Porta photo©by Pierre Couteau for DC

Δευτέρα, 18 Οκτωβρίου 2010

Apologia: This goes to you my Swiss Stockbroker Friend

A dark starry night last week, I had drinks with friends by the sea and, half joking, Ι asked where would you invest my money (if I had any). Your drink sort of evaporated like smoke through your ears and, in your perfect English with your Tserman accent gave me a lecture. I am not a spoil sport. Too considerate for that (although Greek, my dear), so I listened politely while I was addressed as a naughty child and a whole nation simultaneously.
Which has been happening a lot around here lately and it does not help at all, as we are not much into guilt, nor remorse and regret either. But it is getting annoying. Being bullied by the big boys, especially if you know that you wont grow that big to beat them up (at their game, I mean), ever

So. This is my answer to you, my Swiss Stockbroker; you, our lecturer; even to you, our current Prime-Minister; and, all you who think that we are all primitive little Zorbas abandoned in  drink and dance and any unlawfulness we can lay our tanned hands on. And maybe we are. And maybe some smarter than me never pay their taxes. And maybe some even smarter make millions. Good for them, I tell you.
And this is why: Important historical reasons have given Greeks a certain mentality. Why pay taxes, why trust a law, why even build a good road when, regularly  every now and then, for more than 2000 years now, some tyrant or invader changes all?

National mentality is a very complex thing. Cannot be altered by laws (unfortunately maybe). It is carried in our language, our customs, the food and the architecture. It is carried through genes that may be ruining our luck by making us misbehave like a breed of dog that is so high maintenance  and  so useless that no one wants to keep it (the whole breed, because the only institution here is the Family). We can't change, even if we wanted it. We are too blasės.
That was the thesis.
To prove it I add the Facts, as only a few are familiar with Greek Recent History (last 1000 years), so  small briefing follows:
Even after the Byzantine times this land was invaded by Italian city-states (Genoa/Venice), the Franks, the Ottomans and, (of course) pirates. And the Slavs. And those were in wartimes. In peace  arrived the  Sephardic Jews invited by the Sultan during the Spanish Inquisition, the Armenians evading the Sultan and  even some Russians with a few navy boats to protect all others from each other.
Only last century we have been invaded by Bulgaria, Italy, Albania, Germany (twice). Also we have been helped  (by bombing and  interference) by the British forces +we have had  2 dictatorships that changed even the written language. Political jails were full. Socialist governments devaluated our currency (remember drachmas from your gap year, maybe?) which caused further distrust and a carelessness for saving up -for…what, our old age? – No,  no, we can not plan that far in such a state .    
Socialist ministers became filthy rich in a few years... It felt like a breeze to have plain thieves instead of mental murderers. In fact 2-3 families govern us the last 60 years. Would YOU trust them? Would not this make YOU corrupt?  Would YOU build a house of stone in such a place or put up a tent and go fishing until your black market passport comes?
All that past has created a national mentality (carried for generations through language and individual, albeit similar, family histories) which gives us a deep distrust and insecurity that in your eyes makes every Greek a rebel at heart (if not a cad and  thief).. And maybe you are right. And maybe as a very old nation in a very new state we are not mature and developed enough to stand by you (in times of peace and prosperity). We drag you  down like an old impoverished relative who is all past with no future.
 But maybe also, -or was this only MY impression- that was the EEC idea. To create a modern civilized commonwealth not only RESPECTING but encouraging and treasuring every single country’s individuality, mentality, special needs, under the common shared ideals of personal freedom, not toleration of violence, accepting each other’s identity etc. etc
And, unfortunately this identity, this relative’s special needs, are not always to our liking although they may not be entirely their fault. So, please, my rich Friend next time I buy you a drink have the decency of not pointing out how expensive it must be for me, accept it or accept it not, but do, please do, spare me the lecture.

The Picture:
Banqueter reaches into a krater with an oenochoe to replenish his kylix with wine, c. 490–480 BCE, Louvre .
More on the subject:
 Yanis Varoufakis on a wireless program at the ABC Radio National which delved into issues related to the Greek character and identity in the light of the Crisis. (Featuring also Greek-Australian author Angelo Loukakis). Click here for the audio and here for the website.

2012, και ιδού που τα λένε κι άλλοι τώρα πια:guardian.co.uk/europe-betraying-greece

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