Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

26 June 2013

Wanted: A New Circle Of Dante's Hell For The Fools Who Crippled Half Of Europe With Their Idiot Currency

M2RB:  AC/DC - Live in River Plate, Argentina

Livin' easy
Lovin' free
Season ticket on a one way ride
Askin' nothin'
Leave me be
Takin' everythin' in my stride
Don't need reason
Don't need rhyme
Ain't nothin' that I'd rather do
Goin' down
Party time
My friends are gonna be there too
I'm on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I'm on the highway to hell

Is that Red Ken Livingstone down there?

By Sean Thomas

Sometimes the briefest of encounters paints a bigger picture. Yesterday afternoon I was wandering around Florence (where I am writing about art), and in between viewing the first perspectival painting in history, and eating a tripe sandwich, I sat down at a cafe for a macchiato.

The young owner of the cafe was languidly charming – and waived my bill. As we left the café, my guide casually said, "Oh he's rich: he's a Peruzzi. They've lived on this street, Borgo dei Greci, since the 12th century. In fact his family is mentioned as living in this same street, by Dante, in the Divine Comedy."

How incredible is that? It's like meeting a guy called Dave Macbeth in a Scottish gastropub next to Cawdor Castle.

As a fan of Dante, I was chuffed by this encounter. But it also got me thinking. Precisely because Italy is so historic, it can give you a view of modernity, in a way not possible in younger countries.

Dante Alighieri lived at the beginning of the Renaissance: that period when Italy was divided into warring city states.

And these wars could be seriously nasty: e.g. during the Pazzi conspiracy (a Roman attempt to take over Florence) the plotters were caught by the Florentines, immediately noosed with ropes, then hurled from the roof of the Palazzo Vecchio. Some of the assassins were stripped naked, before they were hanged, so the jeering citizens could watch them defecate in death; other prisoners bit savagely into each other, as they dangled, to relieve the madness of their terrible pain. And we think Vince Cable and Nick Clegg don’t get on?

Yet this period of vicious disunity was also, for Italy, singularly successful. Florence became the most advanced and prosperous city on the planet. Venice, Pisa, and Genoa were glittering capitals without peer in the world.

Sadly, that is not the case today. The new, united, and Europeanised Italy is still almost peerless, but on the downside: from 2003 to 2013 Italy was one of the five slowest growing countries on earth, along with San Marino, Greece, and Portugal.

Spot the connection? Yes, it’s the euro. Since the advent of the euro large parts of Europe have slipped into a terrifying spiral of decline, virtually unmatched in modern economics. The currency that was meant to unite the continent, after the divisions of the past, has driven the southern periphery into dire stagnation.

What should we do about this? Take revenge on the europhiles? That would be silly. Absolutely no one wants to see Michael Heseltine and Peter Mandelson dangled naked from The Shard, and voiding their bowels, just for the entertainment of enormous, happy crowds; nobody wishes to see Jacques Delors lynched with such ferocity that he starts to bite the nose off Jose Barroso. That would be ridiculous, and I am appalled that anyone is suggesting it.

But if there’s ever an attempt to update Dante’s Inferno, I humbly suggest they invent a new circle of Hell for those fools who decided the euro was logical and necessary because it was “desirable”; the fools who crippled half a continent with their arrogant and utopian stupidity.

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