuing obsession diverts us from the far bigger problem, namely survival.