The Greek crisis has lasted way too long and will go on for many years affecting disproportionately the middle class and the poor—as it’s usually the case. This is not a good way to experience life. The human cost of such crises is enormous. Being part of Europe and the so-called advanced world, we shouldn’t see so many ordinary people struggling, and suffering indignities as to beg for food, medicine, and lining up for blocks to withdraw up to $60 of their meager sums or to receive their monthly pensions.

In 1953 Greece and other nations forgave huge German debts, because the intent was to help Germany rebuild and offer hope to its citizens. That was a realistic plan—one Germany could afford and actually benefit from it. Of course, there was strict supervision from the western powers, but it was done to help Germany not to destroy the lives and hopes of its people. Sometimes, the best way to make an unruly child behave is to impose strict supervision but the end game should be that the child matures and changes for the better. This is to the benefit not only of the child but of his neighbors!

Alexis Tsipras

All parties that have governed Greece since the war have used the state mechanism to deliver goodies to their political clientele. Alexis Tsipras’ SYRIZA is no exception.

Has Greece behaved like an irresponsible brat? Why is Greece today in a position that other adults have to meddle in the most private affairs of this nation? It’s humiliating to be told not only how to spend your allowance but how to walk, sleep, or chew gum. Unfortunately, it has come to this ugly reality. No more pretense of national independence. The weight of decades-long (since WW2) mismanagement, poor choices, and corruption on every level led to this situation. Democratically-elected governments told the people what the latter wanted to hear. Responsible citizenship was not practiced, and in few instances when it was, the public sentiment was against it.

The Similarity Of Greek Political Parties

All parties that have governed Greece since the war have used the state mechanism to deliver goodies to their political clientele. There have been small differences, on the margins, but in essence there’s a remarkable similarity of public policy practiced—regardless of party labels, ideologies, and leaders. The small exception is the KKE that briefly became a coalition partner under a “national-unity” government in the late 1990s, but obviously it couldn’t do anything radical. But the KKE and all the other parties have governed locally. Again, they used the state/local apparatus primarily for patronage. There may have been a few local bright cases here and there—if so, they can serve as blue prints for reform—but not enough.

The plain truth is that if you keep borrowing while your economy isn’t producing, exporting, or growing at a good rate, eventually the lenders will stop lending you. Sure, you can have your own national currency and print as much as you want, but this makes things worse. At the same time, you need to imports goods, fuel, medicine, etc. Nobody would accept your drachma plus the price of imported goods will be prohibitive to most people. Are these imported goods vital? If so, you have a big problem.

Syriza came to power opposing the so-called memorandum. What is the “mnemonio”? It’s the strict conditions dictating Greeks how to behave. Harsh terms inspired by failed economic policies of conservative minds. Endless recession is not the key to getting Greece out of its morass and becoming a healthy European partner. Syriza has a point in arguing for better conditions. But, in real life, style, rhetoric, and of course reliability matter. Experience doesn’t harm either. Syriza lacked all of these and failed tragically. Prime minister Tsipras and his economics point man, Varoufakis, would take the troika proposals on the table last February but such proposals are withdrawn today. I think a case can be made that troika not only wants Greece to suffer but also Syriza humiliated. Tsipras may be playing into the hands of troika, because he will be more damaged if Greeks vote “yes” on Sunday. His government may fall as it’ll be very hard to keep his coalition(s) together.

Conflicted Politics

Mr. Tsipras called for a referendum whose official question is anybody’s guess. It’s how the people and the media determine what it is! A “yes” vote means stay in Europe (and the Euro); a “no” means leaving the Eurozone. But, what kind of a wise leader calls for a confusing referendum with a good possibility he’ll lose it. Unlike elections that must be held at some point, this kind of referendum wasn’t necessary. When former PM Papandreou had said his government might have done one, Tsipras was totally against it. It’s clear to everyone right now that Greece should have started its painful reforms under the governments of younger Karamanlis and Papandreou. This is not to say that I’m endorsing their statist policies of their fathers, although it was the elder Karamanlis’s that took Greece into the EU, which is where the country belongs.

There’s an abundance of hyperbolic rhetoric nowadays, but since these are critical times where crucial decisions must be made, specifics have to offered. If Greece needs a bailout, who’s going to provide it? If bankrupt, no one will. If Greece doesn’t like the troika conditions, it can survey the world financial markets for loans. When it did a few years back, the interest back then was 35-40%. Greece has been a very risky bet. So, if troika gives you anything under 5% you take it, but along with the harsh terms. If no loans are needed, then Greece has to live within its own means. Syriza knows this would mean a further reduction of the quality of life for the average Greek. It’s like being between Skyla and Charybdis.

What is or Where is Reality?

Whatever Greeks decide to do, they have to be realistic. It’s easier to shed responsibility, blame others, adopt conspiracy theories, or hope for miracles. It won’t work though. One way to understand something is to reverse the roles; try to see things from another perspective. What would Greece say if it were like Finland and, let’s say, Fyrom or Turkey were behaving like Greece today? That is, having been given tons of money, they have squandered it, while lying to their European partners. Finland and other Eurozone countries are not supporting Greece; actually they’re demanding troika squeeze blood out of every Greek rock. The progressive Italian prime minister has been reflecting European sentiment when he says it’s unacceptable that while doing his own sacrifices, like reducing pensions for Italians, Greeks can continue having it their way.

On the other hand, such views may reveal a menace against Greece which may be because the Europeans are jealous of, and want to put down a country that if left unchecked will rise to dominate them. They’re being ungrateful by not recognizing they owe Greece for giving them the light of a great civilization.

mm

A self-described Athenian, works and lives in the NYC metropolitan area. Interested in the world of ideas, the human condition & history, and how public policy can foster a progressive culture of life.