Greece and Europe
I want to write about Greece today, because it is so much in the news after the recent election that voted for a whole new approach to the prevailing orthodoxy of austerity.
I have good and precious friends in Greece, and I hope they will read this with the forbearance that a parent will give a child’s first attempts to speak, for I make no claims to any economic understanding, nor to any right to speak for the Greek people.
Let us imagine that a city in our own country had a serious problem. It isn’t difficult to do – the British can remember Belfast and Americans can remember New Orleans. What do we do? We sympathise with the people and we help to rebuild their city and economy.
We might be a little late or ineffective sometimes, or we might find the problem more difficult to sort out than we initially thought, but we don’t abandon them. We don’t throw them to the wolves or the bankers!
It is the same with Greece and Europe.
We owe Greece a lot. We owe her much of our language, our sense of beauty and art, most of philosophy, democracy, theatre, a wonderful cuisine and a lifestyle that many of us in northern Europe admire and envy.
In short, we owe her civilisation.
Now, Greece needs help. The economy is not in tatters because of the people. It was the politicians and bankers who got them here, yet it is the ordinary people who lose their jobs and scrabble for food in the streets of Athens.
Where do the bankers and the powerful live? Not on the streets of Athens, I can assure you.
We wouldn’t allow this to happen in Manchester, or Tucson, Arizona. We might be a bit pissed off at the ineptitude of our government, but we would help, wouldn’t we? Maybe not directly, but we would expect our civic institutions to sort it out.
Greece is no different. Greeks, too, have their lives to lead and their happiness to seek. Why do the rest of us in Europe make it impossible for them? Why are we being so Victorian about this?
As a human being, I am puzzled and sad about this; as a cynic, I suppose I’m not surprised. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “It’s the moneythat counts, stupid!”