OPINION

How did we get into the state we’re in, and how do we get out?

GEORGIOS GIALTOURIDIS Newton, MA Greek society is in need of some serious soul-searching and self-evaluation. Cultural barriers have to be crossed and ethical values have to be reassessed as fiscal responsibility in a free and democratic society lies in the hands of the voting public and not just in its elected representatives. It is this long look-into-the-mirror approach that every Greek citizen has a moral responsibility to undertake individually. It’s time for every Mitso, Spyro and Maria to understand that they form the social, cultural and economic backbone of Greek society and it is their actions which determine the direction of such a society. Isocrates had argued that the democracy established in Athens was designed to be impartial and create better citizens: «For those who directed the state in the time of Solon and Cleisthenes did not establish a polity which in name merely was hailed as the most impartial and the mildest of governments, while in practice showing itself the opposite to those who lived under it, nor one which trained the citizens in such fashion that they looked upon insolence as democracy, lawlessness as liberty, impudence of speech as equality and license to do what they pleased as happiness, but rather a polity which detested and punished such men and by so doing made all the citizens better and wiser.» (Speech 7 Areopagiticus, Paragraph 20) Are the Greek people up to the task? Or are they willing to be corralled by the cutthroat policies of the IMF insensitive to individuals’ rights and fundamental freedoms? It’s not too late. The EU-IMF mechanism can be used to Greece’s advantage. Greeks have to step up and control it – or it will control them. ROBERT SOKOLOVE Vari, Syros
The Greek people just don’t get it. This country is sinking as fast as the Titanic and the Communist Party (KKE) is being followed like lambs to the slaughter. Strikes are making matters worse, not better, and the sooner people wake up, the faster a possible recovery will take place. LORENZO APODACA via e-mail
I agree with you (Editorial: «Taking protest too far,» April 22) that the protests will be a detriment to the country. I am a US citizen who is planning a two- to three-week trip this year to Greece with my wife. We want to see what we have read in our history books. I was taught in my history class in 1956 about the Greek stand at Thermopylae and have always been impressed by the courage of the Greeks. I am concerned about the protests because I want to arrive in Athens then drive to Delphi, Meteora, Patra, Olympia, Nafplio and see the historical treasures of your country before departing from Athens. I am retired but I am willing to spend my saved pension money to fly and travel in Greece because we will both benefit from the experience. We will see Greece and the people and help the economy in a small way. I know that the future holds a better time for Greece and its people by upholding the values of Classical Greece. ELENA TZELEPIS, Florida
Being married to a Greek American I have traveled extensively in Greece, beginning way back in 1976, and I don’t know what Greece Mr David Jackson (Letter to the Editor, Friday-Sunday, April 30 – May 2) was talking about, but he must have been visiting an alternate universe. The Greece I have visited many times is as clean and beautiful as any state in the USA or nation in Northern Europe. The Greek people are among the most generous and friendly and hardworking on the planet, and they – like so many in America, Portugal, Ireland and Spain – were led to the slaughter by greedy corporate-owned sellout politicians. Yes, the working people of both Greece and America bought into the «happy daze» illusion that our economies were solidly on a roll, and too many allowed themselves to be convinced that unbridled capitalism could be a «good thing,» much to our chagrin. But it is not the working classes who rode the wave of financial skullduggery to safety on the shore of some tropical getaway. It isn’t the working classes whose meager savings and pensions have been stashed in offshore tax-sheltered safe havens. No, no and no. It’s the same old story of the rich still getting richer while the poor and middle class are left to dig into our pockets to replace the missing hundreds of billions of dollars and euros. It’s not the wealthy bankers and financiers and politicians who are being told to «sacrifice,» it’s the working classes whose wages will be cut, whose jobs will be lost, whose property will be taken while the criminals who lied and stole our future thumb their noses at us. Well, to use a famous Greek cry of protest – «Ochi!» or «HELL NO!» I hope the Greek people still have the pride and courage of their «palikari» forebears. I hope they will refuse to bow down under the yoke of a shadowy cadre of megawealthy puppeteers who are sure they will bend meekly under and accept the draconian austerity measures that will surely make life a misery for a generation or more. Ochi! No! Remember who you are! PROF PETER ULMSCHNEIDER, Germany
I am a professor at Heidelberg University in Germany and have been visiting the University of Athens since March 3 to give a lecture series, «Life in the Universe,» in the Department of Physics and Mechanics. I have been following the developments of your economic crisis here in Greece and also read your commentaries in the Kathimerini English Edition. I think that there is a solution to the problems of Greece which I realized when I went walking through your wealthy Athens suburbs, like Kolonaki: All these high-rise apartment buildings have wealthy owners, which makes it clear that Greece actually is a very rich country. I have also seen many superb villas on the shores of Attica that have a very high property value. If I were in charge, I would institute a 10 percent special emergency tax for saving the country on all land property in Greece. Not to actually force these owners to sell this confiscated value but to make a special state bank the registered owner of these holdings. The bank with such hard assets as collateral and security could then issue certificates that could be traded to decrease the debts of Greece. For the individual owners, it would not be necessary to actually sell the property in order to pay the 10 percent to the state but they could just live with the situation that now the state owns 10 percent of their property. But naturally the property could also be sold at market value in order to pay the state and to get back exclusive ownership. For this land and asset tax, I would not exclude anyone, neither private owners nor institutional ones, nor the state itself, nor universities, nor the Church. Actually the idea to highly tax land and property is common practice in the USA, where individual cities extend their property taxes because the property cannot run away from the tax collector. Such a measure would also be more just to the general population, since often the very wealthy persons that own these thousands of beautiful buildings with swimming pools on the roof that one can see from the St George Church on top of Lycabettus may have been these same people who have pocketed the money from those great schemes that you wrote about in your article. Also if you take 10 percent from a citizen who owns 1 million euros you hardly reduce the wealth of that person. With 900,000 euros he would still be a wealthy man. The injustice in the crisis, that schoolteachers and other low-income people have to pay, would also be rectified. But I believe it is right that everybody, even they, should contribute in this crisis. Certainly, I do not have any idea whether people have already thought about such a special property tax and whether I carry «owls to Athens» but you with your power as an important newspaper could get the ball rolling. I write to you because I have not read about such a property tax as a good solution discussed anywhere in the newspapers. GEORGE FRAGOS, Brisbane, Australia
Never before have I felt compelled to write a letter. However, the events that are unfolding in Greece have dictated that I can no longer stay silent. The Greece of today, the land of my ancestry is burning (again)! The tragic deaths of innocent people (one of whom was reportedly pregnant) only remind me of the reason why my father and mother migrated to Australia in 1961. The Greek people always look to sources outside as an excuse for their misfortunes, some of which are justifiable. However, in this instance, they need only look at themselves. Greece you are nurturing a youth who justify their actions for the good of Greece. They are nothing more than criminals! Greece is a land of immense natural beauty. Greece was a gift given by God to the people. But the people continue to neglect and abuse this gift, both environmentally and administratively. Greed has destroyed Greece, not the EU or the USA. Please find the strength to help yourselves, the world will not come to your rescue if you do not first admit to your sins.