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Ethic liaisons with Finland and Greece
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-09-02 07:59:17
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The last few months through a number of articles a dialogue has started in the pages of Ovi magazine about the past, the present and the future of Europe and yesterday rereading a few of those articles and especially professor Paparella’s articles, I realized that there are two words that even though we never mention are tied definitely with the past of Europe, might with the present and should be with the future of this continent and the words are ethic and honour.

The states of this continent for millennia tried or destined to reach each other and they have done so despite wars, genocides, treasons and conflict honouring their common cultural roots however distant they seemed in their foundations. And I hope this will not regarded as influence from my personal roots but the Greek civilization played a critical role in this convergence. And my references are not limited to the Athenian democracy that without any doubt have put the blueprint for the contemporary democracies. Even the Spartan oligarchy or the Macedonian Alexandrian monarchy have put their stamp in those foundations. Neither Miletus nor Corinth were example democracies in the ancient times but Thales and Periander put the bases of human knowledge and understanding. But it was Aristotle who actually put things on their proper path giving honour and mainly ethics their right status beyond the single-dimensional legality authorities might give.

But over two millennia after and in the present Europe we are back to a single-dimensional legality where honour and ethics have been lost in the labyrinths of the legal, the new-capitalism and the new socialism controlled by single-minded institutions that instead of the necessary soul – always Aristotelian – the have gold in many forms. What happens this minute with Greece and in extent with Portugal, Ireland and Spain is the best example of the difference of the temporary legal and ethic and the latest issue with the Greek guaranties to Finland is the best example. In a partnership there is the obligation to stand to your partner in good and bad times and that’s the ethic, actually you are obliged to help in the bad especially before even asked. However it is fair and definitely legal that Finland demands certain guaranties from Greece that the help, in this case financial help, the partner state gives will be returned on time and this is legal and fair according the contemporary rules of the free economy where states act and direct like commercial companies.

Actually there is a lot of misleading information about the whole issue at the moment and I have heard the most unbelievable stories including the story that Acropolis is included in those guaranties or that the raise of the xenophobic and isolationist extreme right, The “true” Finns played critical role. Finland has the right credibility among the markets and it is natural for Greece to need the Finnish partner’s help (that’s ethic), however Finland sensing the possibility to make some profit out of it (legal and fair) decides to negotiate a fee and guarantees for the help (fair) and that in a virtual exchange of invisible credit based on honour (ethic). However the extreme right inside and outside the Finnish government – is not only The “true” Finns that represent the xenophobes and isolationists, the Christian Democrats and parts of the Conservatives have their fair share – felt that the virtual exchange of invisible credit based on honour was not enough and they wanted more blackmailing the situation and using their latest influence in the Finnish public by licking their demands to the press and forcing the government to harden her demands including substantial guarantees (legal). 

Then things took a new turn, the Finnish government lost the element of power and timing in the negotiations including new players and mainly the whole EU that fairly explained that we either take all the substantial guarantees or none and feeling that the legal has long crossed the line of the ethic endangering a dramatic turn and an unexpected and uncalculated reaction from Greece. So they tried to force Finland into ending all the demands using as a pressure lever Austria and Holland (satellites of the German policy) who demanded equal confrontal which would mean the definite Greek bankruptcy; which again would lead to unexpected and uncalculated results to all including Finland. So motivated from contemporary dishonoured political profits politicians ruined an unfair negotiation based in a catastrophically unfair situation to save ethically a partner completely lacking any sense of honour and ethic.

Ironically the very same time Finland takes millions of Euros in subsidies from Europe through the integrated financing programs with the Greek permission exceptionally since Europe could not create similar financing programs for a single member with the excuse of the arctic climate that would not include from Sweden to north Scotland (ethic and fair, questionably legal).

But the Greco-Finnish issue is just part of the story and just one – the most contemporary – example of the whole mixture, misunderstanding and confusion between fair/legal and honourable/ethic in contemporary Europe but returning to Aristotle it has to do with the contemporary sense of virtue. And virtue is the acquisition of an excellent character aiming living well in harmony and eudaimonia (well-being in Greek) inside the community. Replace the community with the European Union and the character with its citizens and leadership and you will realize that the millenniums blueprint can still work.

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Emanuel Paparella2011-09-03 11:49:47
Indeed, the current ethical midgets leading the EU would be well advised to read Aristotle's Nichomechean Ethics. It would be a good idea for the EU parliament to enact a EU law requiring proof of such a reading before assuming any kind of leadership role. Just a modest proposal that will most probably fall on deaf ears, but then again, the message has to be sent no matter how it is received by those who remain behind in Plato's cave.

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