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Ruminations on the Ongoing Greek Financial Crisis and European Democracy
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2015-07-04 12:26:45
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On Sunday’s referendum some Greeks will vote Yes, that is, they will vote for patriotism, pro-European, pro-Euro, or simply pro-Pragmatic reasons. Some Greeks will vote No for the same reasons, pro-Hope, pro-Democracy, pro-Greek historical heritage. After all, democracy was born in ancient Greece, in a place where they still speak approximately the same language as in the times of Socrates. In Italy, for example nobody speaks the same language as the ancient Romans. The Romans, in fact, were Hellenized by the Greeks, and via the Romans, the whole of Europe was in some way Hellenized. The Liberal Arts and the Humanities would be inconceivable without ancient Greek history. It is useful to keep that in mind as we discuss the current predicament of Greece.

But putting aside history and the Hellenic heritage, the exercise in democracy that is a people’s referendum, about to be conducted in a couple of days, is in reality doomed by the version of Greek history the EU has misguidedly presented to its citizens, no matter the outcome. The eventual outcome of the referendum will be seen as a win for the EU, the IMF, the ECB, the bankers and the whole lot of capitalistic entrepreneurs, a betrayal of Greece, that nationalistic 18th century romantic version of Greece for which Lord Byron fought and died (against the Ottoman Empire), if Yes wins. That yes will be seen as a betrayal of sort. It will be seen as having voted for the Germans. It will bring back disturbing memories of what the Germans did in Greece during World War II and the dialogue will get more ugly and contentious.


Those who will vote No will be seen as the children and grandchildren of the socialist patriots who fought against the bourgeois-British rules who lorded over Athens after Churchill and Stalin agreed that Greece would belong to the NATO side of the Iron Curtain. This of course is an ominous rebirth nationalism pure and simple and has precious little to do with the universal ideals and principles of democracy as founded in Greece more than two thousand years ago and for which the EU allegedly stands. Those who thought that nationalism was long dead in the EU, perhaps need to rethink their fallacious premise.

So, there will be those who will vote Yes on Sunday July 5 because they are afraid. There will be many who will vote No for the same reason. And we cannot ignore the extremists and the fanatics  like Golden Dawn who blame immigrants rather than Germans for their predicament; not to speak of the 4 per cent of the nationalist vote who are in Tsipras’s government with 14 members of parliament. Will there be buyer’s remorse for having joined the West financially with an unsuited economic structure? It remains to be seen.


Within this forced narrative what will be decided on Sunday will not be the fate of democracy in Europe but the fate of its banks and economic structures, the fate of the Euro-zone and everything it stands for. That goes a long way in explaining why the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has stated recently that she hoped that the referendum would indicate a clear path. A clear path to what? In trying to answer that question the EU begins to look as a rather dictatorial institution, at least from the perspective of Athens; an institution that seems to care more for the propping up of the euro and less about democracy, even less about the voice of hungry Greeks.


Faced with such grim choices it will be interesting indeed to see how the Greeks will vote on Sunday. Will they agree with PM Tsipras that Europe’s leaders are blackmailing Greece’s voters and a Yes or No vote will constitute nothing less than staying in or out of the wonderful People’s Republic of Europe run by the bankers? Or will they see it as a the avoidance of a disastrous political collapse? Or perhaps the avoidance of falling into the welcoming harms of a Putin eagerly waiting in the wings with his Stalinist policy of divide and conquer?


As things stand now, the economic collapse has already happened. The banking system will collapse next week and private deposits will vanish, Greece will be unable to buy and sell internationally, not matter what the results of the referendum.  Those are the unvarnished facts, but the  IMF has greatly miscalculated in overlooking that what is at risk presently is nothing less than political stability, public safety and democracy itself.  

Of course we all love Plato and Homer and ancient Greek culture, we are all aware that without Greece there would be no European cultural identity to speak of, but the crucial question seems to be this: How can Europeans, at least those who bother to inform themselves of what is going on, go on admiring the dictatorship of the banks?  How can we go on with our vainglorious bragging of a “democratic Europe” when the EU tells the Greeks what their referendums are about?  If this kind of “democracy” doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India, or China, or Cuba, or the Middle East for that matter? What is NATO fighting for when it sends its troops around the world do defend democracy?  If we only want people to say Yes on 5 July, or else, who are the real dictators?

One final comment: what may be at play in the very place where democracy was born is nothing less than the fate of democracy as we know it. What may have to be decided is a choice between democracy and greed. Willy Nilly, that choice will be made, with or without referendums, even by all those who claim to love democracy. Given the nature of man, doing nothing is not an option.



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