solid gold by Suzanne Mills
Diamonds, allegedly forever, may once upon a time have been dubbed a girl’s best friend but in the dog days of the Great Recession, gold and silver are proving an ordinary woman’s equally dependable and timeless pals, as housewives and mothers pawn and peddle their trinkets and silverware on Europe’s streets of anguish and despond. A gram of gold can provide euros enough for a trip to a penny pincher’s supermarket, as can a set of fine sterling cutlery.
“Compro oro! Buying gold!” announce the scores of hawkers dotting the stone slabs of Spain’s Plaza de Sol, their fluorescent yellow green jackets flashing a casino neon-like invitation to female passersby. The pedestrian paths of Madrid’s hub are daily converted into a medieval market place, in which gold, not the Euro is the standard currency, while in the recesses of overhanging offices and flats, the true traders, all male, weigh their precious metal and cash in on a four-year economic crisis, a goose which is laying their golden eggs.
Never enamoured of jewelry, I’m beginning to think I should have long been investing in shiny adornments in preparation for harder times, or at the very least demanding these of my beaux over the decades. Forget flowers, dinner and dancing, darling: I’ll take a pair of 18-carat earrings! Just in case… and the “in case” would seem to be nigh, with some economists predicting an imminent collapse of the Euro followed by the US dollar and suggesting Spain is the country that might well trigger the fall and a domino effect worldwide depression.
As the clock counts down and the crisis deepens, women in the most fragile states of the Eurozone are pawning more than family heirlooms: the southern European severe employment deficit has given rise to increasing numbers of escorts and escort services. Prostitution, which is legal in most European Union countries, is being viewed as a necessary, often sole means to survival. Indeed, greater competition has pushed enterprising females up north, out of the Eurozone, in search of fresher markets and freer flowing, more stable currencies.
A recent report from the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) suggests there are seventy percent more women selling themselves for kroner on the streets of Norway’s Oslo where prostitution is not legal, but where only the men buying the sex are charged, not the women selling it. (The study is silent it would seem on male prostitution, also on the augment in Europe.)
The complete UNRIC draft is no longer available on the www and unfortunately there are few similar studies on the social impact of the Euro recession. Online we are treated instead to economic treatise laced with doomsday finality. Missing amid chatter of interest rates, credit levels, liquidity take ups, are the thousands and thousands of people living this dreadful downturn. Missing are the creased countenances of the women who are obliged to flog their dowry and dignity to survive.
If you ask the new recruits to the oldest profession who is responsible for their fate they might say the bankers, but some would point fingers at the person running Europe, a fellow woman, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, the world’s fourth most powerful person according to Forbes. The Spanish escorts would probably opine that their Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is not a man at all, but the little boy who implements Europe’s Guardian Angela’s structural adjustment dictates.
The mainstream media from time to time step from beyond the economic indicators to provide this crisis with a human face. America’s KeyC TV recently reported that Europe debt woes are also giving boom to the Spanish business of introducing village bachelors to city women. According to KeyC TV, Candeleda, a town of 6,000 on the banks of the Lobera River in central Spain, this month hosted a weekend fiesta to welcome 68 women for a meet-and-greet with the village’s single men. KeyC TV said the group, Asocamu, was set up in 1995 to promote rural re-population by organizing parties for single men and woman, but Spain’s painful financial crisis and the lure of city jobs had made the need more pressing than ever, with 100 Spanish villages on the verge of becoming ghost towns.
Perhaps the most suggestive news story thus far on women in the crisis comes from the UK Independent’s writer John Carlin who postulates that Iceland has re-emerged from its economic chaos because women have taken over the country and because it now agreed that the “days of macho capitalism“ are over. Iceland’sMinister of Education, Science and Culture Katrin Jakobsdottir told Carlin her country is focused on long term growth and sustainability, not short sighted gain. Undoubtedly, not only in Iceland, but worldwide, it is agreed that male greed is no longer good. And yet bankers bonuses rise, as outside their doors camp the homeless. And in Madrid, speculators test their carats and weight their grams. Greed is still gold.
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