A few days ago I heard a hotel employee explaining to an American tourist his ideas about the situation in Greece and why it was hit by the crisis in 2009. His explanation was succinct and ran along the lines that foreign powers have discovered that Greece is sitting on large hydrocarbon deposits and decided to find a crafty way to get at them. The tourist seemed impressed by this geopolitical interpretation, but was reluctant to get into a lengthy discussion. As I listened to the exchange, I couldn’t help thinking how deep such conspiracy theories have become ingrained in the minds of Greeks. Politicians and commentators have engaged in a competition of hyperbole that is now coming at a very high cost. The bad thing is that it’s hard to get a word in edgeways with these conspiracy spinners and ask them why the troika is also in Portugal.
There is another issue that is also worrying me following a conversation I had with an experienced and quite wise friend of mine, and this concerns the ease with which a large part of the Greek population believes that there is a magic solution to the country’s problems. It is like a person facing financial difficulties insisting on playing the lottery rather than looking for a job because he believes he will hit the jackpot. One day we expect billions of euros will arrive from Germany in World War II reparations that would allow the country to pay off its debts and still keep something on the side. The next we believe that the Aegean is full of ridges and fissures oozing petroleum just waiting to be pumped by someone. And the day after that, morning TV shows dedicate hours to speculation that some bank in the Middle East is eager to make us rich.
Obviously we need to discover what energy potential is hiding under the Greek seabed, and obviously we should explore in a systematic and professional way whether we are entitled to WWII reparations. But these are serious issues that cannot be dealt with off the cuff or by nationalist posturing from the podium in Parliament. They take serious preparations, diplomatic tact, low expectations and a lot of obstinacy.
The big question is, why are we always looking for quick easy solutions to get us out of the pit? Why do we swallow the lies and hyperboles dished out to us?
The answer is that we basically don’t want to hear the truth. We need our politicians to start thinking and acting differently, we need a state with employees who are ready to work hard, and we all need to work hard in order to start producing something in this blessed country.
There are no easy solutions, no jackpots to depend on. And even if we did get billions from Germany in reparations and struck gold in the Aegean, we would still need to stay focused on the real national goal: rebuilding the shattered state and the country’s productive base.