Sunday, 17 June 2012

He who controls the present controls the past

Towards the end of last week, Moody's, the ratings agency, downgraded Spain's government debt to some point barely above junk. This was on the day before my forty-seventh birthday, which we spent in Val d'Aran, passing through the five-kilometre tunnel which connects it with Aragón and the road to Lleida.

Without the tunnel, the route south doesn't exist: the valley is easily accessible from France, but the rest of Spain would only be reached by a long and difficult road through the Catalonian Pyrenees. Within Spain, when geography would place it immediately in France, I expect the valley shortly to be discovered by British journalists and employed as a metaphor. Here is where we are. And over there is where we would like to be.

Moody's. I remember Moody's. I am forty-seven now, and was forty-six at the time, and my memory is creaking like the finances of a Spanish bank. But I seem to remember Moody's. Back in January, when one wave or other - there have been so many - of market panic was breaking all over us, Mariano Rajoy announced, or was set to announce, to announce, ten billion Euros' worth of cuts. Immediately, up popped Moody's, who I had not previously realised considered themselves managers as well as bookmakers. No, pronounced Moody's, that was not enough. Ten billion Euros simply would not do. Forty billion Euros was what was required. By the afternoon, Rajoy was back again, giving Moody's and the financial markets the forty billion.

Something like that. Something mostly like that. It's an incomplete recollection, but at least I remember something.

Because nobody else appears to. At least, when Moody's carried out their downgrade on Thursday, I didn't see a slew of stories recalling Moody's previous demands. I didn't come across a lot of commentary asking Moody's whether they thought their previous advice looked quite so good in retrospect.

Perhaps it never happened. Perhaps nothing ever happened and time always begins at the point we are now occupying, the past existing differently in our different memories and having, other than that, no existence and no meaning. We had an election at the end of last year. Did the winners run on a manifesto, with any specific promises and pledges? I thought I remembered it. But no-one else remembers it. In the past few days I have seen no reference to it.
The belief that nothing exists outside your own mind -- surely there must be some way of demonstrating that it was false? Had it not been exposed long ago as a fallacy? There was even a name for it, which he had forgotten. A faint smile twitched the corners of O'Brien's mouth as he looked down at him.

'I told you, Winston,' he said, 'that metaphysics is not your strong point. The word you are trying to think of is solipsism. But you are mistaken. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism, if you like. But that is a different thing: in fact, the opposite thing. All this is a digression,' he added in a different tone. 'The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.' He paused, and for a moment assumed again his air of a schoolmaster questioning a promising pupil: 'How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?'

Winston thought. 'By making him suffer,' he said.
Previous government promises and manifestos: they do not exist. The previous demands and previous errors of the ratings agencies: they do not exist.

And shortly, too, the previous three years of austerity will not have existed, because austerity is always something that is required, just as structural reforms are always something that is absolutely necessary.

But I remember. I think I remember. I think I remember Moody's telling the government what to do. Asserting their power over another.

I also have another memory, even less reliable. I think it used to be considered morally reprehensible to punish another for carrying out the instructions that you gave them.

But that was in the past. And the past does not exist.

1 comment:

  1. Hola, hope you are well.Yes, no one seems to have learnt their lines and the script keeps changing.Your observations on power and the past ring true though.