It is widely believed that the destruction and humiliation of the German state after the first world war, paved the way for the Nazi terror. It is clear that the destruction of the Iraqi state by the UK and USA has provided the conditions for the rise and establishment of Islamic State terror. Destruction and humiliation of a perceived enemy, which involves the weakening of its legal authorities and the bonds of its civil society has frequently led to lawless violence and cruelty.
Angela Merkel, brought up in Communist East Germany, ought to understand this sort of history enough to take it as a warning but shows no signs of having done so. The terms of the Greek bailout are obviously designed to say to the Greek people, “You are lazy and shiftless. You have voted for a government and a policy that appears contrary to our interests but you want us to give you money. Well, you can only have it if you get on your knees and beg us, and even then we’ll make it clear we have no respect for you or your government.”
One likely outcome is the collapse of this Greek government and the division of its people into violently opposing camps. And there are statesmen who might like to meddle in the resulting chaos, Mr Putin for one, Mr Erdogan for another. It is a prospect which I know wise people in Greece will struggle to avert, but it is by no means certain that they will succeed.
It is hard to exaggerate the frivolity with which the grave guardians of fiscal propriety in Europe have treated this issue. Relatively unimportant problems have been magnified and relatively huge problems ignored. Most crucially, they have forgotten the probable results of their folly: “Those to whom evil is done/ do evil in return” (W.H. Auden).
All of which is to say that the Golden Rule, as proposed amongst others by Confucius and Jesus, that you should not do to others what you would not wish done to you (negative form) or that you should treat others as you wish to be treated (positive form), is as applicable to national and international relations as it is to interpersonal. Obviously amongst today’s international moralists such a view will be treated with the contempt it deserves. Wake up and smell the coffee, I will be told. Well, a pastor’s daughter like Angela should not need me to tell her that she is responsible to One who may be a deal more scary than the Bundesbank or the International Monetary Fund.