At first reading in today’s FT my take seems to be politicians saying ‘enough is enough’. It would seem to be a case of saying ‘we cannot pay our bills’ and ‘we have cut our services enough – if not too much’. Detroit is no longer capable of honouring its bond commitments, paying pensions and paying to run the minimum services required in the municipality. And it has always been easy in the past to make commitments which have to be met out of future revenue raising activities. But this seems to have come unstuck.
In Ireland we have maintained that we will pay back all our debt – by taking the pain (the AUSTERITY). Seems like this has left us with over 450,000 out of work, reduced (and failing) social services and, for now, some very generous pension commitments (all of which were contracted in previous times). And the view from government (support by EU) has been – we must pay our way. And not surprisingly, EU (Germany in particular) would like us to continue to pay our way. All against a threat that whatever support/ relief we have obtained might come under pressure were we not to play ball.
Will be interesting to see how Detroit is bailed out in the US. Obviously while there are some similarities there are many differences.
Pillars of the Earth
Just finished listening to Ken Follett’s tome, The Pillars of the Earth. 40 hours of listening via audible.co.uk. But have to say that it did not seem that long. Thoroughly enjoyed Follett’s magnum opus. It’s a long time since I read any historical novels. The first time I remember reading historical novels was Walter Macken’s trilogy – I think I read them 40 years ago.
Follett has reintroduced me to the 12th Century – in England. Pillars of the Earth features interaction between royalty, church, landlords and peasants. Mainly we read of god fearing people – although a number are more than willing to do horrendous deeds, so long as they have some expectation of forgiveness from some official of the church. The author has awakened in me an interest in this period of history – by bringing alive the challenges of life then and the roles played by different people in society, be they monks, bishops, knights, landlords, labourers or kings.
Rather than try to summarise the plot myself I would refer the reader to the summary in Wikipedia.[schema type=”book” url=”http://ken-follett.com/bibliography/the_pillars_of_the_earth/” name=”The Pillars of the Earth” description=”Historical novel set in 12th Century in England” author=”Ken Follett” publisher=”Macmillan” edition=”First” isbn=”0-333-51983-3″ ebook=”yes” paperback=”yes” hardcover=”yes” ] .
Interesting to look back 900 years and see the intrigue between kings, landlords and church. Each needed each other – and switched alliances as the opportunities/ threats arose. Not that dissimilar to what we see taking place today, in terms of international alliances. However now the important relations are probably between states and between powerful multinationals and states – with lesser roles played by the church. In the case of royalty their importance/ influence varies widely e.g. all powerful in the Middle East, less so in Europe.
Some of the brutality described in Follett’s novel is awful – the attacks on Knightsbridge, treatment of tenants unable to pay rents, various rapes. But on reflection this does not seem any worse than what we recently witnessed in, say, the former Yugoslavia. And in the 12th Century they did not have the potential for mass destruction which we have seen realised over the last hundred years.
Not sure that I am quite ready for another tome from Follett just yet. In the immediate future will probably spend some time learning more about 12th Century Ireland and England. But in due course am looking forward to reading his sequel. Would strongly recommend Pillars of the Earth to anyone, whether with a passing interest in this period of history or looking for a good novel.