Friday, October 06, 2017

In A Crisis Way

There have always been crises. Suez had its crisis, Cuban missiles had their crisis. Oil had a crisis. But in a less media frenetic age crises seemed to somehow stand out more. They really were crises. They could command attention as single events. Crisis wasn't all around. It was in one place at one time.

Crisis, to borrow a phrase of the moment, is the new normal. In truth, it's the old normal. It's just that crisis wasn't as all pervading as it can appear to be now. Welcome to the world of crisis. Nothing is secure. Nothing is as you would like it to be. Nothing is normal. And, to paraphrase another maxim (one originated, probably, by The Firesign Theatre), nothing you know is right. Everything you know is wrong, primarily because what you thought you knew is fake - fake news.

Perhaps current crises are themselves fake. There is a collective imagination that perceives them like they are simulations. They don't really exist. Crisis is a requirement of political power. Big Brother invents crises as means of consolidating power, but then Big Brother may not himself have existed. We are not all Winston Smith.

The crises are not inventions. They are a question of degree. They require adjectival modification. Are they major, are they minor? Regardless of scale, however, place them side by side and they surpass the major league. They enter mega territory. A collision of crises; crises of critical mass. Yet while they revolve around us, acquiring ever greater force, we carry on as normal, assuming we know what this normal is. In a crisis way, in a constant crisis way, it's hard to know for sure. Everything we know is not quite as it should be.

Economic crisis - the most recent one, that is - was not at one place at one time. Crises rarely do in fact occupy one time or place. They endure and they are diverse. That most recent economic crisis, despite greatly improved circumstance, still endures and it engulfs most territory and people along with it. Spain's economic crisis provided the context for political convulsion. We are experiencing the fallout from the explosion, or rather implosion. Podemos is a legacy of crisis and of heads being beaten in the squares occupied by the "indignados". The disruption of the political status quo was as much if not more a consequence of economic crisis as it was the abhorrence of corruption.

Nationally and regionally, the evidence is there to be seen and to be experienced. A Madrid government is inherently feeble thanks to that political convulsion. In the Balearics, the government hangs together with a constant whistling to keep up spirits to the tune of "consensus and dialogue". Crisis defines political administration, but even in its enfeebled state, this administration can broker greater crisis. It wills it upon itself in acts of securing power - the power of the state, the power of the nation.

In a Gladstone Irish way, Catalonia was a "question". A question, depending on escalation or de-escalation, can become a crisis or a solution. While still a question, economic crisis was a context for Catalonian demands for greater financial autonomy. The region, beset by debt and racking up ever more, sought a way out. It would be bought out with a higher slice of tax revenues. All the while, though, there lurked the possibility of independence crisis in the shadow of this Catalonian question. Escalation finally came. And it was a joker to be played by both sides. Now, the King has become embroiled. A crisis, which might have de-escalated had it not been for heads being broken with batons, has been permitted to escalate, to consume, to overtake. There's no faking the Catalonia crisis. There's no avoiding a sense that one side - Madrid - fabricated a crisis while lacking a popular mandate. That political convulsion had determined this. A crisis in the name of some of Spain but by no means all of it.

Practicalities can be neglected at such times. But for Catalonia there are significant ones. Its tourism stands to lose out to a far greater degree than because of an act of terror. International sympathy might lie with Barcelona and the Catalans, but sympathy can look the other way. There are so many options for the traveller. Yet he or she observes options being reduced. There is an unnerving sense of at least a "question" in the Balearics, the ultimate product of economic crisis, allied with the crisis of terrorism. The islands' government was moulded and shaped by that economic crisis. Its component parts are not equals. One part, PSOE, is as enfeebled as the PP in Madrid. It bows to the shadows in the dark of parliament's corridors and facilitates an incoherence of tourism policy that might just escalate.

Crisis is normal. And crisis is a continuum, the product of the controllable and of the out of control.

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