Each one of us draws different conclusions from the same unpleasant situation, depending on the dominant features of our personalities. For example, after a car accident, an irresponsible person tends to diligently spot others’ mistakes and “learn” how unlucky he was to encounter such reckless drivers. A pessimistic or a fearful person will probably not use a car again, “learning” not only that an accident can happen but also that the best way not to be killed in a car accident is to go everywhere on foot. There are some extreme cases of people who may start thinking that they were tricked by someone and that the accident was caused on purpose in order to kill them. Others, having excessive guilt tendencies, may consider themselves responsible even if they crashed into a car that passed a red traffic light. An interesting kind of meta-learning and self-awareness can be gained from self- or other-regarding reflection on what every one learns through the same experience.
Maybe the Germans “learned” how much the Greeks are to blame for the European crisis. In this case, they could be accused both of irresponsibility, serious negligence and naivety because such “learning” requires to have ignored in the first place that Greece was, is, and will be a country with financial problems known to everyone before its joining in the European Union, which our beloved partners always supported fully and unconcernedly. Maybe the British have learned that it was very good for them to have never believed or completely devoted themselves to the European idea. No one can blame them for anything else except for an obsessive attachment to the idea of “you don’t have anything to learn if you already know everything”.
Yet, unfortunately they possibly need another ten years to understand that, if a country buys from another football players for 100.000.000€ in exchange to university professors at 200.000€ each, the former will end up having the best football teams in the world and the latter having much more money and better universities
Maybe the Spanish learned that an economy cannot be based on a bubble-home built by its own occupants. Yet, unfortunately they possibly need another ten years to understand that, if a country buys from another football players for 100.000.000€ in exchange to university professors at 200.000€ each, the former will end up having the best football teams in the world and the latter having much more money and better universities.
Once again you guessed right. In conclusion, my question will be this: “what did we learn from the crisis at last?” Apart from some obvious things, which you will allow me not to take as surprising –like for example, the fact that “Merkel only cares for her own interest”, or that “politicians are more interested in their salaries and reelection rather than the worker’s rights”– it’s hard to recall something notable from what I have heard lately. I will certainly avoid mentioning sentences like “the crisis was brought about by foreigners” or “tax evasion is a revolutionary deed”. By necessity, I must refer to some brilliant exceptions of occasional statements by commoners. With the permission of my friend Michael, who is always politicized yet, fortunately, a free mind, I paraphrase his outburst on Facebook: “The most disgusting thing of all is this: if the market had five to six extra billion going around, no one of them who weep and shout now… would have written a word on the internet…” Taking this as an inspiration, I will reveal to you what I think I learned: So many years of cultural development did not once and for all declare humanism the winner over barbarity which, apart from not dying in the arms of Greeks, it keeps on reigning as the dominant culture. Certainly, by putting pressure over common people to struggle for their survival, the crisis dimmed the horizon of the most progressive citizens, on the altar of which they sacrificed the fundamental and eventually forgotten demands for a cleaner city, a viable environment, a less sexist society, a friendly environment for people with disabilities, respect for the others, access to a decent public health and many more that would be enough for a second article. No matter how hard I try, I cannot compromise with the idea that the Greek of the crisis being unhappy earned the right to treat his fellow men rudely, park on pavements, not wear a helmet and smoke in an enclosed space next to his children. These things were banned in one day, not only in Switzerland, Germany or Spain but, also, in Colombia where I have been 15 days ago. My incorrigible fellow man proliferated and became stronger thanks to the crisis, living “as he pleases” given that under all this pressure, he cannot be fined for such unimportant things.
If my friend Michael is right and all that legitimate decline of our morals and habits comes from the lack of some cash in the market, I am afraid we might have to reconsider what we teach students in economics schools and start reminding them that an economy without culture is like a soup without a plate. In addition, we might primarily aim for constitutions promising a civilized and humane milieu, no matter whether we live with double or with half the resources. My first teenage walkabouts through ideologies and political utopias had made me suspect that men cannot learn the value of everything by looking at numbers and statistics with money as the unit of measurement. I said that I had that feeling then. Now, as a professional researcher in behavioral economics I know it for sure. The most valuable treasure of our civilization inside and outside the financial system, with or without crises, is respect towards ourselves.