Merkel, Sarkozy And The Blind Waltz Of Europe's Rescue Plans For Greece

Op-Ed: After being forced to shelve their proposal for a European-appointed Greek budget commissioner, the German-France "Merkozy" duo now are floating the idea of a special account for Greek debt. But this is just one more symbolic atte

Students demonstrating last October in Florence (Collettivo Politico Scienze Politiche)
A quick fix won't do (kevinpoh)
Jan Dams

BERLIN - Over the past two years there has been no shortage of suggestions about how to rescue Greece. And none has received as much attention as the diplomatically unwise German proposal to appoint a "budget commissioner" to Athens.

Having gotten the thumbs down on that one from other euro-zone countries, Angela Merkel along with her French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy have now come up with an equally spectacular plan. This time, the idea is for a special account to be opened into which Greece would pay the interest it owes on debts, thus ensuring that holders of Greek debt were paid off.

Unfortunately, this proposal is as peculiar as the commissioner idea – in this case, because all that is likely to accrue in the account is negative interest from being permanently overdrawn.

The idea is little more than an expression of the deepest kind of desperation. Europe's most powerful politicians don't have a clue how to bring this small country into line. Merkel and Sarkozy, aka "Merkozy," have long recognized that not only is the will for change missing in Greece – so are the bureaucratic structures needed to implement promises of reform.

But both Merkel and Sarkozy are afraid to admit this publicly, and draw the necessary conclusions. It's better to take a symbolic stab at policy. And the Greeks understand that only all too well.

They know that the only thing driving these proposals is short-term fear of severe turbulence in the rest of the euro zone if they are kicked out. And as long as that's the case, nothing's going to change in Athens. It's high time, instead, that this or that new idea gives way to a whole new strategy.

Read the original article in German

Photo - kevinpoh

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Saving The Planet Is Really A Question Of Dopamine

Our carelessness toward the environment could be due, in part, to the functioning of a very primitive area of our brain: the striatum.

Ad scuba-diver and brain coral

Stefano Lupieri

PARIS — Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Addictions to sex and social media

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the 'pleasure hormone.'

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

Transverse section of striatum from a structural MRI image

Lindsay Hanford and Geoff B Hall via Wikipedia

Tweaking genetics 

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Les Echos
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