Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On the light at the end of the tunnel

Whether it is an individual, a family or a society at large, if there is no light at the end of the tunnel during a crisis, things become very tough. If sacrifices have to be made without seeing the purpose thereof, anger develops.

If anything has been done so far, by Greek or by the EU leadership, which could serve as showing the Greek people a light at the end of the tunnel, then I have overlooked it.

All technical measures (be it a rescue loan, a PSI, a budget consolidation, or whatever) become irrelevant if they don't have as their foremost objective to create a light at the end of the tunnel for the people affected by the measures. The perspective of avoiding bankruptcy is in and by itself not a light at the end of the tunnel.

When I lived in Chicago and met many Greeks there, I often asked them why they had emigrated to the US. Typically, the answer was: "The perspective that we could make a decent living through our own work and that our children would have a better future". Why could such a light at the end of the tunnel not also be created for Greeks wanting to stay in Greece?

I once talked to a mountain climber who had conquered the Eiger North Wall about 50 years ago when this was still an enormous (and risky!) challenge for any mountain climber. They had gotten into bad weather and for days they were "lost" in the wall. Their energies were failing and they lost confidence that they would make it. Then, one day, when the clouds opened and they could see the path ahead of them leading them to the mountain top, they felt rejuvinated and reached the top that very same day. All the fear and pain (and a couple of fingers and toes which were frozen beyond recovery) were forgotten. Instead, those sacrifices were perceived as the prize for the ecstasy of reaching the mountain top.

Perhaps one should start a public competition among Greek brainpower to propose scenarios which could serve as a light at the end of the tunnel. Since my background is in business, I would approach it from a business standpoint. To me, the light at the end of the tunnel would be a long-term economic plan which shows me that I will be able to make a decent living through my own work and that my children will have a better future. Perhaps someone else will come up with more spiritual values. Perhaps one needs a combination of both.

But one clearly needs a light at the end of the tunnel and if Churchill came alive again today as a Greek, he would challenge his compatriots by crying out loud: "When should it happen if not now? Who should do it if not us?"

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