Yanis Varoufakis: Has Capitalism Failed Us

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Three members of the COMER Executive, Ann Emmett, Ronnie Pereira and Patrick Cryan, were lucky enough to get tickets to this sold-out event at the Toronto Reference Library. Greece’s former Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, author of many books including The Global Minotaur, and Talking to my Daughter about the Economy, or, How Capitalism Works – and How it Fails. 

In the course of his interview with Ana Serrano he spoke about how Capitalism works and how it fails and why there is so much inequality in the world. 

With jargon-free language, and comparisons drawn from well known sources, he eloquently spoke of how Capitalism undermines itself, and how technology contributes to that. He spoke of how we are shifting gradually towards a Matrix-like economy, where we who have produced all these machines end up being their slaves, and how that includes the people who own them, who are constantly in fear of losing ownership of those machines. “And in the end, we all cry ourselves to sleep at night!” (The Matrix trilogy is a science-fictionaction media franchise, about heroes who fight a desperate war against machine overlords that have enslaved humanity in an extremely sophisticated virtual reality system.) 

With much humour he went on…, “And the market for anti-depressants does magnificently – mainly for the 0.1%.” 

He then pointed out – more seriously – that, “This is the stuff of genuine tragedy. It’s like watching Macbeth. Every crime that he commits makes him more desperate until, in the end, he wants to die. He wants Macduff to stop him, and says, ‘Lay on Macduff!’” 

Then he went on to say, “And you are damned if you stand back and say, ‘Enough!’ So, democratizing our society is not an option. It is our duty to the next generation, to ourselves, because if we don’t do that, we will become slaves of our own artifacts, very much like Frankenstein became a victim of his own creation.” 

It was an evening to remember, for everybody there. 

Our Comment

It was my very good fortune to get a chance to speak briefly to Yanis Varoufakis at the end of the evening. 

I have never before met anyone who made so arresting an impression! I sensed an extraordinary strength – strength of mind – strength of purpose – strength of spirit! 

There were two questions that I was burning to ask him.

When I asked him how – with such strong support from the Greek people behind them – the newly elected Syriza party could have caved in to external pressures as they had, he looked me straight in the eye and, after a thoughtful pause, said emphatically “I ask myself that question every day!” 

Then, I explained that from what I had read of his analysis of the inherently flawed structure of the EU, I could not understand his criticism of Brexit. His response was that he thought that it was better to stay and fight to change it. 

While I cannot see how that can be accomplished, since members seem to have no leverage other than the threat to leave, I am persuaded that if anyone can lead European countries out of what he calls “Bailoutistan,” he can (Adults in the Room). To that end, he is cofounder of an international grassroots movement, Di EM25, that is campaigning for the revival of Democracy in Europe. 

That campaign should be of interest to us all. 

Ann Emmett

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