This week I received a note from a Greek American who’d moved her business to Athens some years back. “I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be staying in Greece.”
That shook me. Greece was as much a part of her as breathing. Her life, indeed her career was spent glorifying Greece to the world. But I can’t blame her. She must make a living and although her prodigious public relations skills are in demand, not so much any more in Greece. And even those with the most optimistic take on how long it will take for Greece’s economy to rebound put it outside any meaningful time frame for my friend.
|Not current, but instructive|
Greece’s young, facing nearly 60% unemployment, are indeed hardest hit, but it is the older workers—many of whom carry the load for family members under twenty-four—who seem most disheartened. They see their peak earning years evaporating, their property threatened by a predatory tax structure (hopefully changing), and out of touch politicians acting like a bunch of Neros fiddling their own separate, selfish tunes while Rome burns down about them. If they could leave, many probably would. Like my friend.
Anyone with skill, talent, ability, and a willingness to work hard, wants to be in a place where what they offer is appreciated and encouraged by the opportunity to succeed. Rightly or wrongly, few perceive that as available to them in Greece today. Many are leaving a land they consider heaven on earth conscious that by so doing they’ll likely be resented by those who remain behind, and branded “not as Greek as us.” Just ask emigrants from past waves driven out of Greece by difficult economic times for tales of their receptions upon returning “home.”
Maybe things will be different this time. After all, many parents are telling their children to go elsewhere to make their fortunes, even while they choose to remain behind riding out the crisis. I’m sure most hope that someday their children will return to Greece, bringing with them skills necessary to rebuild Greece as a modern competitive state. Whether that happens depends upon on how those who do not leave chose to act. If they see remaining in Greece as an opportunity to personally profit in the short term, rather than a time for improving the overall prospects for their country, then perhaps the pessimists’ take on Greece’s turnaround time is more accurate: It will be the generation of the great grandchildren of those now leaving Greece who first see better times return to their homeland.
This week I also received a letter from another friend, a life-long Athenian whom I deeply respect. It summarizes what I believe to be the attitude of many: “We are moving on to dangerous times, full of uncertainty, unsafety, with no more guaranties for anything.”
As in all things Greek, there is a lesson in what my friend wrote for the world.
God bless Greece. God bless Boston.