Readers on the Greek condition

The Greek riots of 2008 have generated plenty of debate among ourselves, the international press and the Greek public. According to a poll published in Kathimerini English Edition this week «nearly half (42 percent) of respondents, questioned on Thursday and Friday, when the rioting had abated, said they believed the widespread damage wreaked during the unrest had been the work of ‘a few people’ with only 10 percent believing that the majority of demonstrators had been involved. Also half (47 percent) believed the protests were spontaneous, and ‘not politically motivated.’» Oh dear Lord! Greek children are angels, even when they burn Christmas trees; they love Christ, and that’s why they are against Orthodoxy. They love Greece: That’s why they burn everything Greek! On the other hand, Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis told the Adesmeftos Typos daily that the «young generation was being exploited by extremist groups and appealed to disaffected youths to come forward for dialogue.» Again, if you exclude the extremists, our young people are constructive, responsible individuals who can do no wrong! Some of us have blamed «consumerism,» without explaining how an individual’s decision of income allocation between today’s consumption and tomorrow’s consumption through savings affects one’s decision to turn the business district of Athens to ashes. Moreover, EU statistics show that in terms of purchasing power standards, when EU per inhabitant consumption of the EU-27 is equal to 100, Greek consumption was only 94, compared with Luxembourg’s 267. Yet Luxembourg had no riots. I was born and raised in Greece but, after finishing my military service, I moved, first as a student and then as faculty, to the United States. Still I spend three to four months a year in Athens. I have lived in London, Montreal, Baden Baden, Vienna and Paris. Nowhere have I seen the disregard for a fellow human being’s rights that I observe in Greece. Blocking another person’s right of way is so common in Athens that it has no shocking effect. I am a 77-year-old injured man who has to use a cane to prevent a fall. In all the countries where I have lived, people close to the door of a bus or tram get up to offer me their seats even when the bus is half empty. In Athens, I am pushed further back. Why am I telling you all this? Because of my thesis that the Greeks are so egocentric that they ignore the effects of their actions on the rest of the society. Violation of parking ordinances and traffic controls are viewed as achievements. It is no wonder Greece has such a high rate of deadly accidents. Historically, societies have moved from agriculture to manufacturing to high-tech services. The Greeks skipped a few stages and moved from the donkey to the BMW. Since the donkey could be parked anywhere, the automobile must be parked anywhere free of charge. Simply, the society should build free parking for me at the expense of defense, education and social welfare. The Economist magazine is a publication that can be found on the desk of almost every business executive. On December 11, the magazine’s heading on Greece was to the point: «They do protest too much,» it said. The problem is that decision makers on foreign direct investment (FDI), the most dynamic instrument of technological change and growth, are affected by political instability and hostility to foreign firms. Even the newcomers to the European Union, Romania and Bulgaria, are preferred over Greece for EU-based FDI.   LEFTERIS N. BOTSAS, PhD Professor Emeritus, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, USA Kathimerini published excerpts of Helena Smith’s article on the Athens riots. I read the full version on the Observer website. Helena tried to explain to the «English» public, as best as she could, why rioting was occurring in Athens. Like most people – and especially Greeks – it seems a puzzle that just can’t be unraveled. Many have tried to explain the situation but few even came close. It’s fairly simple, if you are open-minded and think about it – «the irresponsible character of Greek society as it has evolved in the past 50 years.» Irresponsibility has been molded and ingrained in Greek society. Though some at Kathimerini may disagree, the culprits have been the mass media (one exception is Kathimerini English Edition, which in «most» cases has responsible columnists and reporters. For example, in Tuesday’s editorial «Calling a spade a spade,» it eludes to the dysfunction of educators) and the educators. This is so ingrained now in the Greek psyche that most people, even well-educated people, are not aware of it. To best understand it, you need to equate it to a child throwing a tantrum. I could spend hours trying to prove my point. but: A. All one needs to do is watch any TV news hour at 8 p.m. You don’t need to understand Greek – you can see the dysfunctional newscasters screaming at each other. B. Visit any public school. Teachers don’t teach. They attend to receive their government pay. Then later teach the same students as private tutors at high personal gain. Higher-level exams are geared at what is taught by the private tutoring. Educators refuse to amend this system, as it will take away the goose that lays the golden egg. This system has been in existence for over a generation – producing what the Greeks call «touvla» (bricks). The above may sound simplistic, but it’s the best way to give some sense of events in Greece. A.A. RAVEN, Halkida

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