Saturday, June 25, 2011

Greece is in the News, in case you've been on Mars

In a comment to my post last Saturday, I was asked about the current state of affairs in Greece.  I demurred, saying that I preferred to skirt the media feeding frenzy focused on events in a very tiny bit of ground in central Athens in front of Parliament, Syntagma (Constitution) Square, and concentrate instead on the beauty and glories of life in Greece that draw me there like a moth to an energy saving, non-heat producing bulb [Gotcha, bet you thought I’d write “flame” as some sort of a wink and a nod unstated political opinion].
Greece's Parliament Building
But to be honest, these days it’s virtually impossible not to talk about what’s “going on” in Greece.  It’s the topic of every Greek’s conversation.  Next Tuesday or Wednesday the Greek Parliament will vote on whether Greece shall adopt additional stringent measures required for it to receive the next round of bailout funds or go bankrupt.  Some choice.  This past Tuesday the political party currently in power called for a (successful) parliamentary vote of confidence in order to demonstrate to the (financial) world that it still had control of the government.

If you want to read about the pros and cons of all that, and what should be done or not done, just pick up any newspaper or magazine and you’ll find opinions.  Make that a bushel of opinions.

There is no need to add mine.  Instead, I’ll quote from a character I created in a novel written and published in Greece long before the current crisis (US and UK title, Assassins of Athens).  Whether the speaker is a bad guy or a good guy I’ll leave to your judgment:

Not BSF, a prophetic cover
“What this country needs is leadership, not more terrorists.  How many Greeks love their country?  Answer, all of them.  How many love their form of government? Answer, most of them.  How many love their politicians.  Answer, none of them, not even their mistresses can stand them.  Why is that?  Do I really have to tell you?  Because they’re all alike.  Name one who ever has gone to prison for corruption?  The people have no faith in their politicians and have given up on finding better ones.   What I want to give them is hope.” …

“Greek children are rioting alongside their parents in the streets.  Widespread vandalism, arson, and assaults on police are dismissed by our government as ‘democracy’ in action, and law-abiding Greeks, who once watched such protests in horror and disgust, now call the demonstrators justified!  Our countrymen are sick of their politicians and their parties.  They want a new beginning and they want it now. They know it can happen, no matter how unrealistic it might have seemed at other times, for they have seen the impossible happen [elsewhere]…. But it requires a fresh leader to emerge, one who can unite the left and the right, the rich and the poor, under one political banner and offer new hope for our beloved Greece.”

Again, and for the record, those are the words of a fictional character before the current crisis—not mine.

Perhaps now you see why I prefer to go for the light and airy.  After all, as far as I’m concerned that’s really what this land of enchantment called Greece is all about.  And why I love it.



  1. This seems to be world wide. Let's face it the U.S. have little faith in their government either. They are clueless about anything except spending money that is not theirs. I hope Greece can get a handle on their situation. America can learn from this - Greece was once the most powerful country in the world!

  2. In the concluding paragraph of the review of ASSASSINS OF ATHENS, I wrote, "ASSASSINS OF ATHENS is more than an alliterative title. Athens, the cradle of democracy, is being assassinated by powerful people who want a return to oligarchy, government by the few, the wealthy and powerful, to the detriment of the many."

    Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman wrote, "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits"(1970). Four years later, he said in an interview, "So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not."

    When Lyndon Johnson created the Great Society, he opened to door to higher education for the children of the working class. We moved into the various strata of the middle class and sent our children off to college so that they could continue up the ladder of success as measured in the United States. But the ladder was pulled away and now higher education is an expensive trip to nowhere. Upward mobility is a thing of the past. The United States is not going to be the country of exceptionalism because the great minds of the middle and lower classes are being sacrificed to the greed of the upper class who don't want to share the wealth.

    When the right, united under Rush Limbaugh's statement that they were going to do everything to prevent the presidency of Barack Obama from succeeding, it was as clear a statement as could be made that this is no longer one nation. The left and the right cannot and will not be united because unity requires equality and equality requires that no one lives below or on the poverty line.

  3. I have "Assassins of Athens" on the top of my TBR mountain. I really understand your desire to focus on what you love about Greece. I feel that way about the US as well, because Beth's letter highlights so much of what is wrong here. I certainly wish Greece the best. In my mind, it is so sad that this glorious country that stood for so many wondrous thoughts and ideals is going through so much turmoil. These are strange times indeed. The picture is now on my desktop. That is how I travel these days.

  4. Thank you Ann, Beth, and Lil.

    On my recent book tour across the U.S. at times a question would bring me to discuss the current situation in Greece. On more than one such occasion a wit from the audience would say, "Sounds like California."

    These are times that try our values. How Greece--and the U.S.--choose to react to their respective challenges will determine for generations the quality of life for all who live within their borders.


  5. Hi Jeff,

    I think I speak for everyone here in Iceland regarding the situation in Greece when I say that we sympathise immensely with what the people there are going through. We mercifully got to vote and decided not to pay for the debts of our private banks. Lets face it, when financial institutions and investors make a killing they don't exactly share. It is therefore highly unfair to have to pick up the tab when they lose money. And the bonuses.... Arrrgg, I get so angry thinking about it that I had better stop now.

    The banks that lent to Greece took a chance, one of the reasons interests exist. If it had been a shoe factory lending Greece shoes to be paid later no one would be putting any political pressure on payment. There is something odd about the seperate treatment banks get, the salaries they pay their executives and just about everything about them. After all, none of the money sitting in them is actually theirs.

    Bye Yrsa

  6. You sure do know how to put your Icelandic finger on the point, Yrsa. It is hard to argue with those angered at an enterprise with the slogan, "No government intervention in our affairs except when necessary to save our sorry asses."

    What has always amazed me, though, is how can one be tolerant of a wild animal who runs to form, but not accept the same in banks? After all, in keeping with the observations of Milton Friedman quoted by Beth, bankers are trained to find a way to profit out of ANY situation. It isn't a moral decision, it's a business one.

    And in keeping with that thought, is there anyone out there who believes for one moment that any government in the E.U. really cares what happens to Greece? I submit that as soon as Greece no longer matters to safeguarding their own economic well being, yia sou (ex) partner.

    There, you wrestled an opinion out of me:)