“… I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” Said Doctor Lector, with a lascivious smacking of his lips.
Who in Britain remembers Arnim Meiwes now? Yet, more than anyone else he evokes the essence of Germany’s pre-eminent role in the current destruction of Cyprus, undertaken though it has been largely by proxy, through its various allies and vassals in the Troika.
Germans are careful people. They have learned to be so during the vicissitudes of war and peace in the twentieth century. Nothing is wasted and profligacy is abhorrent. The idea of bailing out idle Greeks and tax evading Russian gangsters is not acceptable to Germany. Someone has to pay and it its better them than German taxpayers, or more specifically, the voters who would undoubtedly express their displeasure at any such foolishness later this year.
Meiwes, it may be remembered, was the self-confessed cannibal, who videotaped the killing, dissection and subsequent consumption of 43-year-old Berlin engineer Bernd Jürgen Brandes over a single evening in March 2001. He told the court in Kassel, that the two men met on an internet chatroom for cannibals and meticulously planned the rituals leading up to and beyond Brandes’ death, including the cooking and eating of his penis.
“I didn’t do anything against his will,” Meiwes told a stunned courtroom He added: “He knew that he could have turned back at any moment but he chose not to.”
Presumably Germany’s current Chancellor remembered and adopted Meiwe’s defence strategy when she and her government were planning the systemic dismemberment and cannibalisation of a fellow European Union nation state, Cyprus and then invited the new Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, to reprise the Brandes role. Still, Mrs Merkel has another precedent to refer to in such matters. The Czechoslovak President Emil Hácha would have recalled recalled similar treatment by one of her predecessors in 1939.
The case made legal history. Cannibalism is not prohibited in Germany, which left the prosecution and defence teams with an open legal playing field. This enabled the defence to argue that Brandes had a death wish and that Meiwes was merely assisting him in his desire to die. The prosecution sought aconviction for murder, based on the premise that Meiwes always intended to kill the engineer, and did it for his own sexual satisfaction.
Eventually Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. On appeal this was overturned and in a subsequent re-trial Meiwes was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Indeed there was debate over whether Meiwes could be convicted at all, given that his victim, Bernd Jürgen Brandes, had voluntarily and knowingly participated in the act. In a further example of life imitating art Meiwes was reportedly ‘helpful’ in investigations concerning two further cases of cannibalism. Inevitably one reminded again of the abhorant but compelling behaviour of Hannibal Lector in “The Silence of the Lambs”.
Meiwe’s actions are now an indissoluble part of a national psyche that has even spawned derivative hit pop records. In many ways they parallel and are a metaphor for Germany’s casual mal-treatment of Cyprus. If Cyprus wants a Euro loan it must decide how its going to do it. If you want to die, go ahead, it’s entirely your own choice. What bit do you want to cut off first?
Germany very neatly returned the terms of obtaining of its loan to Cyprus. Either all Cypriots could share the pain, or they could decide for themselves who would and would not what be consumed, by how much and at what rate. Or they could just not take the loan, leave the Euro and let everyone suffer equally as the new Cypriot currency found its own level. Faced with such a choice, not unnaturally its politicians reverted to type, as politicians do and decided to sacrifice the non-Cypriot minority of its voters, the expats, mostly British and the Russians, who wouldn’t be voting them out of power anytime soon.
Not that Cypriots won’t feel that pain, but the outsiders will feel it first. If that’s any consolation to people without any money anyway as the Cypriot economy implodes and living standards are set fall in tandem with the predicted 20% contraction in its economy.
The alternative was for Cyprus to take the other option, reject the Euro and all its evils and regain its economic and political freedom by reverting to the Cyprus Pound. This would have meant a shared pain and devaluation of up to 50% of savings and deposits. Given the recovery of Iceland, which five years ago was in a similar position, this would probably have been the better choice. At least people would have had control of their own country and economy, rather than being a fiscal laboratory for up and coming Brussels bureaucrats’ who decisions will ensure that Cypriots’ own money is micro-managed and controlled on their behalf anyway.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of the Eurogroup of 17 eurozone finance ministers, may congratulate himself on the move in Cyprus to inflict losses on banks’ shareholders, bondholders and large-scale savers as developing the European Union’s default approach for dealing with ailing lenders, however there is a political dimension which the politicians, smug with the self-satisfaction of thinking they have ‘resolved’ one crisis, (really? the experts opine Slovenia is next on the list), fail to understand that in doing so, they have created another. One which is much more imponderable:-
“…This crisis is not about money – Europe can easily find €10 billion to bail out a country with a $23 billion GDP that contributes a mere 0.2% to the EU’s collective GDP. It is about the discipline and sustainability of the Euro zone and the fate of other southern states under pressure who must not be allowed to bring the whole house down in their indebtedness. Total bail-outs for Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland since 2008 have already totalled over €500 billion and this is hardly the end of the story. But while EU officials and German politicians hold the line on these issues, the tensions around Cyprus have increased greatly in recent months and have the potential to turn this banking crisis into a full scale international problem.”
Turkey, Greece, Russia and the escalating situation in nearby Syria are all imponderables which interplay with the current situation and what still now looks like a financial crisis for the credibility of the Euro is in danger of turning into a full-fledged political crisis for the stability of the eastern Mediterranean.
The vorarephilia, both human and international, at which Germans gaped, both in the Meiwes trial and on their TVs over the past week, is soon likely to be visited by the law of very unintended consequences.