Horses of Troy

The Trojan Horse was an abominable, death-dealing construct in the guise of a victory trophy. It cost the Trojans their war against Greeks, but also cast them into the admirable role of the first nation of belligerent fools. We're being fucked just as they were. First, there's the literal horse that ended up in the refrigerator. Cunningly disguised as beef lasagna or Ikean meatballs, the unwanted horse meat captures the essence of capitalist-driven globalization beautifully. That essence is misdirection.

The people are better off not knowing. Everything is a-okay as long as we don't know where the beef has been, what the tuna has eaten or what berries might spread around. The same goes for mining uranium in vulnerable environments, drilling oil on a unique gulf or not-really-checking-if-this-nuclear-plant-is-tsunami-proof. The profit made by turning a blind eye and not giving a shit way outshines the "unfortunate" after effects. Privatize gains, socialize devastating catastrophies.

Sometimes the Trojan Horse is served with a side of rational necessity. This is a popular rhetorical device often used both in Finland and abroad, in which political decisions are backed with arguments about their inevitability, as if the politicians had no say in their doings and simply could not make any other decision. Lately such eminent cosmopolitans as Economic Sciences Nobel laureate Paul Krugman and Olli Rehn, Commissar of Economic Affairs in the European Comission, have had a lively discussion about the latter's inability to understand the concept of alternatives. In a nutshell, Rehn has kept arguing that austerity policies, i.e. cuts in welfare across the European Union, will inevitably fix the ongoing European financial crisis, and that there simply are no other choices that could help. Krugman has attempted to respond on the contrary by using the power of rational argumentation, so far to no avail. (Rehn had said earlier that research not in line with the EC's stance is unhelpful - how's that for an argument?)

Right now, Rehn's allies are championing de facto confiscation of Cypriot savings in return for loan that's supposed to save its failing banks (rather than, say, the people). Similarly in Greece, Spain and Portugal a crisis effectuated by laissez-faire of the financial markets has the Horse emptying its gut on the welfare of the common people. And don't get me started on what's going on in Britain.

Here in Finland, we're experiencing similar rhetoric in discussing the extension of working careers. It started with lobbyists saying that people should retire later. Next, they figured that the extension could and should happen before full-time transferral into working life, in other words by limiting the right to free higher education - an event leading, after some additional steps, to today's demonstration in defence of student grants and student life. Statistics Finland has tried to say something not in line with the lobbyists message, but who's listening to them anyway? They've succeeded in getting the parliament to dance around the horse, worship its existence with every move they make and not to question the animal itself, the necessity of extending careers. Even more alarmingly, the elusive "people" are starting to believe them as well.

All that said, Trojan Horse Kung-Fu is also used when no other alternatives remain and rational inquiry might actually lead to unwanted results for the propagators. That seems to have been the case with the persecution of illegal downloading that, in a continent-wide survey, turned out to boost music sales rather than hurt them. It definitely is the case with the aftermath of the phenomenal success of the same-sex marriage proposal that gathered over 100,000 signatures in its first 24 hours. The opponents are already crawling from their holes and we are already hearing a bunch of half-assed arguments about the unnaturality of homosexuality, sanctity of marriage and, of course, phrases like "we have other problems than this." A herd of whining horses, I tell you (not like you needed the telling, but there are people who do).

In a hyper-globalized world, economical and political structures are becoming easier and easier to render invisible. Staying up to date is increasingly difficult as information trails become harder to follow and are prone to manipulation and subterfuge. Thoughts going "that can't happen" or "they wouldn't, right" seem to turn out false with great probability. That is the most important reason to stay sensitive to all types of double-speak. (Hearing things like "My party promises to develop student financial aid based on student grants" gets my inner cynic to shout "but tell me about the terms, bitch!")

There are two additional lessons to be (re)learned from all this:

First, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and might massacre you and your kin in the deep of the night.

Second, claims and propositions that are taken for granted should warrant relentless scrutiny and criticism before being accepted as such.

In a word, watch out for those rampant Horses of Troy.

Chief Editor's Note: Students on the Streets for Financial Aid

Photo of the Month, March 2013