Tough-guy posturing

Greece?s international lenders, I think, would best keep silent until the country?s parliamentary elections on June 17. Of course this won?t happen because the European Union does not speak with a single voice. Every leader, every official has his own audience and something to say about the Greek crisis.

Greeks should be clear by now on the dilemmas ahead. Now it?s up to Greek politicians to speak the truth about the issues at hand. No people can make a decision on their fate at gunpoint. Because if they do so, they will not demonstrate the necessary tolerance or reason in the difficult times ahead, whoever wins the election.

That said, I have two objections concerning the way we react to comments like those made this week by IMF chief Christine Lagarde.

Sadly, we often react like soccer hooligans. We hurl barbs and accusations at foreign officials, directing our criticism at specific nations or individuals. However, this tactic has never paid off. While it succeeds in making us feel like we have vented our anger and frustration, this is not how things work in international relations. Rather, what matters here is alliances, the balance of interests and the influence of partners. So, no matter what we write on Lagarde?s Facebook wall, the outcome will be limited, and often negative at that. That?s the problem with all this tough-guy pseudo-patriotic posturing, which is mostly designed for domestic consumption.

Eleftherios Venizelos made a splash at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and Constantine Karamanlis managed to get Greece into the European Economic Community in 1981 without any phony tough guy posturing. Were they submissive or traitors? Of course they weren?t, but they had a way of forging alliances with the powers that mattered.

And, of course, we hurled insults at the unreasonable Lagarde, but was she really wrong to say that Greeks don?t pay their taxes? And we are not just talking here about major tax dodgers. We are talking about the ?indignant? gardener, or a restaurant owner who never handed out a proper receipt.

The Greek people are suffering. However, those who like to cultivate the sweet tale of victimization are doing a great disservice to this historic nation. If we want to move forward, we must correct our own mistakes; we must convince others that we are reliable as a state and as a nation. Then we can claim what we need to stand on our own feet.