Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Greeks are perfectionists in the realm of ideas!"

One of my readers, a passionate Greek who always gives me and my views a hard time, offered a description of the Greek character which I reproduce below. His conclusion is: "Greeks are perfectionists in the realm of ideas. That's the essence of being Greek: A Greek is a German perfecting ideas instead of automobiles".

I then asked two of my best friends in Greece for a reaction. One of them is a Brit with over 40 years of living experience in Greece and the other one is pure Greek. I also reproduce their reactions. 

Description of Greek character (by Phoevos) 
As far as Greece and the past, keep this in mind: Greece always survived because it was so divided. It's almost impossible to conquer divided people. Which is the antithesis of an empire. In an empire setting you capture the central authority and then your control what's underneath it.

There is nothing more anti-Greek as the concept of an empire. The Greeks fought against the Persians because they were an empire. The Greeks fought against the Romans who were clever enough to put Greek life as the pinnacle of their civilization thus neutralizing Greek resistance. Even Byzantium (despite what the Church says because Greek Othodox religion has all its roots in divine authority with the emperor) is anti-Greek but try telling this to the Greeks today when religion is nothing more than a modern adaptation of the Deities of the past. And the whole idea of Alexander the Great (the first globalization guy of this world) is that he marked the decline of Greece contrary to the popular opinion that he was the apotheosis of Greece. Because the minute he came face to face with the riches of the East he became seduced by them and so did his successors of the Hellenistic world leading to the Roman domination. Alexander and Philip are the sort of guys the Spartans always fought against. Sparta fought Athens precisely because Athens was so powerful and therefore so anti-Greek for one Greek state to dominate others.

My point is this: Whoever chose Greece as the start of the experiment for European unification made a grave error. Most likely Greece and what happens to Greece from now one will destroy rather than re-enforce the empire based inspired themes.

A True Greek is a great individualist, an urbane enough person to blend with all civilizations but one who has no room for equals in his heart.

If Merkel understood this simple fact, she would have chosen someone else for the experiment.

But maybe good things would come of it. Maybe individualism would triumph again against the empire concept in a way that only the Greeks know how to teach. Mind you we are not a destructive force. We are the sort of people that always make you and force you to think. That's our craft. Debate, debate, debate....and then debate again just in case you missed something. Greeks are perfectionists in the realm of ideas. That's the essence of being Greek: A Greek is a German perfecting ideas instead of automobiles. 

Reaction 1 (from a Greek friend) 
Rather simplistic and biased analysis. 

My feeling is that Greeks are overwhelmingly pro-European and also see their future within a unified Europe. 

Don't try to unmask a (British) Trojan Horse in the EU - that's not Greece, surely! 

Reaction 2 (from a Brit friend living in Greece)
The views do not surprise me. He has some good points. You know as well as I do that 'teamwork' is not exactly a Greek attribute. For instance, I remember when I first saw the Greeks play soccer. ..... great individual skills - but 11 players all trying to score a goal!! It took a German coach to knock heads together and show them what teamwork means - and they won Euro 2004!! Suffice to say that the fallback to individualism returned as soon as he had departed!! 

As you also know, except for young internationally alert Greeks, they can't be trained - it's 'Oh, I already know that'!!! Just look at the problems of the EU Task Force ! ....or, for that matter, the messing about on the whole reform issue. Need I say more?!

Additional reactions are welcome! 


  1. Greeks are perfect as they are.
    The only for them more working tool would be is to learn to communicate in a more efficient way.
    It would save much time, precious time. Create something positive. So much needed now.

    Greece and all what makes it Greece as it is has helped me to be more human than I was: raised up in a mental strong country the Netherlands, but emotional so suppressed because of the huge crowds of people who have to live together on a small stamp, suppressed because of the effects of the religion and its ethics, what is allowed or not.
    Common things like dancing, spontaneously, are not "done" in Netherlands: Greeks dance, even in a concert hall like Carré, Amsterdam, where I was witnessing a wonderful atmosphere on an evening about Ritsos, performed by Maria Farantouri and Georgos Dalaras.
    Already before the curtains of the stage were opened it was different from all what I ever experienced in a concert hall: the few present Greeks were shouting at each other from high up to down there, from the left to the right as a "Hello!" a welcoming each other. So nice!
    At the end of the concert a woman was dancing alone in front of the stage, in front of the audience, without any shame, and it was so beautiful to see how feelings take over the controlling mind and show what it means to be human, to be alive, to have a heart and an inbeing that is so beautiful. The Dutch don't do that, not either the Germans, English, French, Norwegians, Swedish, not any country has this Beauty. Greece has. And that must never change.

    Only the communicating in a mental way is something that would create such more better and efficient (TV) discussions.

    Let us take an ouzo, or a raki, and dance.
    Enjoy their music.


    Michalis Tzouganakis

  2. Phoevos is right about Greece being divided - look at the geography! Highlands and islands with a huge connecting sea. Probably the only place that is 'capturable' is Athens, and if that happened Greece would survive and eventually reconquer it.

    And yes, to get greeks to agree on something is not dissimilar to herding cats. Except in external emergencies - the war in Albania 1940; against the germans in the occupation. The divisions arise with the internal emergencies - the junta, for example, and the present.

    About being overwhelming pro-European, I think this needs serious debate :)
    There are many factors at play in this. At best I would suggest that the majority, in view of the geostrategic alternatives, has resigned itself - at this point - to playing a long game.

    1. If excessive individualism and division are part of the Greek DNA, it begs the question why this is the case only with Greeks living in Greece but not with Greeks living in the diaspora. Wherever I have been - through my Greek wife - in touch with Greeks living abroad (mostly in Chicago and Munich), I have been amazed by the 'togetherness' among Greeks. Sometimes I even thought that the degree of 'togetherness' almost bordered on excluding others from the inner circle.

      And even in Greece I sense 'togetherness' in our private daily affairs.

      On the other hand, it seems that as soon as one puts a microphone in front of a Greek, irrevocable positions must be assumed to prove that one has an irrevocable point, a departure from which would not be a compromise but an inexcusable treachery.


  3. Perfectionists in the realm of ideas, who have no idea how do overcome a perfect storm of their own imperfections.

    I agree with this from Phoevos Most likely... Greece from now on will destroy rather than re-enforce the empire based inspired themes. Hopefully Phoevos won't object to me rephrasing the thought - Greece itself could be the Trojan Horse that brings down the New Troy that we call the EU.

    I keep coming back to that thought I expressed last September - that Greece would be better off out of the EU and that the EU would be better off without Greece in it.

    In my comments in this post you will see I'm not talking about chucking Greece under the bus. In fact I envisaged a situation where there would be a broader range of options and freedom from some of the EU constraints. BTW since I wrote those comments I've learnt that even if Greece were not an EU member it may still be able to borrow from the EIB, given that Turkey and Israel can do so today!

    Also see yesterdays fantasy regarding a Levantine Union.


    1. I had put your comments in a separte post. There were only two reactions but they were pretty direct. See here: http://klauskastner.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/should-greece-look-for-alternative-and.html.

      I had also put that on twitter and I recall that I got some rather violent reactions to it. So much for that...

  4. Oh my. All of my dirty laundry in full display. :)

    Could I take some of what I said back? :)


    1. Since I kept it anonymous, you don't need to take anything back. And, by the way, your phrase which I called the 'conclusion' is one of the better phrases you have ever come up with!