Greeks really are unrivaled in the way that they judge people and view different events. A combination of humor, cynicism and absolutely blatant contradictions makes our analyses of situations and especially of public figures unexpected and quite unique.
A few months ago I met up with a group of friends, most of them retirees, and inevitably politics was at the center of our discussion. This was before the reshuffle. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras “messed everything up and has no clue what we’re going through,” they said. Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis was “incapable of anything more than appearing on television,” and Haris Theoharis, then chief of revenues for the Finance Ministry, was personally responsible for all the unfair taxes imposed on Greeks. The tension evident in their tone when discussing these particular figures left little room for argument.
I met up with the same group a few days after the cabinet reshuffle. “Stournaras was fed to the dogs and it’s a shame because he was the best of the lot and made it through the chaos,” said the same man who a few months earlier had lambasted the former finance chief. They went on to describe Georgiadis as a minister who got things done and Theoharis as a “nice young man” who waged a war against big interests and lost.
I didn’t dare ask them why they had had such a change of heart, nor, of course, did I try to reach a conclusion as to whether their shifting opinions reflected a general trend in society.
On the one hand I thought that their attitude could be based on something that former Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros had said: that Greeks have a tendency to favor the underdog. On the other hand it may be as simple as the need to complain about anyone who tries to get something done or even just the need to complain.
In a separate conversation with another friend who thinks himself something of an expert on geopolitical issues, I was told that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German hegemony are finished and that Europe will change tack in managing the fiscal crisis. He blamed the chancellor for all that is wrong with Greece and destroying all that is good about Europe.
As the discussion moved on to the topic of where Greece is headed, the same man said that its only salvation lies in a prime minister a bit more like Merkel “to whip us into shape.”
It was around then that I gave up trying to make sense of it all. It also reminded me why there is never a dull moment here in Greece.