Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cry, My Beloved Greece

Having just returned from Greece, and talking to many people of all ages and a wide variety of positions and incomes, I have come to the following conclusions with respect to Greece's current situation:

1. Greece the country is poor; most Greeks themselves are not. They continue to spend regularly on entertainment. As one hotel employee told me. . . "the crisis is only on TV. Turn the TV off and go into the platias and restaurants at night and you will see them full of Greeks having a grand old time." He was right night after night both on the islands and the mainland.

2. The general attitude of most of the youth, as well as many adults in Greece right now was captured by the slogan that I saw on one shirt being sold in a shop window. It read as follows . . .
"I DIDN'T STEAL. I DIDN'T ELECT THEM. I WON'T PAY." ... that is they won't pay any more taxes or accept any more salary or benefit cuts. The Greek people refuse to pay because they feel that the greatest percentage of anything they give the government lines the pockets of the elected officials and their friends. And they feel they have little to show for the money they have given. To be honest having visited both Kenya and Greece on the same trip -- albeit for different purposes, the first to serve in ministry and the latter to visit relatives -- I am hard pressed, based on what I read and heard in both countries to state unequivocally which of the two is "more corrupt" in its practices, especially at the government level.

3. Finally, I have come to the conclusion, based on the fact that "where you have three Greeks, you almost always have five opinions" the Greek politicians will never agree on the terms and conditions of any further assistance from the European Union, as they have been requested to do, and thus may never get another loan. Default will ensue.

4. Should that happen, and hopefully even before that, the Greeks will need to be saved by yet another "benevolent dictator" who will start to clean things up from the top down with severe consequences to one's self and their family if they are caught either taking a bribe, or cheating on their income, or their taxes. The trick of course will be for such a dictator to turns the country back into a democracy once things settle down -- something that seems to be rare once 'ultimate power' goes to their heads.

5.  Revolution I am told, along the lines of the Arab Spring is not in the cards.  Greeks are not starving nor are they being beaten.  The solution lies elsewhere.  Unfortunately, selling off the country as per the current major privatization plan, will only destroy the Greece many people around the world love.

Cry Greece, My Beloved Country, indeed.

-- Ken Godevenos, born there, raised elsewhere, but strongly connected.

Greeks demonstrate against austerity measures - Yahoo! Finance

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  1. Anonymous31/5/11 07:09

    Hi Ken,

    How sad to read 'Greece is poor, most Greeks themselves are not' Seriously? How many Greeks do you actually know and how often do you get to return to Greece and understand what the situation is like today? I doubt you are reffering to the thousands of young Greeks who desperately try to find a job or to the families that had no heating this past winter because they simply couldn't afford it.

  2. Dear Anonymous: So sad that you wish to remain anonymous, but alas, we do afford people that option even though it somehow diminishes any weight their comments may otherwise have had. Now to answer your questions. . .

    I know many Greeks in all walks of life -- I have them in our family and circles of friends. You may be interested to know that my dad was a barefoot shepherd in the hills of northern Greece as a young boy and some family members continue to be herders. I have been to Greece a number of times since I left as a boy and what I observed now is exactly as I described it. Greece is in trouble overall; yes, there is poverty in the villages; and yes, there is absence of jobs. However, much of the cause of that is the strength of the unions involved -- their working conditions have caused many prices to go up putting services and products out of reach of most and have also caused many business owners to look for more fertile ground. Couple that with a corrupt system in government and voila, you have Greece today. In the meantime, while the rest of Europe goes to bed at ten or eleven each weeknight, a good number of Greeks (especially youth) just wake up at that time of night to start partying. You can't become a prosperous nation that way, especially if you don't know how to serve the foreign tourist excellently -- if all you want to rely on is tourism and the ideology of a "good life". Enjoy.