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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two Interesting Pieces for German-Speakers/Readers

Below are two interesting pieces for German-speakers/readers:

Bernd Lucke vs. Ralph Brinkhaus: Hold on to the Euro or not?
A most interesting debate lasting about 1 hour. Lucke is an Economics professor and the founder of the new German party AfD. Brinkhaus is allegedly a CDU-spokesman for financial matters.

My guess is that if Greeks watched this debate, they would choose sides with Lucke and become allergic against Brinkhaus. This despite the fact that Lucke is actually arguing in favor of a Grexit whereas Brinkhaus preaches the gospel of 'helping Greece'.

Lucke's proposal is to offer Greece what I would call 'a friendly divorce with a sizeable alimony', the alimony being a very major debt forgiveness. His principal point is that this would be the best solution for the Greek economy: a devalued Drachma would make the economy more competitive pricewise; there would be a far quicker recovery than with the Euro; the government would regain financial sovereignty in local currency; etc.

Brinkhaus comes across as the typical German 'Oberlehrer' who doesn't need to ask Greeks to know what is good for them. He speaks in terms of 'we', whereby it is unclear whether by 'we' he means the Greeks, the Europeans or perhaps even the Germans. "We have to get more reforms implemented"; "We have to improve the taxation system"; etc. He seems to feel that when 'we' are done with Greece then Greece will be a lot like Germany. A bald head and a precocious demeanor support the overall impression.

Diary of a German summer resident in Greece
A humorous (and in my opinion quite apt) story about personal experiences in today's Greece. Two observations which I really liked:

"The Germans work 7 out of 12 months of the year for the state, which for Greeks is an absurd idea. Greeks are hard-working all the way to exhaustion when they can enjoy the fruits of their labor. The state is an abstract enemy. I have to admit: I have sympathy for the Greeks' distanced relationship with their state".

"The decisions by the EU mean essentially the following: "Effective immediately, Greeks will behave like the Swedes did when in crisis". However, I can assure you: even after 3 years of crisis, there is not the slightest sign that Greeks no longer behave like Greeks".


  1. It is important to note that Lucke also said that after Grexit the faster recovery can only be expected if the missing reforms (that are also mentioned in the 2nd link) are promptly implemented.

    The 2nd link insinuates that the Greek population might start acting (freely translated):

    "Only if no more money comes, they will start bashing their elite. In revolutions and coups they have experience. The radicalization becomes already visible in parliament and on the streets of Athens."

    A year ago I had commented that imho Greece needs kind of a Greek Lech Walensa and unfortunately I still see no better solution.

    H. Trickler

  2. The "diary" piece was barely humorous and certainly in the holiday category.
    PS. Nikos Kazantzakis is not a Nobel Laureate (only 2 Greeks are), I would expect a journalist to know or research that.

    Lennard Schorlemmer

  3. @AnonymousAugust 28, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    I can not comprehend your judgment "holiday category". That Mr. Kazantzakis is not a Nobel Laureate does not at all degrade it's conclusions.

    Instead of denigrating the journalist you might contribute to the discussion of the problems and possible solutions?

    H. Trickler

  4. Easy,easy.
    The piece was definetly in the holiday (or lightweight) category compared with the other piece mentioned.
    Since when has it become denigrating to point out an obvious mistake in a piece (and a piece written by a journalist at that)?
    I have not degraded the conclusion in the piece (I find only one "only if no more money comes, will they start bashing their elite). I have not commented on it as I do not know if it is true. If true then we have "THE SOLUTION", stop the money.
    As a start of a possible solution may i suggest that?
    -Nikos Dimou's book "ON THE UNHAPPINESS OF BEING GREEK" becomes mandatory reading for Greek children, from they can read until the moment they leave school.
    -Greeks learn to say (and mean) MEA CULPA.
    -Greeks (with Nikos Dimou's words in his 2012 postscript) become more rational and less emotional (KNOW THYSELF).
    It will not solve the problem overnight, but then again,a Greek Lech Walensa may not do that either.

    Lennard Schorlemmer

    1. Interestingly, I have made these very same suggestions myself on several occasions (also in this blog) but they did not fall on fertile grounds. For the most part, Greeks felt offended by the sheer mentioning of the name Nikos Dimou (with whom I have been in touch on that). The more educated among those proceeded to explain to me why Nikos Dimou wasn't really a Greek to begin with and that he had no idea what he was talking about. So much for that.

      The less emotional Greeks reacted by smiling. They would look at me with a disappointed face and expressed sorrow that I had these naive ideas that Greeks might ever change.

      That's why I thought the diary was kind of humorous because it touched on those very serious Greek shortcomings in a delightfully resignating way.

    2. Klaus, when traveling in southern Europe (I have not yet been in Greece) I always admire the very different life style there.

      However, isn't the conclusion inevitable that this is incompatible with participation in the Euro?


  5. Klaus, I will admit to a certain innocent humor in the diary, however, unlike you and the author, I not only live with Greeks on/off, I also work with them all the time, which can seriously affect your sense of humor.
    PS. Having said that the children should read "ON THE---------GREEK", then I can highly recommend it to the Troika as well. After 10 years I have read it again, this time the German translation, I find it better than the English.

    Lennard Schorlemmer

  6. H.Trickler
    I shall refrain from commenting on other souther Europeans life style, I do not know enough about them.
    As for the Greeks, their life style is not only incompatible with the Euro, it is incompatible with any form for reality.
    Lennard Schorlemmer

    1. I came across this section on Greece/Greeks in the Encyclopedia Brittanica of 1911. It may be a fake because it would suggest that not much has changed in a hundred years.

      One of the more interesting paragraps is quoted below (in two parts).

    2. 1 of 2
      "Notwithstanding their composite origin, their wide geographical distribution and their cosmopolitan instincts, the modern Greeks are a remarkably homogeneous people, National differing markedly in character from neighbouring character. races, united by a common enthusiasm in the pursuit of their national aims, and profoundly convinced of their superiority to other nations. Their distinctive character, combined with their traditional tendency to regard non-Hellenic peoples as barbarous, has, indeed, to some extent counteracted the results of their great energy and zeal in the assimilation of other races; the advantageous position which they attained at an early period under Turkish rule owing to their superior civilization, their versatility, their wealth, and their monopoly of the ecclesiastical power would probably have enabled them to Hellenize permanently the greater part of the Balkan peninsula had their attitude towards other Christian races been more sympathetic. Always the most civilized race in the East, they have successively influenced their Macedonian, Roman and Turkish conquerors, and their remarkable intellectual endowments bid fair to secure them a brilliant position in the future. The intense patriotic zeal of the Greeks may be compared with that of the Hungarians; it is liable to degenerate into arrogance and intolerance; it sometimes blinds their judgment and involves them in ill-considered enterprises, but it nevertheless offers the best guarantee for the ultimate attainment of their national aims. All Greeks, in whatever country they may reside, work together for the realization of the Great Idea (i MEyaXrt 'ISEa)- the supremacy of Hellenism in the East - and to this object they freely devote their time, their wealth and their talents; the large fortunes which they amass abroad are often bequeathed for the foundation of various institutions in Greece or Turkey, for the increase of the national fleet and army, or for the spread of Hellenic influence in the Levant. This patriotic sentiment is unfortunately much exploited by self-seeking demagogues and publicists, who rival each other in exaggerating the national pretensions and in pandering to the national vanity. In no other country is the passion for politics so intense; " keen political discussions are constantly going on at the cafes; the newspapers, which are extraordinarily numerous and generally of little value, are literally devoured, and every measure of the government is violently criticized and ascribed to interested motives." The influence of the journals is enormous; even the waiters in the: cafés and domestic servants have their favourite newspaper, and discourse fluently on the political problems of the day. Much of the national energy is wasted by this continued political fever; it is diverted from practical aims, and may be said to evaporate in words. The practice of independent criticism tends to indiscipline in the organized public services; it has been remarked that every Greek soldier is a general and every sailor an admiral. During the war of 1897 a young naval lieutenant telegraphed to the minister of war condemning the measures taken by his admiral, and his action was applauded by several journals".

    3. 2 of 2
      "There is also little discipline in the ranks of political parties, which are held together, not by any definite principle, but by the personal influence of the leaders; defections are frequent, and as a rule each deputy in the Chamber makes his terms with his chief. On the other hand, the independent character of the Greeks is favourably illustrated by the circumstance that Greece is the only country in the Balkan peninsula in which the government cannot count on securing a majority by official pressure at the elections. Few scruples are observed in political warfare, but attacks on private life are rare. The love of free discussion is inherent in the strongly-rooted democratic instinct of the Greeks. They are in spirit the most democratic of European peoples; no trace of Latin feudalism survives, and aristocratic pretensions are ridiculed. In social life there is no artificial distinction of classes; all titles of nobility are forbidden; a few families descended from the chiefs in the War of Independence enjoy a certain pre-eminence, but wealth and, still more, political or literary notoriety constitute the principal claim to social consideration. The Greeks display great intellectual vivacity; they are clever, inquisitive, quick-witted and ingenious, but not profound; sustained mental industry and careful accuracy are distasteful to them, and their aversion to manual labour is still more marked. Even the agricultural class is but moderately industrious; abundant opportunities for relaxation are provided by the numerous church festivals. The desire for instruction is intense even in the lowest ranks of the community; rhetorical and literary accomplishments possess a greater attraction for the majority than the fields of modern science. The number of persons who seek to qualify for the learned professions is excessive; they form a superfluous element in the community, an educated proletariat, attaching themselves to the various political parties in the hope of obtaining state employment and spending an idle existence in the cafes and the streets when their party is out of power. In disposition the Greeks are lively, cheerful, plausible, tactful, sympathetic; very affable with strangers, hospitable, kind to their servants and dependants, remarkably temperate and frugal in their habits, amiable and united in family life. Drunkenness is almost unknown, thrift is universally practised; the standard of sexual morality is high, especially in the rural districts, where illegitimacy is extremely rare. The faults of the Greeks must in a large degree be attributed to their prolonged subjection to alien races; their cleverness often degenerates into cunning, their ready invention into mendacity, their thrift into avarice, their fertility of resource into trickery and fraud. Dishonesty is not a national vice, but many who would scorn to steal will not hesitate to compass illicit gains by duplicity and misrepresentation; deceit, indeed, is often practised gratuitously for the mere intellectual satisfaction which it affords. In the astuteness of their monetary dealings the Greeks proverbially surpass the Jews, but fall short of the Armenians; their remarkable aptitude for business is sometimes marred by a certain short-sightedness which pursues immediate profits at the cost of ulterior advantages. Their vanity and egoism, which are admitted by even the most favourable observers, render them jealous, exacting, and peculiarly susceptible to flattery. In common with other southern European peoples the Greeks are extremely excitable; their passionate disposition is prone to take offence at slight provocation, and trivial quarrels not infrequently result in homicide. They are religious, but by no means fanatical, except in regard to politico-religious questions affecting their national aims. In general the Greeks may be described as a clever, ambitious and versatile people, capable of great effort and sacrifice, but deficient in some of the more solid qualities which make for national greatness".