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Greek talking
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-05-04 08:07:19
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Even though I’m really proud to be Greek there are times like this last week that I feel really sad for the country I born and embarrassed for what people say for the country that mothered the western civilization. And when Finland’s Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen says that Greece does not deserve the emergency loan that it is being offered by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund makes me even sadder.

From one side you would expect somebody who has the background and the education to lead a finance ministry to have the necessary at least historic knowledge to what led the Greek economy to that situation and from the other side when a minister says that then the man who looked at like I was a leper when he found out that I was a Greek and all the comments he did and I cannot repeat here makes me even sadder and sorry. The background of the situation for the ones who don’t read the populist tabloids are somehow known; a combination of the last incompetent government after a series of mistakes on top of mistakes combined with the general economic situation and the ruthless greediness of the stock markets led Greece to this situation. And yes a lot profited from this situation including people in Greece, sadly even politicians.

But from that to collectively blame a nation and twelve million people, punishing them to a financial doomed there is a huge distance. I suppose the Finnish minister of finance is supporter of the collective responsibility – and unfortunately he is not the only one in Europe who has expressed similar opinions. So according to the collective responsibility all Germans should have been shot because of Hitler, the Italians because of Mussolini and all the Finns should have been through the war crime courts of Nuremberg since Finland stood as “brothers in arms” with Hitler. That’s collective responsibility.

In the next few months the number of unemployed in Greece might reach the twenty percent of the population and in one night millions saw their barely enough income decreasing by twenty percent. But the expenses don’t decrease the same way, you see globalization of the markets and the prices are high in London and in Athens. So these people who lived with 600 and 700 Euros a month, barely dealing with their daily expenses now they have to survive with even less. Most of the Greeks nowadays survive with loans because despite to what Mr. Jyrki Katainen might believe Greece is not something in history or something intelligible and invisible but it is twelve million souls, twelve million people who work hard, who have families and care for them and their future.

But this attitude unfortunately doesn’t stop in the Finnish minister but for a reason only conspiracy theories can explain has expand to all Europe with the German tabloids leading they don’t just hurt the people’s pocket, they hurt their pride and their dignity and there is no country in this world that doesn’t know the bitter feeling of a sore dignity. The Finns know, after allying with Europe’s worst criminal and having to live for years with the semantics of the word Finlanization they know better than anybody else what does it means sore dignity.

For the situation in Greece there are a lot that have to plead with some of them been Greek politicians. But they will have to deal with the Greek people and in any democratic country the people are the ones who punish the guilty. The last Greek prime  minister will remembered as the one who led the country to bankruptcy and I don’t think there is a worst punishment to be remembered, to be part of the history as a failure. The rest of us we should worry for those twelve millions that have to pay for the mistakes of the others.

One last thing, I don’t know if it is revisionism or something else – I mentioned before conspiracy theories - but many media and politicians in a very populist outbreak all around the world have called Greece to put in sale some of the historic monuments like acropolis to pay the debt. And let’s say that it was possible, out of curiosity how much they estimate Acropolis? What about philosophy, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. Let’s say medicine, Hippocrates, what about art, Phidias and then poetry, theatre, literature, history, Great Alexander, Great Constantine. Even the bibles were written in Greek. What about democracy. How much they estimate history and civilization? One billion? Hundred billion? Tens of thousands of billions? Everybody in the world grew up and learned Greek mythology, every single scientist refers to an ancient Greek. So how much they estimate civilization? That was out of curiosity.

Because of the tragic mistakes of very few twelve millions of people will suffer for the decade hoping that in the end there is light. Hoping that nothing else will disturb the already shaking international economy. That’s our problem and that’s why we should worry and let’s hope that the sorrow for the lost dignity will not lead to anger.

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Emanuel Paparella2010-05-04 12:54:06
“How much they estimate history and civilization?”
That’s a great question indeed, Thanos, which contains its own answer to a certain degree; for you see, the calculating bankers and bureaucrats, that is to say the philistines who run our “civilized” brave new world, estimate nothing but what is quantifiable, money and the economy; they are incapable of arriving at the exalted idea that there are some things, things of the spirit and of the mind, that are inestimable and it is exactly what is inestimable and intangible, that which cannot be easily quantified, that anchors great civilizations. The material prosperity is a mere by-product. Those folks would auction the acropolis or the Sistine Chapel tomorrow to the highest bidder if they could, and then bet on them via derivatives. They would in fact sell their soul to the devil for the bottom line and a dish of lentils, and regrettably they are the ones who make the major political economic decisions that affect us all. Eventually even cultural philistines come to their senses, when they lose even their material prosperity and the schools have to be closed because there is no money any longer for books and teachers, but at that point it may be too late and the whole corrupt construction comes crashing down and a new dark age arrives on the stage. But it is then that the gods and the poetical return, that is the ironic silver lining of the tragic-comedy currently being staged. But not yet; before that comes about a new paradigm of civilization needs to be imagined and those who now have the power lack both the imagination and the moral courage to devise a new healthier vision for the people, they are good at writing commercial treaties which they then call constitutions. Besides, for that to happen they would first have to admit to their failures in the existential areas which matter most for the countries they lead; and they are not about to do that either. I am afraid that things have to get much worse before they get any better; but let us not give up on hope for the other side of hope is nihilism and loss of meaning.

Anastasios2010-05-04 17:18:30
Thano, the current issue with Greece's economy and the coverage from the news media is nothing compared to the Reagan years when Andreas Papandreou was the Prime Minister in Greece. Somehow Greeks were these so successful people in America who took soooo much advantage of the freedoms America offered to its citizens, yet they were soooo unappreciative. The crimes against Cyprus, the catastrophic military junta, the usual games with the Turks, all of these were non-issues for the vast majority of the networks. These Greeks are so unworthy of our sympathy. And to top this you had Brinkley-type journalists showing video shots of Athens telling America " you see this place, ten years ago they had donkeys, no cars.." The blood and the lives our parents and grandparents gave during WW2 were not that important after all, at a time when our eastern neighbors were hiding in the basements of shame.
I was watching one of these networks a few days ago showing a presumably Greek woman who was collecting $4,500 monthly pension and somehow had told the journalist she did not want her pension to be compromised. I heard of the Greek guy who said " we gave you democracy, now you should support us..." The nearly criminal stupidity of the news media at its best! Or is it really stupidity? Now you the citizen ought to come up with your assessment based on the junk you were served by this network.
I believe strongly the politicians in Greece are a very low class of people. I believe they are unpatriotic, and do not share the same values with the people of Greece. But i also believe the hedge funds criminals of Wall Street are prime Department of Justice material. Wall Street is a casino inhabited by individuals who view mafia as a teenage item.

Eva2010-05-04 21:08:58
Actually in the debate going on in the Finnish Parliament today (even as I write this; they've debated for seven hours straight at the time of writing this and are still continuing), Mr Katainen is defending the EU support to Greece. It's obvious that he's personally against it (that's the feeling I get anyway) but he is doing his job and explaining why the Finnish people now has to help Greece.

I find this whole topic very upsetting.

I feel so sorry for the Greek people this moment - the 12 million people blamed for the mistakes of a few, and doomed to pay - in more ways than only in money. Thanos' comparison to the German/Italian/Finnish dark histories are spot on.

But then again - this moment you can understand the other side too, the upset Europeans - it's so easy not to see the full picture and just to find it unfair that we'll have to pay for the Greek financial disaster.

I switch between watching videos from desperate Greeks demonstrating on the streets of Athens - people who don't know how they will survive the next years - to watch the Finnish parliamentary debate and hear upset MPs asking why do we havee to pay for their mistakes?

I just find the blood is boiling everywhere in Europe this moment. Actually not only in Europe, but in the whole world - from similar problems elsewhere. And it scares me. It really makes me wonder, where are we heading? Growing desperation, everywhere.

Greece in Europe today is only the scapegoat of a much deeper running problem.

Emanuel Paparella2010-05-04 21:28:02

Indeed Eva, scapegoating is almost endemic to human nature but that will not solve the problems that you allude to. The above piece (open link above)dovetails what you write.

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