OPINION

On private sector wages, tourism, President Papoulias and Mayor Boutaris

On mistaken identity, compliments and other issues

I must claim authorship of the letter that was attributed to another poster.

Many thanks go to the nice gentleman from Sydney.

For the record I do not know the writer of this letter and the comments are appreciated although not solicited.

With regard to some comments about Europe being advanced, modern, organised and efficient 500 years ago, I must humbly and with all due respect disagree.

In Prussia, and what became Germany later, as late as the mid-1800’s sanitation and hygiene were in such a dismal state that the plague killed millions. Same with England a decade or so before.

Western Europe was not the La La land some make it sound like. It still is not and all of the countries carry unsustainable debts and have big problems of their own.

If we are going to beat up on anything and anyone responsible for the current financial catastrophe in Greece we can deal with current issues that brought us to this point.

Socialism cannot work in a country with few resources and the PASOK leadership has done more harm than good. It created a class of people who were under the illusion that everyone can have a piece of the pie, a large one at that, without contibuting. All the political grandstanding and promises made, matched at times by Nea Demokratia so they too have a foothold, were empty promises.

Many joined PASOK so they could be guaranteed positions in government and an easy way to collect a salary and pension. There is enough blame to go around. From crooked politicians, to a citizenry who either joined the fray reaping rewards or staying out thinking that this illusive entity «Government» will always be there.

Politicians signed treaties and agreements with the EU knowing full well we could not protect our borders and based on the treaties we would be saddled with illegal immigrants who have no realistic way of earning an honest living or being productive in society.

The EU, which at times seems like a half-baked idea created to satisfy the egos of the then leaders with motives not so clear, decided to «bring up» economies of poorer countries to create markets for their products without regard to the ability of these nations to pay the debts and be lifted to their standards. There was no control, no oversight and these «enlightened» individuals who came in were told by their leaders that «Corruption is needed for progress» and they were happy to oblige them.

Now we find ourselves being insulted on a daily basis by individuals from other countries who lump the entire problem in one badly packaged «Greek» problem.

We have always been a poor country with not so friendly neighbours surrounding us. We never had heavy industry, we always had porous borders.

However we have always been a brave proud people who emerged from a 400-year Ottoman occupation with our language, religion, customs and pride intact.

Thanks to the politicians of the last 36 years we now have all that made us proud taken away.

Monica Lane

Florida US

Re: ‘Choose any color you want,’ by Nick Malkoutzis

An extremely well-written article that one would hope the politicians leading Greece would read. Unfortunately, I do not believe they have the foresight and humility to reach the right decisions for Greece. As an outsider observing the developments in Greece, my thoughts and prayers are with all Greeks. I pray that I am wrong and the politicians free Greece from the stranglehold that the EU has. If not, Greece will be slave to the overlords of the EU for generations and anarchy will reign.

God be with you Greece, God be with you.

Ken C

Troika insist on changing labor terms

I just read that the Greek leader’s brother is part of J.P. Morgan, so of course the bondsmen and the banks will be paid at the expense of Greece citizens and no bankruptcy will ever be considered. Oh, if only people could have learned from Sweden and Iceland: Throw those bondsmen and banksters to the wolves or the will eat you every time….

Jerry Bacon

Private sector wages

According to the New York Times the proposed cut in the minimum wage would affect fewer than 300,000 people.

Has it come down to this? Greek leaders can’t take action unless it’s imposed on them for the sake of a few. Why only examine income when the flip side cost of living is also an issue?

“But consumer prices in Greece are comparatively high — gasoline is more than $8 a gallon — owing to cartels that have historically controlled the distribution of consumer goods.»

Protecting entrenched interest while the ship goes down. How nice!

Dimitrios Tsarouhtsus

Potato production

I live near an area that produced one of the biggest crops of potatoes in the world. When it came into competition with Canada, the land was turned over to cattle grazing, producing top-quality beef.

Some of the farms were so large they were really like villages with most workers living on the farms, yet they could not compete in a market place where most people ate at least one potato-based meal a day.

Time and time again Greek farmers try to compete in international trade where they have no advantages and ignore the areas of natural advantage.

In a conversation with a Greek farmer many years ago who raised goats and sheep for meat production and competed against Australia and New Zealand, he told me he was losing.

I tried to explain to him that his product needs to shift out of the market place that New Zealand was in and create a product that New Zealand did not supply. He had to learn new skills.

He did not want to learn anything new; he wanted a bigger tariff against imports and to punish the Greek consumer.

I explained to him that New Zealand was exporting «organic» lamb to Europe at 30 times the price of standard lamb, and, could not meet the demand. He could not see himself and his village being able to get the paperwork together and staying honest enough not to cheat and be found out.

Why are Greek farmers growing the same variety of potatoes as the Egyptians, whose land and labour price is far cheaper than the Greek?

I know at times I do find myself digging deep holes rather sitting on the ground and thinking.

Thinking is hard work.

Obviously Greek farmers have the same problem, they would rather go broke and not stop and think.

One acquaintance who grows a potato variety that Canada cannot supply is making more money by growing fewer potatoes. He has educated the market place about his superior fresh products and the consumers very willingly pay higher prices.

Greek potato varieties are rather tasteless, no matter what part of Greece I have eaten them.

Has anyone thought they might be growing the wrong varieties anyhow?

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

President Karolos Papoulias

Greeks have a lot of time to get violent, but never have the time or patience to educate themselves about the changes the country requires to operate efficiently.

What have they achieved by throwing bombs at the President’s house?

Every heartbroken Greek knows what is needed, but the opposite is done at every step.

It’s all about the rule of law to the highest degree.

Every part of society is corrupt from top to bottom and nobody wants to take responsibility for their own part in it.

Every Greek I know has at one time or another taken part in stealing from the country; their complaint is that others have got a bigger share of the loot.

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

An Australian-Greek says: To whom it may concern

This is a time that we don’t need to cultivate extremism or impose subordinance on this beautiful country and people of ours. What we need is to refuse, under any circumstances, to set aside the truth and relinquish our principles which our forefathers gave us to safeguard.

For our nation to go against the tide of a collective and criticize its evils (EU) is so counter to what some have been conditioned to expect from us, as a whole, that any sign of dissent triggers feelings of confusion and fury in them.

However, if we decide to do so, in order to be carried against the force of the tide, it requires fearlessness and a clear mind. For many in our world, fearlessness in the face of immeasurable opposition is unthinkable, and unjustly considered a sign of ?madness?.

Hopefully, in spite of all our troubles, ?May future generations look back on our work and say that these were men and women who, in a moment of great crisis, stood up to their politicians, the opinion-makers and the establishment and saved their country.? (Ron Paul)

Steve Stamos

Comments on tourism

I have just read a number of readers’ letters/comments on tourism and to call them alarming is to be polite. While the Hellenic nation does have economic problems as well as strikes across a range of areas, so what?

When we visited our patrida a year ago there were strikes, and some economic chaos. There were problems in different areas, rubbish almost everywhere we went, except Sparta and much of Ioannina.

But as for tourism, allow me to be absolutely blunt on the positives (the negatives I can do another day).

Public transport is clean, efficient and reliable most especially compared to Australia. Hotels offer amazing value, far far superior in quality and price, in meals and in service than anything at all that we experienced in France or Italy.

Indeed, for example, the five-star Porto Palace Hotel in Thessaloniki, is wrongly ranked. Their meals are at the very least seven-star. The class internally is splendour. And the cost, well we paid almost double for a mangy three-star in France and Italy and without a lift to carry heavy luggage upstairs.

Then comes the food in the restaurants. No argument whatsoever. Nobody makes food to the same high standard as the Hellenes (Greeks).

Our son returned from a Europe-wide trip a few months ago. He was unconvinced when we told him that the best food that we ate was in our Patrida. He thought it our bias. But he soon came to agree that there is no better food than ours. And the prices, well value is a real word in the Hellenic Republic.

And I could go on and on. The nation is safe to travel in day or night. Costs are low and you get awesome value for money.

I would happily tour other countries just to tell them how much better Hellenes do it. I already do tell many people that unless they have ever holidayed in Hellas, they are yet to experience life as we know it.

Ange Kenos

Australia

Let us look in the mirror

Having lived in Greece and abroad I will admit that Greece has been involved in corruption and theft of its own citizens and by its own citizens. Was it only the politicians and political parties to blame? I believe the problems started there but filtered down to the community over the last 30 years. And what is sad is that I call myself Greek but I am not represented by the nation and Government.

But even though we (the nation) have been caught out being thieves and liars, corrupt other nations that are to happy to degrade us should look in the mirror and see that they too not so long ago were guilty of genocide, terror, killings and war (and yes they were forgiven debts written off etc).

So while we have a long way to cleanse and heal ourselves (hopefully with the help of these other nations) these other nations should get off their high horses and realise that not too many years ago they were guilty of a lot of worse crimes against humanity.

George Diamantidis

The KKE ‘back to the land’ solution?

Dear Pericles Creticos

What an interesting idea! Shall we call this the ‘Pol Pot Solution’?

Interesting because, had the KKE won in Greece in 1944, the Army of the Mountains might well have adopted just such a drastic measure to get the country to work again — just feeding itself. Beyond the rhetoric, no one actually seemed to ask the KKE how they were proposing to turn Greece into a Laiki Dimokratia tis Elladas. Theirs might well have been the Greek equivalent of either Enver Hoxa in Albania or Chairman Mao…

Fortunately it did not come to that. I say ‘fortunately’ because by 1944 Greece had already had more than its share of violence and upheaval. And yet, as I recall in the 50s and 60s, everyone from 18-25 (or maybe even from 8-25), when asked what career they wanted to follow, would reply something like ‘teacher, government worker, doctor, nurse etc.’ Without exception. Even up to the 90s. No one wanted to go back to the land to grow food or go to a factory/workshop to become materially productive. Both of these were thought of as ‘horiatiki douleia’, ‘peasant labour’ and therefore beneath the new Greek ‘middle class’ of lawyers, doctors, teachers, civil servants etc. which was coming into being on American Cold War dollars. Greeks have somehow always assumed ever since 1821 that foreign largesse like foreign education would always be a resource they could take for granted…

So now we have a situation as repoeted yesterday where perfectly good Greek potatoes are going to waste or being given away, while the country imports 70% of its potatoes from Egypt… The generation of George Papandreou would apparently rather support the Egyptian ‘revolution’ by buying its potatoes in ‘solidarity’ than supporting good Greek farmers and their produce — because Greek farming is merely ‘horiatiki douleia’ so not worth bothering about, while supporting ‘our revolutionary brothers in Egypt’ is much grander, more noble (and more expensive, but hell, its someone else’s money so who cares…?)

Greeks = permanent (paid) revolutionaries…?

So maybe when the Greeks do finally run out of other people’s money will they be forced to return to the villages they abandoned 1 or 2 generations ago in pusuit of illusory wealth, and start growing their own food when they can no longer import it. Return to the land may bare the Greek soul for all including Greeks to contemplate as they work dawn to dusk for their bread and cheese and olive oil. As they contemplate their realities, not from Euro-cafeneia sipping cappucinos, but from back-breaking toil on the land, they might come to some honest and realistic appraisals about themselves.

Philip Andrews

Go, Hellas, go!

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis represents the German FDP in the European Parliament. He has made the proposal that Greece requires an absolute Fresh Start: a new republic, a new constitution, new political leaders, new everything, including a new name for the country — Hellas!

There have been humorous reactions to this proposal in blogs. I don’t believe that this is a humorous idea at all. Remember France in the 1950s. The Grande Nation had gotten into serious political, economic, military and social trouble. At the time probably not that much different from where Greece is today. France had Charles de Gaulle who was called upon to save La Patrie.

De Gaulle was not democratically elected by the people nor was he installed as President by some Troika. He was elected by the National Assembly and given emergency powers for 6 months. There are some politicians who use emergency powers for 6 months to turn them into emergency powers forever. Not de Gaulle. He used the time for a Fresh Start for France, eventually culminating in a new, 5th Republic with a new constitution and subsequent democratic elections.

A radical Fresh Start hardly ever works in more or less «normal» situations. Any social system, be it a company, a party or a government with a public sector, develops its own survival and/or defense mechanisms. In normal situations they cannot be outmanouvered because that would be the equivalent for the system to agree to its self-amputation. The consultants’ slogan is: «If you are planning to empty the water out of the pool, don’t ask the frogs beforehand if they agree to it».

This is different when a real emergency — like in France in 1958 — unfolds. For Greece, that emergency could be triggered by a default. Then, however, the question would be if Greece has the equivalent today of what Charles de Gaulle was for France in 1958.

To me, the vision of a Fresh Start as a new Hellas has unlimited charm. Only one proviso: it could not be «more of the same under a new name». Instead, it would have to be new Hellas all around. When I talk to Greek friends about things like this, they call me an illusionist. They explain to me that certain things in Greece and about Greeks will never change (and that includes the parties’ cronyism, etc.).

One of the more extreme Fresh Starts ever was that of Germany after WWII. With the help of others, Germany could get rid of her debts and postpone the negotiations of most of the WWII-reparations until the time «when there would be German reunification» (and by the time that came, Chancellor Kohl told everyone to go fly a kite).

Greece, or rather the new Hellas, could learn from that. Tell foreign creditors that all the debt incurred in the past is, for the time being, to be considered as «spilled milk». As though an ancient regime was responsible for that. It will again be negotiated when the new Hellas returns to investment grade rating.

And then the new Hellas would really have to deliver a prime performance in state-building. Could it be done? Well, nothing is impossible. Would it be done? Well, one would really have to be a dreamer to see that happening.

On the other hand, it would be a wonderful dream!

Klaus Kastner

Austria