OPINION

On elections, Venizelos, local produce, the Greek ‘soul’

Elections may be pushed to May

That is fine by me and I hope by a lot of others.

As long as there is an election coming up, those now in power will do all they can to look productive, positive and forward-thinking.

Forget the negativity and the inactivity. Here we have a mayor and a minister talking about cleaning up the city of Athens, the authorities prosecuting fraudsters at the IKA in Kallithea while they are looking for crooks everywhere else and there is a civil service evaluation coming up…

For all of us who walked the streets of Athens clutching our handbags, or ended up in an office of the government looking for assistance and found six windows with only one employee available and everyone else missing in action, or still waiting for a pension cheque more than two years since we retired, this is a time to rejoice.

They should move the elections one month later and then another one and so on. In the meantime, those who hope to show their face in public asking for a vote with no fear of getting a yoghurt, egg or tomato flying at their direction, will be anxious to perform and have something positive written about their efforts.

Things cannot get much worse and while we are still glowing about the 130 billion euros in additional loans we have been saddled with, we may, perhaps, have some problem solved.

Let them sweat for a change.

Monica Lane

Florida

Venizelos

Forget the poetry, Mr. Venizelos; if you want Greek citizens to take you seriously we want to be assured that you are intent on cleaning up the corruption and ending the Greek bureaucracy. That you will affiliate with foreign technocrats in modernising our legal system and public services. If this is the case, and you have actually changed your PASOK spots, then may we suggest that you repeal the law which protects MPs from prosecution as you were personally responsible for the implementation of this particularly sordid act of Parliament.

Ann Baker

Greek lawyers

Greek lawyers on strike, how surprising. Actually one wonders if they ever do any work as every time we have, after a year?s delay, managed to eventually have our case heard against a customer for nonpayment of account, the cases are cancelled. This may be due to to a variety of reasons, but of course lawyers still expect to receive their fees. When I first read this I thought perhaps they were on strike due to the fact that they have been granted wage increases while every other profession has faced wage reductions. For one insane moment, I thought perhaps, like the Swiss in a recent news item, they had decided that it was against their principals to accept wage hikes while their countrymen are suffering. If you ever asked any Greek citizen who were their least favourite people, they will list politicians, lawyers, doctors and then public workers. I wonder if our lawyers realise just how popular they are, and how much they are to blame for the state of our legal system.

Ann Baker

Re: Greek ‘soul,’ dysfunctionality and Euro ‘cool’…

This article had such a fatalistic tone that I felt compelled to put down the book and write a response. The redeeming part was the reference to military spending as a symbol of impotence. It goes downhill from there. Offering a pseudo-sociological analysis of Greece over the last 300 years and churning out the racist obsession that Greece «belongs» in Asia, as opposed to «belonging» to Europe. Europe is not a race, it is a continent, and to suppose that those people who are «true» Europeans are the Westerners, belies an anachronistic concept of Europe, which logically though falsely tries to put everything in an East (Asian) v West(Western European) paradigm. To ask why Greece is imploding and then say, «Oh well, they have always been dysfunctional, it’s part of their legacy as a rebellious state, and their ‘afentiko’ social structure», is unfortunately too easy an answer. A nonsensical one too.

If we need to generalize about Greek society, the tendency towards diaspora is much more prevalent than revolution. To be a diaspora people takes many things, not least of all courage and perseverance. Modern emigres are fleeing dysfunction, not the dysfunction of a society which can’t handle their progressiveness, but the dysfunction of a state structured in a way that stifles their progress. Before we get grand about it, this isn’t the remnant of an obsession with Pashas and Persian rugs, but a series of failed and incompetent governments which failed to apply social engineering towards guiding the people, and were much more satisfied with the power of the positions and the pursuit of their glory, the biggest perpetrators of which were the Wittelsbach and Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg. As much as some people would like to write it off as an excuse, those who ruled Greece for the majority of the history of Greece were not Greeks, it takes time for people to get good at government. So before we start running through the streets telling everyone who listens to music with eastern influences and longs for a period which seems like a paradise compared to today that maybe they should go apply for Turkish citizenship because their soul (to suppose that you even know the «soul» of people, whoever you are, is ridiculous), belongs in Asia Minor, let’s take a reality check.

Greece is in this position for many reasons. The nuts-and-bolts reason is that Greece is historically a debtor, much to the benefit of the nations that wished to be creditors, since it takes two to tango. Greece has never established a flagship industry outside of agriculture. Relative gains tells us that this will leave the Greek economy in the dust compared to its trading partners, as agriculture does not provide enough surplus for investment in heavy industry. A trade deficit is not in and of itself a death knell, but coupled with Greece’s illogical spending, on things like military and agricultural subsidies, we have a serious issue. Furthermore the underdeveloped public administration gave an opening for power-grubbing sharks to get into power. They were much more interested in their welfare than in streamlining the absorption of EU funds to facilitate infrastructure development.

Secondary reasons, which clarify the path towards the creation of the primary issues are mostly social. When they say Greeks lack a Protestant ethic, they are right in a way. The Greek church is the bastion of anachronism and backwardness. The revisionist nature of the Protestant faith had a spillover effect into society and education, something the Orthodox church needs to prevent if it wants to retain its phanariot legacy (sometimes it’s hard not to indulge in cliche historical references). One could argue Greeks are not rebellious enough, because it will take a strong will to drive out the negative elements of the church that have seeped into society. Then perhaps Greece can have the social discussions that have gone on in the rest of the world, feminism, social equality, benevolent capitalism, and finally start on a path to progress.

Andreas Argeros

Local produce

Being an American born and raised, Greece is where my soul lives, having lived in Athens and visted several times. I would much rather see the farmers at the local neighborhood street markets selling their homegrown produce. But just like in the US, it?s not everyone that gets the concept of being self-sufficient. We would all be better off health-wise and it would give people jobs.

Pamela Seymour