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Moving on from the age of exuberance

By Costas Iordanidis

The disbursement by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund of the first tranche of aid from the new bailout package has created a climate of optimism, and the fact that measures cutting civil service salaries and pensions have been pushed back to the start of the new year has created a false sense of prosperity in the runup to the holidays.

The government has every reason to play up this sense of optimism while the recent upgrade of Greece’s credit rating has given its optimistic proclamations regarding the future the stamp of an objective observer.

This is by no means an attempt to dampen the upbeat mood. It is certain that we will soon find ourselves living in a new world and it will definitely be different from the one we know today. In Greece – a country that is dysfunctional, prone to escapism and the absurd – capitalism created the illusion that everyone had the right and the means to live as though they were rich. The result was that the lines between the financial strata into which every society is divided were erased. Working-class folk gave their children skills that would not prove helpful for their futures. The privileges of the wealthier classes became the birthright of every child with two working parents.

This was seen as the democratization of wealth and it was bankrolled without forethought by the banks, the state and foreign lenders. But the crisis came along and revealed the difference between being rich in credit card debt and having a cache of gold sovereigns. No other country in Europe is experiencing such a thorough razing of the social structure.

Whether we like it or not, Greece is entering a new phase, with a new economic structure, where each person will have to live within his or her limitations. The cycle of adjustment has opened and will not close. There is no way to return to the past. There are those who will wax nostalgic on this modern golden race of men (as Hesiod described an age when man did not have to work to feed himself) and there will certainly come a time when we will have to rebuild all of our value structures, though this debate is nowhere in sight just yet.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed the framework within which she intends to rebuild the new world order. Speaking to the Financial Times, she said that Europe and the United States no longer “provide the only frame of reference for the world.” She suggested that new models of development have emerged in countries such as China, India, Japan and Brazil, “and they will be joined by other countries that are working hard and proving to be innovative.” This is the brave new world and, naturally, it does not look appealing.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday December 20, 2012 (14:27)  
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