May 13, 2010
As I write, the political situation in Britain has many of her citizens bewildered. Despite the staggering deficits and economic shocks, the good people of Britain voted with their hearts rather than their heads. Not being a medium, I will not try and predict what will happen. My advice to loyal Spectator readers is to go to Fitzdares and place some bets. (I sold my shares in Fitzdares with profit last year.) What I do know for certain is that Britain will soon be in the same boat as my birthplace if the three stooges don’t put the nation’s future ahead of their personal ambitions. Fat chance.
So here’s a brief history lesson how Greece got not only the whole of Europe in a mess, but is now threatening the U.S. and even Asia. People ask me about Greece, and how could a people with such a glorious past act as stupidly and irresponsibly as they did. Greek intellectuals and historians have generally blamed the 400-year Turkish occupation for the nation’s ills. And it is a fact that, where humiliation persists through several generations, the oppressed begin—in defense of their own dignity—to imitate their oppressors. The cruelty, vindictiveness, and harshness shown by warring political factions testify to this theory.
But this is not sufficient explanation. The volatility of the Greek character, probably the only remaining link with the glorious past of antiquity, is another. The highly individualistic Greek is too self-seeking to submit easily to the dictates of others. His unruliness has helped him survive throughout the centuries of oppression, as well as rise above adversity, economic or otherwise. But it has also made him unaware of the advantages of a communal spirit and true democratic attitudes. He will go to any length to attain his goals, not hesitating to lie and cheat in order to achieve them. This has—brutal though it may sound—created a climate where cheating is a way of life, and where the highest and the lowest of citizens do not hesitate to use dishonesty, especially where politics are concerned.
A direct result of this way of life has been the spoils system. Although not a Greek invention, nowhere has it been practiced more assiduously than in Greece. Succeeding governments have shamelessly brought in their favorites, returning favors and expecting new ones in the future, and changing laws to suit their purposes; thus encouraging resentment, divisiveness, and a “wait-until-my-turn-comes” way of thinking. No Greek government has ever come to power which truly tried to reconcile the people.
But going back yet again, while the Turks left the Greeks mostly on their own, many who came into conflict with the Turks took refuge in the craggy mountains which cover almost sixty percent of the country. These “Klepths” led a guerrilla existence for centuries, and their exploits caught the imagination of the people. The fiercely independent Greek spirit thus managed to survive, along with the inherent belief that taking the law into one’s own hands is not a crime, especially when the regime is an unpopular one. The irony is, of course, the present Greek government was recently elected by a great majority, the majority thinking it would act like previous regimes and give them more for working less. Once the cat was out of the bag, the Greeks decided they were victims, rather than partners with the crooks who have been in power the last thirty years.
Even the word democracy has been totally bastardised by the Greeks. Is it possible that George Papandreou, the prime minister, had a father and a grandfather who held the highest office? His predecessor, Kostas Karamanlis, a buffoon who gives fools a very bad name, is the second one of his family to lead Greece, two dynasties of peasants whose only concern is power and sole ability to lie and cheat. (George Papandreou might sound responsible now that the you-know-what has hit the fan, but in opposition he was demanding less hours and more pay for the very same civil servants who sank the country with their greed and incompetence.)
Ghost jobs, easy hours, spin, political favors, do any of these Greek habits remind you of modern Britain? They do me. Especially the lying. Gordon Brown has lied about everything, immigration, stealth taxation, education, you name it, yet you Brits have yet to kick him out of office—at least while this is being written. We are all Greeks now should be his slogan, and it might be sooner than you think. Once upon a time, when I first came to England, spin was at a minimum and lying unacceptable. In politics, that is. Blair & Brown made lying the sine qua non of their administrations. John Profumo lied about a hooker and spent the rest of his life in the East End making up for it. No one died except Ward, and he took his own life. Blair & Brown have sent countless to their deaths and have caused thousands of innocent deaths, yet they swan around in their limos and dare show themselves preening to the public.
Thinking about it, we Greeks are not all that bad. At least our leaders have not send young men to die for the glory of Bush and Blair and Brown despite enormous pressure to do so. So what’s a little stealing from the crooks of the EU, with a little help from Goldman Sachs, that is.