Saturday, December 21, 2013

There is Much to Learn From the Greeks

I promised not to talk about what’s going on in Greece…at least not now.  Even though there are such juicy stories to pounce on, such as these three:

ONE.  Greece’s former transit minister, the nephew of the founder of Greece’s currently ruling political party, was arrested for running a stop sign and found to be driving an unregistered luxury vehicle bearing false license plates. If registered, he’d have had to pay 3300 euros in vehicle related taxes. He showed up in court wearing a 1500-euro jacket and claimed he was a "pensioner" affected by the crisis and only driving the vehicle to “charge the battery.”
Former Transit Minister in transit.
TWO.  Parliament agreed to block dispersal to neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn of 300,000 euros it would have received as a member of Parliament, doing so on the basis of a law denying such funding to a party with leaders facing criminal prosecutions. On the same day it refused to allow an investigation into the role played by the leader of the ruling party’s coalition partner in a 360 million-euro loss sustained by Greece in a stalled, three submarine deal signed-off on by that leader who, incidentally, was recently reported to be perhaps the richest of the country’s party leaders.

Golden Dawn leader
PASOK leader

Savvas Xeros of November 17
THREE.  As reported by Ekathimerini, Greece’s equivalent of The New York Times, convicted terrorist Savvas Xeros—currently serving five consecutive life sentences plus an additional 25 years for his involvement in the November 17 terror group’s 27-year reign of terror covering 23 assassinations and thousands of related crimes—was granted a one-month furlough from prison by a Piraeus court on Thursday so that he could undergo medical treatment in a university hospital.  The issue stirred controversy in Parliament between opposition SYRIZA and ruling New Democracy, with the former’s human rights committee saying that the continued detention of an inmate diagnosed with serious health problems constitutes “inhumane treatment,” and the ruling party accusing the “leftists” of “trying to achieve the release of the murderer and terrorist by intervening in justice.”

New Democracy and SYRIZA leaders
Obviously, there are different sides to those stories, but I’m going to honor my promise and pass on offering my take. Instead, I’m posting what I think a very well thought out editorial by Alexis Papachelas, Executive Editor of Ekathimerini.  It appeared in last Sunday’s paper. And, yes, you might say it applies to us as well. That’s “us” as in US.  It’s titled, “Dangerous Ambitions”:

Alex Papachelas
I would very much like to ask all those dreaming of becoming the country’s next prime minister whether they have thought it through properly and are sufficiently prepared, with a specific plan and an even more specific team to implement it. 

Daydreamers abound. Some feel they have been treated unfairly by history while others wish to take revenge for injustices suffered by their parents. There are also those who are immature enough to believe that the premiership will simply fall into their laps, just like everything else.

Very few realize how tough the job of prime minister in a country which has fallen apart actually is. The way they seem to ignore danger is impressive. They could at least realize that for the first time in decades, a wrong move while at the country’s helm could lead to disaster for the country and themselves. But they still insist on working solely on their publicity skills. 

You hear supposedly serious people boasting about receiving backing from newspapers and businesspeople. So what? Even if they do get elected, who will govern the country amid such adverse conditions? Those who backed them in the first place will turn against them if they don’t return the favor – this has always been the case. And when the going gets really tough, whoever has realized this dream will find himself alone in the Maximos Mansion, feeling the tremendous pressure exerted by the Greek people, the country’s lenders and interest groups on the one hand and history waiting to issue its verdict on the other. 

Partisan sycophants who seemed like giants in party offices will seem like midgets as they take on positions of even basic responsibility. Ambition is legitimate. What angers people, however, is the shallowness and unbearable lightness with which everyone across the political spectrum is preparing themselves: with low-quality staff, a complete lack of planning, big words and ludicrous tactics.

Some of it is our own – citizens’ and the media’s – fault. We glorify communication mastery and light populism and condemn anyone who comes across as gray and serious. Acting tough and playing the media game properly is today’s winning ticket. But this doesn’t lead anywhere. 

Antonis Samaras will eventually leave office and history will tell whether he did everything in his power to accomplish his mission. He has certainly given his role as premier much more than most people expected. It’s time to get stricter with anyone who wants the country’s top job. In the past we put our trust in people who had never worked before, who had never felt the threat of getting laid off. We considered pamphlets with pretty graphics sufficient plans for governing. 

We should not fall into this trap again because things are really serious this time around.

As is often said, we can learn from the Greeks.   Let’s just hope they do so as well.

By the way, the photo at the top of this post is of a Christmas tree erected two years ago by volunteers in front of Greece’s Parliament building.  It’s made out of donated milk cans, later distributed to the needy.  In that spirit, and an ecumenical prayer for better times for all on earth, Merry Christmas and Kala Kristouyenna.



  1. It's amazing, Jeff, how much you can say when you say you're not saying a thing. You could almost be a politician... except you say too much when you're not speaking, kind of an inverse-politician.

    And Kala Kristouyenna to you, as well!

    1. An inverse politician is one whose head is squarely on his shoulders as opposed to up his.... So in a manner of speaking I guess you just complimented me! Everett. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

  2. I am with Alexsis. Down with self-serving empty suits. Kala Krsitouyenna to all!

    1. Come on, be honest, Annamaria, the reason you're with Alexis is because he looks like your favorite cinema star karate hero, Steven Seagal. Merry Christmas, my love.

    2. Wrong. My tastes in men run to the much more elegant than to that cheesy SS. Otherwise, why would I be friends with you?

    3. I knew there was a reason beyond cheap physical attraction that I liked you so:)

    4. [With a nod to Cool Hand Luke...] "What we have HERE, is a lack of a ROOM!"

    5. It took an entire year, Everett, but you finally made me LOL.:)

  3. Welcome back! We have missed 'you'! And by 'you' I mean these types of blog posts. I can get Greek recipes from my cookbooks but not the insights you provide. Thanks much for this post. Merry Christmas and Kala Krsitouyenna to you and your family!

    1. I've missed them too, J&J. I think I'll make a New Year's Eve Resolution never to make such a resolution again. Only one more post to go and I'm back to being me. Flee!

      Merry Christmas.

  4. Merry Christmas and Kala Kristouyenna to you also, my friend. Great post. It's so reassuring to know that politicians are the same the world over, isn't it ...?

    Er, oh, hang on a minute ...

    1. You just being you gives me all the Christmas cheer I can handle and then some!:)). Thanks for your comment, Zoe, but I think you misspelled a word in your observation on the politicians. What you meant to write--I'm sure--was "hang one a minute."

      Guy Fawkes rules!