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What is wrong with the Greeks and Europeans in general? What is wrong with the Greeks and Europeans in general?
by Christos Mouzeviris
2012-12-29 09:50:34
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I often try to explain to many fellow Europeans how on Earth the Greeks have allowed their country to reach this point. How a country with so many resources and a great geopolitical strategic position can not achieve stability and become like many other developed European nations. One would of course ask; is this country meant to?

Besides the Greek "condition" in my opinion is not just Greek, but European overall and in fact it affects all developed countries. It's been around 60 years since the '50s where the world started recovering from WW2 and there was a post war boom in every aspect of life. In the economy, population, discoveries, industrialization, innovation. All driven by the rebuilding of Europe and other regions badly affected by WW2.

In my opinion that generation, the generation of post WW2 baby boomers is the main driving force of this crisis. They are all in their 50s or 60s, middle aged and it is the generation that dominates the political and economic life of Greece and Europe. And since they are during their middle life crisis years, they pull our continent with them. Old ideologies, attitudes, political ideas, social stereotypes and way of life, that is what they represent.

And it shows in our political and economic life of today. Yes, they do have experience and knowledge. But we suffer from lack of new ideas. A new vision. And that I am afraid will come from us, the younger generation, if only we get seriously involved in our country's and Europe's politics.

In Greece that generation of over '50s inherited a country in tatters after an era of numerous Balkan wars that lead to the expansion of Greece's borders but also the Asia Minor disaster. A situation that forced Turkey and Greece to exchange their populations. Many impoverished Greeks arrived in today's Greece with nothing but their own clothes and whatever they could fit in their pockets from their livelihoods.

More than a million people were displaced like this and all efforts of the newly formed Greek state went into providing these people with housing and integrating them. But peace was not meant to last. The great European powers had other plans for the continent of Europe and the region of the Balkans and Greece. Two World wars broke out in the space of a few decades and Greece was dragged into both of them.

After those wars the country had to endure a bloody civil war that wrecked and devastated the country, economically, socially, morally and politically. It divided the nation and its scars have not fully healed until today. A few decades later and the country had to endure a military junta with the backing of USA. Another black page in the country's history that caused even further damage in Greece's politics and economy.

Foreign powers always meddled with Greek affairs and politics. They helped to establish kings, democracy and  junta all in the space of half a century. But the Greek public was left with deep wounds and negative influences by all this instability.

First of all corruption was established in all levels of the society. When the country was so poor and its people deprived, it is only natural. But it was also established by the state itself, in order to help keep control of the population and oppress them. Greece always had a strong socialist or communist population and in order to control them and keep the country under Western control, Greece became a police state.

If you were suspected of being a communist you were under surveillance by the police and if found guilty you were deported from the country and your fortunes seized by the state. Many children of communist families were given up for adoption, in Greece, former communist countries of even in the USA and other western countries.

Such cruel decades of poverty and deprivation, taught the Greek people to seize every opportunity they could to make a living. The state corruption soon became a way of life for everybody, as it was the only way to prosper. Very few people attended school and even fewer managed to go to college or university and get a degree. Emigration was widespread and a lot of the island and parts of the mainland were abandoned.

From my family, none finished school for example. Neither my parents, nor my aunts, uncles never mind my grand parents who did not even go to school. They were all forced to leave studying and receiving any education to go and work at an early age. My father started working at the age of 13. My mother at 15. That was the social norm. Almost none of their cousins or friends ever finished school.

And it was not only the lack of education. They had to deal with a oppressive state that used a strong corrupt police force to oppress them. That is the reason that it is not in the Greek psyche to write to their mayors or ministers to complain about something, but only to court them for favors, in return for their vote. You could not protest in Greece during the 50s.

The police had too much power, and it kept this power until the '70s and the "Metapolitefsi" years. But even today the police has kept its old mind frame when dealing with its citizens. Authoritarian, corrupt and violent, especially when it comes to Greece's latest citizens, the immigrants.
When living under these conditions, in poverty, deprivation, social injustice and inequality, under an oppressive state and police system, with no education or a chance for a better life, generation after generation of Greeks learned to have a very limited and narrow minded perception of their political and social life. First of all they were not encouraged to be political creatures, rather to obey with no questioning.

Similar situations existed in most countries of Europe after WW2 and that is correct for most of the Eastern part of the Continent that fell under the Communist rule. But countries like Ireland for example also had to endure their own oppressive institutions, this  time coming from the Catholic Church and not the police. One can really see this in the older Irish population, that also grew in poverty, deprivation, oppression and a brutal Catholic regime.

People like that can not protest or express any political opinion. They are ignorant and easy to manipulate as they accept the country's status quo without question. And even if they did have the ideas, they would keep them to themselves and do not protest in fear of losing the little that they had and be deported like in the Greek case. How can you have active citizenship under those conditions?

So a whole generation of Greeks, Irish and many other European nationalities learned not to question and just follow what was happening in their countries. And when the boom times came, they just went mad and were spending like never before. Why? Well it is natural, don't you think? Once you live in poverty for decades, you will of course try to make the most of it while you can and use any method to accumulate more and enjoy the good times at the maximum.

But they only fell into a trap, that was set up by the those who control the global economy. They knew what would happen to a poor country that accumulated wealth so fast and they gambled on them. Now that Europe is changing, we see a greater citizen involvement in European affairs, even if in many cases that happens with a negative way.

European youths that have access to the internet, have studied or even traveled abroad and worked for some years in another country than their own, they are becoming more involved and aware in politics especially European. There are various EU funded forums and portals on-line that one can receive information and even come in contact with various EU officials and politicians.

And from my experience they are far more willing to respond and get engaged with the citizens, than the national politicians.They usually tour a country only to gather support and gain votes from the people, by making promises that most likely won't keep.

The future looks brighter for citizen involvement in politics especially European ones. But we still ignore the generation of over '50s, in trying to educate them or show them the benefits of EU membership or what are their rights as EU citizens. So is it any wonder that this generation that actually rules Europe, is in their mid life crisis is actually dragging the continent with them in it?

What we need is to reach out to them through the media they use and trust the most, the television. We should promote more awareness and information through television programs for people of an older age and encourage them to get involved too. Help them understand how the EU and politics in Europe work, and offer them unbiased information detached from any national interests and even in cases, propaganda.

Imagine for example if the British public that are the most "Eurosceptic" of all EU nations, found out the real benefits of their country's EU membership. If they were offered another point view, apart from the obviously and openly "eurosceptic"  media, especially the press. It is again the British populace over 50, the pensioners and others near that age that are most conservative and vocal of their anti-EU sentiments.

It is also true that the German people over '50s are far more inclined on being conservative and oppose any major change in their country's politics, opposing any bail outs or transfer of funds to poorer EU countries. It is them that control the country's economic and political reigns, and influence of course European politics as the largest member of the EU.

In Greece too, it is that age group that rules and has an outdated, conservative idea on how to run the country. They do not like change or modernization simply because they will lose all their power and influence in the country, by bringing a new way of doing business or reforming the country's economy. How can anything change with such conservative approach?
Yes in the future Europe will be more "European", but if we do not focus on the older generation, that development will only take place decades later, when they pass. Until then, they may do permanent damage with a rise of nationalism, xenophobia, conservatism and protectionism. The younger generation that has studied abroad and speaks foreign languages, it is natural that they will feel more "European", as I am.

What about people in my parents' age group? Will we leave them being indifferent? But they do have the right to vote and they use it. And the more we leave them uninvolved or ignorant in many European issues, the more we will be delaying any real progress in Europe.


Christos Mouzeviris is the writer of the blog: The Eblana European Democratic Movement


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Emanuel Paparella2012-12-29 15:40:03
Being a baby boomer myself and having dual citizenship (i.e., US and EU) greatly roused my curiosity and made me read this article very attentively. As I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong Mr. Mouzeviris, it attempts to explain the present crisis by squarely blaming it on the ignorance and lack of political involvement of the so called baby boomer generation, citizens who are now in their 50s and 60s. In your own words they represent “Old ideologies, attitudes, political ideas, social stereotypes and way of life” when in point of fact “we suffer from lack of new ideas. A new vision.” Enter the new generation who will provide those missing ingredients. Again in your own words: “ And that I am afraid will come from us, the younger generation.” But then you complain about the fact that, contrary to what you have just asserted, those people are in some way politically involved in as much as they do in fact vote. So their misguided vote is seen as undesirable is as much as it drags. It is a vote out of ignorance, back to Plato's anti-democratic stance and the philosopher King.

To be fair to your point of view, I suppose what you mean is that they vote misguidedly not that they don’t vote, since by all accounts it is in fact the young who more often than not do not bother to vote bringing to mind the famous quip of Aristotle that “youth is wasted on the young.”

In your words once again: “Greeks learned to have a very limited and narrow minded perception of their political and social life. First of all they were not encouraged to be political creatures, rather to obey with no questioning.” So the issue as you see it and as I understand it, is one of ignorance and lack of “enlightenment” to be supplied by the new generation of citizens in their 20s or 30s who are knowledgeable of political issues, know their history and heritage and can supply not only “unbiased information to those over 50, but a grand vision to boot.
All of this with the added on politically correct-- almost de rigoeur among some young progressive Europeans nowadays-- anti-American and anti-Catholic tirades.

One begins to suspect that this is what it means to be “enlightened.” E.g., again in your own words regarding the alleged US support for the military dictatorial junta “the country had to endure a military junta with the backing of USA. Another black page in the country's history…” and a bit further down regarding the bad influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland: “…countries like Ireland for example also had to endure their own oppressive institutions, this time coming from the Catholic Church and not the police. One can really see this in the older Irish population, that also grew in poverty, deprivation, oppression and a brutal Catholic regime.” You also mention Communism as a pernicious influence on Greece and other EU countries.
There is undoubtedly some truth in what you mention but alas, I am afraid it is only a partial truth.

There is no doubt that the US, in looking at the bigger picture of the Cold War erred greatly in allying itself with too many right-wing dictators; but it would have sounded a bit less biased on your part had you also mentioned that one of the safety valves for Greece and other European countries’ abject poverty after World War II and even before was mass emigration to the US where they were welcomed and where they prospered. As far as the Catholic Church which remains, despite what you claim, part of the cultural identity of most Irish, even those who don’t practice and have lost their faith, if we are looking for scapegoats we might as well go back to the sack of Constantinople of 1204 by the Latin crusaders of the seizing of Crete by the Venetians in 1571 and blame it all on them. On the other hand, here too, it would have sounded a bit less biased if you had cared to mention that the Irish monks of medieval times in painstakingly transcribing the Greek and Latin manuscript and saving them in their monasteries preserved Western civilization as we know it. But nowhere one reads that. One begins to suspect that the vaunted knowledge of many European youths about the history and making of Europe is flimsy and superficial at best, that there is much ignorance on the European identity on their part too and with the blind leading the blind future prospects for the EU look bleak indeed. I have written extensively on this sad topic in Ovi, on the lack of cultural identity by those who most chauvistically defend EU values, and I am currently working on another essay on the present ugly transatlantic diatribes going on as we speak and how unfortunately they bring down the whole of Western culture. So, stay tuned and we may then continue the dialogue if one is desired.

There is one more point I’d like to mention and it is a philosophical one. In your article there is a glaring false assumption and it is this: the delusion into which many progressives fall (and I have fallen into it myself at times) is that what is modern, what is the newest, what is the youngest, is always the best simply because it arrives at the end of a process, be it evolutionary, political, social, cultural. The old needs to make room for the new. It is the myth of inevitable progress. It is deterministic and it cannot be stopped. This is Hegel at his best. Kierkegaard, the father of Western Existentialism, saw the fallacy of that historical theory: it deprives man of his freedom to choose his own destiny. Had Kierkegaard or Nietzsche for that matter, lived in the 20th century they would have pointed out some of the enormous crimes committed in that century, such as the Holocaust, and an example that not everything thought to be modern and enlightened and arrives at the end is progress. Some of it is regress pure and simple, back to the cave of primitive man who actually never even dreamed of committing those monstrosities. So I proposed "back to the future!"

Lefteris Manasides2012-12-29 18:15:15
It's obvious more than ever before, that throughout the world, politicians are financial representatives, positioned, faked, corrupted, and act scripts accordingly!

Emanuel Paparella2012-12-29 19:26:15
P.S. For the curious, the best book to get information on the medieval phenomeno mentioned above is Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization (Bantam Doubleday, 1995).

Christos Mouzeviris2012-12-29 23:44:25
Mr Paparella you slightly misunderstood what I am trying to say.. You totally ignored what I said about educating and reaching out to the older generations, the over 50s... They represent for me the conservative Europe, and I think I am right on that.. The Europe that I want to change..They do not want change, they are the ones who fear the most of any changes in their countries, way of life and what they know best.. So how can we achieve any progress in Europe and the world, if we still allowing them to rule without the more active involvement of my generation?

Also, I am sorry but I am afraid that I do not share the love for the Catholic Church or USA that you (and understandably) support. Yes the Catholic priests or Church offered a lot to Europe, but so did the Muslim scholars that preserved ancient Greek writings. Why don't we promote Islam in Europe?

To me the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches represent everything conservative and outdated, they are out of touch with modernity.. Just check the Catholic Church's stance on gays, gay marriages, abortion or even contraception... To me both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches need to catch up with modernity otherwise they face a steep decline... And rightly so..

As for America.. I admit that I do not have the warmest feelings for them.. But that was not always the way.. During the Cold War years, I always supported them.. Until the wars of Iraq, Afghanistan and so on... And of course when I studied history (as I have extensively) and saw their involvement in my country's politics.. How can I side with them, since they supported a junta in Greece and in many other places on Earth?

The point I wanted to make is that we need to encourage the involvement in politics of the younger generation, and educate the older to be more open minded and open to a new Europe.. As I said before I am a fan of the ancient Greek and proto- Christian values and I want to inspire with them younger and older Europeans.. But sorry I do not think that the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church are in-sync with those anymore...

I want a new Europe with new ideas and not old ideologies.. That inevitably means that we have to make way for something new, by giving up some of the old, but not totally burying it.. We keep what is good from old teachings, but we allowing new ideas to blossom....

Narrow minded sticking to the old can only postpone any progress and any result in reforming Europe and European politics..

Leah Sellers2012-12-30 01:23:30
Dear Mr. Christos,
Yes, you have hit many nails upon the head, and very accurately so.
In the work that I am doing now, I get the privilege of speaking to many of the "older generation', and they are very fear-based by any calls to change (for the most part).
Also, what ails all of y'all is what ails the World - a moral and ethical dilemma with a malevolent form of Selfishness, hubris and twisted thinking that tells us that one Human Being is actually better than or more worthy of a good, comfortable, happy, fair and just existence than another for any Reason, Judgement, Discriminatory Leaning or outright Fear at all.
Also, y'all agreed on measures of Austerity, self-inflicted punishment and wounding of the most needy and vulnerable, being doled out to you by the very scoundrels who either directly or indirectly benefited from the Redistribution of the world's Wealth into the coffers of an Elitist Few.
Why should the majority of Planet's populations suffer and enslave themselves to a Group of Manipulative, Amoral, Greedy, Civilization Destroyers - King and Queen Cons who taint the meaning of the Word - Leader ?
These are ancient themes, Sir. Very ancient. WE the People are the only Ones who can break this ridiculously annihilistic Cycle of Killer Economics and Killer Power Mongering (the Corporate Feudalistic Monarchies taking hold around the World) who are striving mightily to have their day and hiding behind the ideals of Free Enterprise and Free Trade. They Need to be held accountable to Us. Not We to them.
We are not Ciphers on someone's ledger sheet or some politicians hungry lips. We are Sentient, Soul-filled Human Beings - One and All and All in One.
Thank you for your justified Insights, Sir.

Emanuel Paparella2012-12-30 09:50:53
Mr. Mouzeviris, my encompassing point was actually quite simple: change for change’s sake or for modernity’s sake can be quite meaningless. In fact, unless we want to make it deterministic and necessary and rob ourselves of our freedom, change can be for the worst. History teaches us that. That point seems to have been missed or neglected.

To put it another way: not everything modern and liberal is necessarily positive, open-minded and progressive, in the true sense of that word. Vice-versa, not everything conservative and orthodox is necessarily negative, closed-minded and regressive. If the younger generation is willing to grant that simple point and wishes to educate the older in it, I say go for it but it ought to remember that it is a two way street, by which I mean that it needs to remain open-minded and well disposed, not contemptuous,toward any wisdom and experience the older generation may have accumulated in their long lives or risk the reprimand of Aristotle that “youth is wasted on the young.”

The dichotomy orthodox/progressive you mention is indeed correct, but it cuts across generations, geography, history, philosophy but in analyzing it one has to remain neutral; one cannot begin with a bias that says everything modern and arriving at the end of a process is good and everything conservative rooted in tradition is bad. To start with that kind of premise is to arrive at the wrong analysis, the wrong diagnosis and the wrong prognosis too. I have been writing about this for five years in Ovi and as mentioned, stay tuned for another essay and more details on the subject wherein the two last biases of modernity (anti-Catholicism and anti-Americanism) belong. Then perhaps we may wish to continue the conversation.

Thanos2012-12-30 13:52:39

Just one point. There are old people with very modern ideas and young people with very old ideas – even though I’m not very happy with the world ‘old’ semantics but I would prefer puritan – for example homophobia, since you emphasize it – is neither new or old and religion or politics have been often used as a veil from homophobes.

Coming now to young people/new ideas concept you don’t have to look far. Just look at what’s going on in Greece nowadays, the neo-Nazis pride their popularity in the young generations and most of their representatives are around 30. If that means young people/new ideas please keep them away from me.

Christos Mouzeviris2012-12-30 19:29:11
Yes Thano I agree, but they are the result of a long process that started many years ago.. Racism in Greece is not something new, it just needed an excuse to burst and manifest itself. The Greek state did nothing all those years to deal with our immigration problem, and make an effort in bringing the two communities together.. So what do you expect? Our youth should have had some guidance and receive some education on how to exist in an open multicultural society. They haven't.. Why is that? Who is responsible?

Now back to Mr Paparella... I agree that modernity is not always preferable, but the opposite has also negative effects... Where do we draw the line and how do we decide on what ideas to allow to develop and become the new norm?

A short history lesson since you love history. The first martyr of Christianity to die in a Roman arena was a woman named Perpetua from Northern Africa.. Christianity in fact was hugely supported by women, the poor and the slaves. All those who did not have a voice, all those whose rights were denied.

One would think that since women were one of the strongest pillars of this new religion they would have a very prominent position in it once it has established itself as a main religion.

One would think that women priests would be the norm, like the old ways that we had so many high priestesses. Yet still, after so many centuries of the existence of Christianity, the Catholic and the Orthodox Church still refuse to have female priests, even though women supported this religion since its birth.

How can anyone justify this? Instead the Catholic Church has subdued women under the total control of their male partners in favor of a "tradition".. Not to mention the thousands or even the millions it killed by burning them to the stake in those infamous years of the witch-hunts...

So what traditions do we keep? Perhaps that of the Spanish Inquisition? Then people like me who dared to question the superior authority of the Catholic Church were boiled alive in hot oil as heretics. Perhaps from people like you who did not commit such actions out of any malevolence rather a wish to keep the Catholic traditions pure and unchanged, and perhaps even because of their love and devotion to God and the Church..

They saw anything "new" as heresy and they tried to stop it.. How can recognize what new ideologies can be good or bad, if we do not allow them all to be heard, debate on them and then decide if they are worthy of pursuing? And yes, most of the times, these new ideologies came from the younger generation, or the very few free thinkers of the world, no matter what their age. Yet it was always the young in the majority who pushed for changes and rebelled.

To me strict Catholic or Orthodox traditions or even those of Muslim, Jewish or of any religion do not exist in a modern world.. Religion needs to become a guide and a helper of humans in their spiritual path.. How can any religion justify to teach "the one who has two coats, should give one to the poor," yet they are the ones who gather vast riches and power across the world? That does not stick with me.

As for my "anti-Americanism"... Well I am not against them ideologically so much as politically.. When Henry Kissinger, a prominent US diplomat and politician back in the '70s was stating the following: "The Greek people are anarchic and difficult to tame. For this reason we must strike deep into their cultural roots: Perhaps then we can force them to conform. I mean, of course, to strike at their language, their religion, their cultural and historical reserves, so that we can neutralize their ability to develop, to distinguish themselves, or to prevail; thereby removing them as an obstacle to our strategically vital plans in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

(As reported in the popular Greek magazine, Oikonomikos Tachydromos on 14 Aug. l997, Henry Kissinger, while addressing a group of Washington, D.C. businessmen in Sept.1974)

Would anyone wonder why I am so critical and suspicious of their foreign policies?

Emanuel Paparella2012-12-30 22:46:09
I am afraid that the point I was attempting to put across is still eluding you, Mr. Mouzeviris. I apologize if I have not make it clearly enough. As already mentioned, I have recently forwarded to Ovi another contribution about the thorny issue we have been debating: of West hated in the EU for being American and hated in the US for being European. It should be out next in the near future. When it does we may perhaps resume this conversation which unfortunately is not going anywhere at the moment. All the best.

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