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Childishly ranting numbers and dark ages
by Thanos Kalamidas
2015-07-18 11:11:29
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TheRenaissance was a magnificent moment for western civilization. It was that moment in history when the society, art and ideas became one and as a movement inspired revolutions and fundamental changes. Unfortunately while Europe was inspired from Greece, the small Mediterranean country lived in the dark ages of the Ottoman Empire. The birth place of Aristotle and democracy was enslaved far away from ideals and art.

Of course it will be an exaggeration to compare what happens today in Greece with the Renaissance period, still while a wind of change or at least a demand of change blows over Europe, Greece once more is cursed to live it through the dark ages of another memorandum. How did we get there? Because everybody wanted two things. Nothing to shake the euro and in extension the global economy – and a Grexit despite all reassurances could do exactly that – and make sure that the banks will get fully paid.

gr01_400_04The minute I write these words, the Greek debt has already climbed to 357,000,961,943 € and it keeps increasing every second due to the inhuman interests. The debt per citizen of this small country goes as high as 32,374€. This is the amount an average Greek will make in between 5 and 7 years work. That if there is work because at the moment 27% of the Greek working force or 1.5 million people are unemployed.

What you should also notice is that only the interest of this amount is 23,583,552,467€ per year. In another words even if all the Greeks, all 11 million Greeks – including new born babies – had work and they could give for the next 5 years all their 32,374€ to the state for the repayment, the debt would have still increased the same time by 30%. Now add to that, that the new deal – to make sure that Greece doesn’t bankrupt and payments to the creditors continue – Greece borrowed an extra 82,000,000,000 €, bringing the total to the vertiginous 439,001,562,587 €. And I repeat this changes every second.

If there is anybody who believes that Greece can ever repay this amount of money, considering that every country needs all the time money, it is at least ignorant in basic economics. The only solution is a haircut, a strong haircut. And Greece has already suggested both the amount of this haircut and how it is possible to be done. Without avoiding the main loans renegotiating the interest which according to the international committee for the Greek debt is more than 50% of the total debt. Greece compromises with a reasonable 35% cut which will leave a logical profit for the creditors.

The situation is simple as that and whatever we like to say – and that for both sides - numbers don’t lie. Period.

I started with these numbers because last week with what I wrote in my article about the results of the referendum I was accused for “a rather childish ranting”. Right, if you face the whole situation as a bad borrower who borrowed money to buy a house and doesn’t want to payback the bank because he has spent all the money into gabbling; then you are right. But how do you feel if that borrower was forced to borrow money because he was ill and not finding a bank had to borrow from loan sharks? Is not the same anymore, is it?

If you cannot understand that these loan sharks are the friends and the allies you supposed to depend on, then of course it is a childish rabbling, if you think 1,500,000 people are collateral damage to pay back a loan, if you think 3,000,000 people in poverty are a circumstantial casualty and 10,000 homeless are a parallel loss then you are right, it is all “a childish ranting.” But then again it is so easy to call it "childish rant" and not be sentimental or even angry when it is not about your country, isn’t it? It is easy to be calm and theorize about the banks’ rights when it is not about your family, your friends, people you know, isn’t it? I suppose it’s easy when you never bothered to see that your turn is just around the corner. And if that was a childish ranting, what does it say about you?

Coming back to the situation. This is a coin with two sides. Europe is suddenly awake after ten years of deep sleep. Is not about Germany’s or Merkel’s dominance, it is about democracy. Germany is on the lead because it could; if France could, nothing would have been different and the same accounts for everybody else. I agree that Greece should never have become a member of the Eurozone, but I feel the same about Finland, Estonia or most of the countries that are members of this common currency club. Actually apart from Germany, Holland and perhaps Lichtenstein and Austria, no other European country could – or even can - fulfil the criteria to be a member of this club. All of them became members with purely political decisions.

Greece was often accused of manipulating the numbers. Right, Greece just followed French lessons. Actually France keep doing it but nobody says the same and now it has more than one followers including Belgium, all the east European countries, Italy and even Finland. But all of them remain members of the Eurozone because it is a political decision, not only to stay members but to ignore small …hiccups like falsifying numbers. What hiccups? Like borrowing from private banks – Swedish for example - through state organizations and not adding it to the national budget.

Greece was expecting an understanding and mainly support from allies and friends to clear the whole thing. Didn’t get it. Why? Sadly it was all politics.

gr02_400_01Yes there is a conflict of interests this moment in Europe, yes there is a conflict between megabanks and the people but there is also an ideological conflict which became more obvious through the Greek negotiations. The European establishment this moment is planning a Europe under a central government which will deal with the different nations as provinces with limited sovereignty. A central government that can use resources at will. A federal government just like USA. And perhaps this will happen one day. But not today not tomorrow and definitely not by force. And this is what happens this minute, using Greece as the Trojan horse. And this has absolutely nothing to do with the loans. It is actually a game inside a game. And this is what Europe has started realizing this moment. That in the name of forceful European unification under the dogma of one ideology, democracy is sacrificed. This is why a new kind of resistance has started and slowly expands everywhere around Europe. And all this woke up with the Greek referendum.

In Greece, I think despite all the disappointment we all feel, Alexis Tsipras lost a battle but the war is not over and this is what we have to understand. It will be over only if we wanted to be. The situation with the new memorandum is going to be worse than it was. More unemployment is coming, more cuts and more lay outs; more poverty and more depression. But now it is time to stand with each other and help each other and Greeks have done the same for centuries when needed. It’s not about paranoia but about survival and if Tsipras is willing to stand up despite the defeat and fight then there is hope for all of us.

I think that if he will manage to beat the internal opposition, including politicians who act as they work intentionally for those interests that don’t want democracy in Europe even sacrificing their own country, he can turn things around.  It will take time and definitely it demands a lot of blood and tears, but with this 62% remaining behind him he can manage it.

Actually in the whole battle I think that the real losers were the Germans. The Europeans couldn’t fight an invisible enemy, but now they have an enemy with name. It is not just Germany, it is not only the awaking memories from the past, but it is Wolfgang Schäuble and it is Angela Merkel and it is so much easier to hate somebody with a name than a generalizing idea. Tsipras on the other side became David who fought Goliath, a martyr and with him all the Greeks became martyrs and this is good, perhaps now more people can see the numbers. And remember, numbers never lie.


For me there is only one serious damage in this whole situation, the further rise of the fascist, Nazi, xenophobic parties in Europe and I’m afraid that in the next elections in Greece will be not the left that will surprise us but the Nazis who will parade in the centre of Athens under the swastikas. The irony? They will base all their rhetoric in their hate to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and her very German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble!

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Emanuel Paparella2015-07-19 01:34:21
For the individual who ranted about “a rather childish rant” and those who concur with him/her, here is another rant, a tale of two political unions that might be worth pondering and discussing for a while. In the 18th century a union was formed somewhere on the American continent by some 13 colonies of England and a new nation on a new continent was born. The colonies had won their independence from the mother country through a war of independence and called themselves the United States of America. It was a political confederacy predicated on democratic ideals of liberty and solidarity and a fair division and balance of power; a sort of one for all and all for one. E.g., even today, 5% of the gross budget of the prosperous state of Connecticut goes to Federal Government to help poor States like Mississippi, you get the picture. But there was a problem, a sort of snake in the beautiful garden, and it was this: while the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution spoke of egalitarian principles respecting the dignity of all citizens there were some states who simply wished to ignore those ideals for pragmatic economic interests which were considered more important and relevant for the union. They decided that those ideals of solidarity did not apply to one third of the population, the Black slaves. Even some founding father of this brand new idealistic country (such as Washington and Jefferson) did not unfortunately give a good example in this regard and kept their slaves, for personal economic reasons, of course. So there was a dichotomy between the splendid political theory written on paper and the day to day practice; which is to say, the economy trumped the solidarity and so the foundations of “a more perfect union” were eroded till the house almost collapsed via a civil war which took the lives of half a million combatants. That was quite a price to pay for something which could have been easily settled by simply honoring the ideals spelled out in the constitution.

There was another union created on the European continent in the 20th century, some sixty years ago and predicated on democratic ideals of solidarity. It was the European Union. It began as a merely economic union but eventually became a political cultural union, a sort of confederacy of one for all ad all for one as the original union on the American British colonies. It grew fast to arrive at 27 participating States by the end of the century. As in a confederacy the States (or nations) kept their internal sovereignty while belonging to a greater union called EU. There was no common language to be sure but there was, at least for some, a common currency and a common culture . The union was predicated on the important democratic economic principle of distributive justice which applies to political unions as well as individuals. The union belonged to NATO, an agreement with that other union across the Atlantic which had gone through a painful civil war when it ignored its very principles for a good 80 years. Under the Marshall Plan which was set up to help countries like Germany which were devastated by a terrible war which it had initiated, and the protection of the US nuclear umbrella during the Cold War, the union prospered and became a beacon of democracy and freedom and solidarity to the rest of the world. But it seems that the original lesson of the original 13 US colonies had been all but forgotten, for here too there was a snake in the garden and this garden was situated in Greece, one of the States of the union, one of the States where Democracy had been born and that originally provided the cultural glue for the whole union. When this tiny country some 11 million people found itself in financial trouble it was helped with shark loans at exorbitant interest rates; solidarity somehow went out the window. In this case too the economic trumped the political solidarity. The bankers of the union such as the IMF or the EUCB kept demanding repayment of a debt which they knew full well could never be repaid. Solutions such as the Marshall Plan by which Germany had been generously helped and restored to financial health in the late forties were not even contemplated, never mind implemented. Generosity and magnanimity were trumped by financial greed. The lessons to be learned by that union across the Atlantic had been forgotten by a State which now dominated the others in the union both financially and politically.

Now, fill in the dots keeping in mind the parallels between these two unions. That should not be too hard to imagine. What could be helpful here is to keep in mind the scenario painted by Thanos Kalamidas at the end of his “rant,” or the scenario of what could happen eventually in a union founded on ideals on paper which are then forgotten and disrespected in practice. That too should not be very hard to imagine. Now, we may call these a rant, or we may call them a prophecy. History will eventually decide what it is. I for one would bet on the latter.

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