I write today not to score a point so much a register the need for a full stop. As a Greek friend wrote to me recently, “Greece is entering dark days”. It is indeed: but had its elite never bribed its way into the eurozone, it would be basking in halcyon days. Hindsight is a great thing and all that, but the comparison between what Greece is in 2013 (and what it might have been) is so stark as to be tragic.
Last week, a man self-identified as the Greek oil-magnate Dimitris Melissanidis of Aegean Oil called from a number registered with the company (and from a building the company uses) to threaten the life of journalist Lefteris Charalampopoulos, after he’d published a report implicating Aegean in an oil smuggling scandal. Go here for the Greek and here for the English heads-up on the case.
This wasn’t an especially bright thing for Melissanidis to do, but then that’s not really the issue here: the issue is that the Big Cheese didn’t give a monkey’s who knew it was him. This is what happens when Mammon triumphs over the Rule of Law.
Now Golden Dawn isn’t my favourite political Party, but they too have been given a taste over the last few days of what happens when an ignorant electorate is presented with lies, trumped up charges, mercenary police forces and gross interference in fair elections. The answer is, shrugging acceptance at best….and total swallowing of the entire fantasy about imminent military coups and “criminal gangs” at worst.
A Greek source wrote to me today, ‘The Government is trying to find ways to circumvent the constitution so that elections cannot be held without members of Golden Dawn surrendering their position in the parliament….. they’re trying to put under their control those two elements (army & Police) they believe that will untangle the issue of a “probable coup”.’
But other professionals with whom I spoke were more sanguine: said one, “Samaras is an idiot. In angering the hornet’s nest with false accusations, he will make it more poisonously violent than ever”.
Such are the depths of degenerate pretence to which the Hellenic Republic has been not so much reduced as forced – by a nasty melange of local political depravity and Brussels mania. For real Greeks, this profound level of humiliation is too much to bear.
But we must nevertheless accept that there is a dutiful dimension to Greek culture willing to undergo any number of days in the stocks being pelted with rotten fruit rather than stand accused of having let the side down. When my kids were small, I said to them “I don’t care if you come last, just so long as you try your best”. But the geopolitically commercial world doesn’t work like that: it wants to persuade every consumer, every Nation State, and every organisation that –armed only with effort – it can come first. The neoliberal globalist vision is like The American Dream writ larger: everyone can be a winner. But as the late George Carlin used to say, “The thing about the American dream is, you have to be asleep to believe in it”.
By definition, there can only ever be one winner in any competition. And when it comes to the eurozone, thus far Germany is very clearly the winner. Having traded in an expensive mark for a euro made weaker by the failure of others, it never tires of telling everyone else how well it has done. Deutschland uber alles is alive and well: but the truth is that all ways up, Berlin is gaining from the misfortune of others. Schadenfreude, lest we forget, is a German word.
In this context, Greece is like the lottery player convinced that next time, the rollover dice will fall in its favour. Nobody plays on this deluded optimism more than Antonis Samaras, but the dice can never be thrown to favour a Greece inside the eurozone: quintessential Hellenic culture is about living up to expectations, and – if you do well – sharing the excess with others less fortunate. Greece never can – and never should – try to live up to neoliberal US-influenced German expectations. This would be like me saying to my kids when they were small, “Come first or else”. The culture I passed on to them isn’t about winning at all costs, but rather about competing fairly, and accepting one’s limitations.
What might be a limitation to your Wall Street banker is the very quintessence of why Greek generosity is so valued by its visitors. When I say, “Greece should never have let itself join the eurozone”, what I mean is that traditional Greek culture is above the hubris of amoral whatever-it-takes capitalism, not beneath it.
But that traditional culture is being eroded by the lawlessness that came with austerity: remove a nation’s dignity for too long, and its sh*tty arsehole will make an unedifying appearance before too long. I have yet to visit a city in Greece where this isn’t painfully apparent. A once law-abiding and smiling country is now perilously close to being at war with itself.
It is in such a position for two obvious reasons: the unhealthy lust for money in the Greek elite, and the megalomanic desire for power in Brussels-am-Berlin. Specifically, the mad idea that one inflexible currency can work equally well for 17 often antithetical cultures is not too many steps away from producing Europe-wide anarchy on every level – fiscal, financial, economic, diplomatic – and yes, perhaps even military.
I fully accept that I have become something of a lone blogging voice of late when it comes to the demise of Greece. But just as when I am criticised for writing about the obscenity that is contemporary football, my answer remains exactly the same: such things are terrifying symptoms of a deadly malaise….and thus they deserve the same coverage as Simon Cowell’s sordid affairs, and Pippa Middleton’s bum. I don’t care if they seem at times to be yesterday’s news: yesterday’s news has a nasty habit of becoming tomorrow’s atrocity.