Greece did not make the crises it finds itself within; the crises were borne of paradigms outside Greece’s mythical sovereign borders. That the crises, the widespread impoverishment and its pernicious impacts could be forecast long before the crises hit is another story, but one that political forces could not stop. The power imbalances are structural and no argument of sovereignty could protect.
The scions of Greece’s so-called political dynasties were not responsible for the selling out of Greece – their inept decisions and cowardice pale into the barest footnotes compared to the Goliath structural multinational forces that would sweep Greece and victimise its population.
Greece can languish in perpetual crises, in poverty so deep that in the generations ahead Greece will mire into such horrific and harrowing deprivations but which should have remained unimaginable, or Greeks can take on the Medes. Constantine Cavafy in his 1903 poem Thermopylae wrote, “Honour to those who in their lives have defined and guard their Thermopylae.” Cavafy understood dignity and that from within the well of dignity springs hope, “And more honour is due to them when they foresee (and many do foresee) that Ephialties will finally appear, and that the Medes in the end will go through.”
– Και περισσότερη τιμή τούς πρέπει
όταν προβλέπουν (και πολλοί προβλέπουν)
πως ο Εφιάλτης θα φανεί στο τέλος,
κ’ οι Μήδοι επί τέλους θα διαβούνε.
In standing up to the Medes despite any view that all is likely to be lost, there is the making of inspiration and the birth of outliers where one can believe in the odds could be defied. As long as Greece cowers, it has no hope today or tomorrow, a caged animal, and in this ignorance lay abomination; moral, political and otherwise. Narratives of human suffering and misery are borne, perpetrated and perpetuated.
Greece’s economic condition has not been borne from a tradition of corruption. It is an indictment of others, not Greece that it has been whipped as in fault and that its humble economy is the root of all its contemporary pain. Greece had a bent as an economy geared to society, not the other way around; from the fact of a libertarian social agenda to provide the bulk of the nation’s revenue to the welfare of its peoples. The argument that Greece entered the European Union with the poorest of taxation laws, with a weak currency, with low median wages does not wash. Greece entered the European with a relative high standard of living, with an onus on the welfare and wellbeing of its people, with the premise that people are not chattel or a resource but in entering the European Union all this was blown apart. The Medes took it all, and in so doing made past practices look like pittance, look incompetent, appear corrupt.
Greeks turned on Greeks, turned on refugees and migrants. Such murky troughs does despair find; xenophobia and misoxeny. Syriza rebelled from its promises to the people and betrayed itself into the acquiescence of the Medes. Yanis Varoufakis carried his resignation letter in his pocket in the event that truth was diminished, in the event that “he turned into a politician.” The extension of Greece’s bankruptcy and Syriza’s fear of the Medes corralled Varoufakis into holding onto all one can have always – dignity – his resignation validated his authenticity.
Syriza’s prowess as a political force was forged on the newsworthiness of truth in the face of power. But as the Greek authorities crackdown on protesters, Syriza has become who it once railed against. The European Union and International Monetary Fund crackdown on Syriza, a rabble now reduced to less than a whimper.
What hope is there for Greece in the face of a sea of debt, of incoherent and unsustainable repayment plans? To pretend the way out is to accept of generations of the bleakest indenture of the majority. Only decades ago, Brazil’s debts to the IMF and World Bank were so huge that the majorly impoverished nation would not be able to repay without grievous suffering and bloodshed. The debts were retired. Not so for Greece. Today the presumption in this incoherently meritocratic world is for Greece to serve as some sort of warning. The slumlords reinforce a dichotomy and that is of the oppressor and the oppressed. There are no binaries with an oppressor and oppressed, only dichotomies and impositions.
Greece’s problems will get bigger, much worse than today’s violence, worse than today’s endemic impoverishment, and mired deeper in intertwined social deprivations and reactionary forces more sinister than Golden Dawn. In the 1980s I predicted the death of the Greece as it was then, one of relative prosocial agendas that provided for the relative wellbeing of Greeks. There was no absolute poverty in the Greece of then. But the European Union was approaching with transnationals at the helm instead of propriety and probity. In 2004, while in Greece, I was asked what I imagined that the future held for Greece – “It will get much worse and thereafter just continue to get worse.” My fear is that by the time the bones of our generations are soaked into the earth, that conditions will have got so terrible people will look over their shoulders.”
When Syriza was first elected to government, or more rightly formed government, I was asked my view. I responded, “They will betray Greece. Varoufakis will resign.”
What has been gained by any ‘left-wing’ or ‘progressive’ political party anywhere in the world where it has compromised in accommodating the spectre of transnational forces? They shift some of their supporters against them. They contribute to the fomenting and rise of right wing populism, xenophobia and misoxeny.
Not even on the surface-level is Greece responsible for its debt-crises. On the surface-level it is European Union that is responsible – for its diabolical financial mismanagement of its member states, and of its shambolic lending practices and its black market-like repayment regimes. Greece’s sins are whatever they maybe Greece is the victim and it is not the perpetrator. The Greece of today was made from outside its borders. Europe is on the cusp of generations of human tragedies. That Greeks effectively earn less income than during the Great Depression, and all the while debt increases, bespeaks of never-before-seen miseries approaching.
Greece is insolvent and that should have been the end of it all. As Brazil, saw out insolvency, retired debts, and humbly rebuilt within its context so too should Greeks be given respite. The Greek government betrayed Greece. Instead the government borrowed unaffordable loans from the IMF. This is not just impropriety, it could be argued as corruption. In the steadfast refusal by Greek governments to stand up to the Medes, to try and protect Thermopylae, they comply with draconian austerity to Greeks, of such nature as would have riled Solon. Here, the government is responsible, not the European Union. Greece can indeed say “No.” Indeed, Alexis Tsipras was obliged to say “No” after the 2015 July referendum, after the Greek people had mandated it so.
In the Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International ranks Greece 69th of 176 nations. However Transparency International makes a connection between corruption and inequalities, as opposed to a standalone definition of corruption. Chair of Transparency International, Jose Ugaz, “In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity.” This describes the European Union and transnationals more than it describes Greece and its governments.
If we are to accept as intertwined corruption and inequality, we need to understand political responsibilities. Transparency International argues, “When traditional politicians fail to tackle corruption, people grow cynical. Increasingly, people are turning to populist leaders who promise to break the cycle of corruption and privilege.” In this regard, the Greek government could be argued as ‘corrupt’, as opposed to cowardly, for not taking on the European Union and the transnationals. Penultimate fault lies outside Greece, and there are no solutions within Greece while the lenders insist on mass poverty in order to make their profit.
Greece’s integrity is not in as much in question as is the European Union’s integrity. The swathe of the Union’s ‘accords’ made permissible the buy up of Greece’s institutions, the aggressive money lending, the induction of structural inequalities and power imbalances with transnationals taking control of Greece as soon as Greece entered the European Union. The transnationals determined Greece’s median wage and indexation creep and inflation rates. Greece was drowned by transnational globalisation.
Unless Greece stands up, unless Greek governments defy the European Union, the critical mass of broken lives, the deepening poverty will escalate from broken lives to ruined lives, to famine like poverty and Greeks from what dignity remains will scavenge. All other stances are but lies. In 1963, physician and politician Grigoris Lambrakis marched alone in defiance of the near dictatorial Greek state that had effectively little separation between the police and government. Today, Greeks have civil freedoms and rights that were not evident in April, 1963 – one month later Lambrakis would be assassinated.
In theory, two centuries of the direst austerity is needed to pay off Greece’s debt. If it were to be so, it will come at other costs; damage to the Greek psyche and to the spirit. Humanity will be reduced and the prisons will fill and overflow. Ghettoes and homelessness never before known in Greece, not even under the Ottomans, will become predominant and the suicide tolls will escalate. The 1973 uprising at the Athens Polytechnic brought about the downfall of the Greek military junta of 1967 to 1974. The tank crashing through the gates of the Polytechnic and the bloodshed could not be stymied into ghastly silences and bowed heads. Whether it was clear the Medes would win out or not, Greeks stood up; Mo’lon Laveh.
There come times in our existence, no matter how frail our mortal coil, where we do have to be resilient in taking a stand coupled with vigilance in remaining uncompromising on the ways forward. Manos Eleftheriou (1974), “I underwent your tribunals – Since in Hades you’ll find me to sentence me again to martyrdom and chastise me like a criminal.” Or maybe all changes as it did then too and the Junta at an end, so too the Juntas of today must be railed against; of the transnational slumlords and of their European Union puppet.