Monday, January 30, 2012

More thoughts on Petros Markaris' article

I have now read Petros Markaris' article several times. A foreigner who tries to understand Greece and Greeks cannot read it often enough (still: Greeks will never cease to surprise foreigners...).

One can tell that Markaris has spent formative years in the German-speaking culture (Vienna). There isn't a round-about description of Greek society or the very special Greek psyche. No! He neatly segregates Greek society into 4 groups with subsections in each group. That makes it easy for the reader eager to understand the subject matter: one only has to remember the 4 groups and the few subsections within each group and - by golly - one understands how Greece ticks! For those who did not take the time to read the very long article, these are the 4 groups:

The Profiteers - the name alone says it all! They are the ones who have profited enormously from Greece's joining the EU and, particularly, from Greece's joining the Eurozone. Three subsections are identified here: (a) the businesses that benefited from the patronage system of the last thirty years, in particular construction firms; (b) the businesses that supplied state agencies with goods (for example, firms that provided medical equipment and pharmaceutical supplies to public hospitals); and (c) the "poor Greek farmers” who deserved a better life and who have long secured for themselves this better life thanks to the agricultural subsidies of the European Union (and who today drive around the villages in their Cherokee Jeeps...).

The Righteous - here the name doesn't say it all because the name would suggest something positive whereas Markaris means by them the "martyrs" or the "fools". They are all those Greeks who devote themselves to hard work and clean living and who cannot escape the payment of taxes (which is why they are "fools"). They disprove the image many Europeans have of easygoing Greeks who shy away from work. Markaris says that they are the largest of the 4 groups but politically the weakest, which is why they are exploited from all sides (and which is why they are "martyrs"). The Righteous have been the hardest hit by the crisis.

The Molochs - they populate Greek bureaucracy and state enterprises. One subsection is made up of civil servants and officials who work in public agencies and state enterprises, and the other subsection are the trade unionists. The Molochs are the extra-parliamentary arm of every ruling party and the guarantor of the clientele system, because the great majority of its members are party members and party officials.

The Hopeless - the (mostly young) Greeks who sit at their computers all day, desperately searching the Internet for a job - somewhere in the world. They’re not guest-workers like their grandparents, who left Macedonia and Thrace in the 60s and moved to Germany in search of a job. These young people have a college degree, some even a Ph.D. But they head straight from the studies into the ranks of the unemployed.

So, here it is, Greek society. Very simple and easy to understand: 4 groups, a few subsections and that's about it. Now, let me take you on a bit of a journey. Let's say we had some political ambitions in Greece. How might we go about fulfilling our political agenda?

First, we need to start a movement; we need enthusiastic and passionate followers. Where do we start? With the Hopeless, of course! Anyone who has ever been on an enduring job search where hope that there would ever be a job offer had almost disappeared, any such person knows that within seconds of the surprise phone call with the job offer the entire world had changed from despair to near ecstasy. What do the Hopeless need? Very simple - hope! So, we will give them hope. We don't have any hard facts (yet) to justify that hope but we will work with soft facts. We will involve artists and other possible heroes to mobilize the spiritual powers of the Hopeless.

Once we've got that on track, we will go after the Righteous with a master plan. Here we will have to be a bit manipulative because the Righteous have already seen so much disappointment and disillusion that they no longer trust any new messiah. Sometimes the easiest way to become one's friend is to go after his enemies. So we will very skillfully and carefully ("float like a butterfly; sting like a bee") go after selected Profiteers and Molochs. We won't need to sting many of them but they will have to be the "right" ones. Those who, once they are stung by us, will give us credibility and trust with the Righteous.

And once we have the Hopeless and the Righteous on our side, we have the majority behind us. And then we can really start going about making changes to Greek society!

A word of caution. I haven't yet said who "we" is. Well, "we" could be a right-wing fascist or a left-wing radical. Either way, the changes which they would make to Greek society would probably not be very positive changes.

However, "we" does not need to be on either side of the wing. The strongest and most promising "we" would be one which comes out of the center of Greek society. There are no qualified candidates? Well, come on! There are as many qualified candidates in Greek society as there are in any other society. The only question is whether they have the courage "to stand up and be counted" for the benefit of their country.

Do they need a new party program? At some later point, yes. Upfront, they only need to have value structures and communicate them. What kind of value structures? Well, the Judeo-Christian heritage provides a lot of them. Religious people could take the 10 commandments. More philosophical people could follow the thinking of Plato, Socrates or Immanuel Kant. And practically-minded people could follow the Rotarian 4-way-test, i. e. testing each action against the following questions: Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it bring GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

First, it sounds very easy. Secondly, it will happen for sure. Thirdly, the only question is who the "we" will be!


  1. You are always so optimistic!
    I like your way of practical thinking, and really, if we look hard, things are simple.
    The way Markaris describes the present situation (so vividly and accurately), seeing the bigger picture, we realise that greeks have been deluding themselves for decades. And still, they can not understand that part of this situation is their fault. Until each one of us realises which part, personally and sincerely, the pattern will always repeat itself (simple psychology).
    I still hope the new "we" will decide to be there not for the money. It will have the power to say "no" to the huge untaxable salaries our government gets today and also the guts to tell greek people the simple truth: there are no mesiahs, we all have to put aside our personal desires, work together and work hard, even without knowing what will come out of it. Most certainly wisdom.

    Thank you for your space,
    One of the righteous/fools

  2. The problem is 1) the cost to make a party given that the media are controlled by the governent and will fight you unless you make a deal with them, in which case you are probably not going to be much better and 2) most importantly the poisonous atmosphere of 'they're all alike'
    Other than that, what is there to lose? Could some group of reasonable persons be any worse than ND or PASOK?

    In fact I have thought about this. One way of drawing the battle lines is to say " We will confiscate the properties of all those who voted for as much as a single deficit". Because after all, they were the ones whose job was to protect the country interests, swore to do so and were handsomely paid to. This quenches the rage and does so in a way than IMHO is fair-why should the righteous be the ones to pay? There are also well -documented examples of 'rings' and 'gangs' within ministries; they should be sacked and asked to pay for damages. I have actually worked out an almost full program. Whether these are legal or not I don't know.