Saturday, July 6, 2013

Greek particularities

The Ekathimerini published a commentary by Angelos Stangos who concludes his observations with the following paragraph: 

"There is no need to point out that Greece has the highest unemployment figures, also among its youth. Efforts are being made to create new jobs via growth-inducing measures, and yet Greeks continue to be extremely picky when the opportunity does arise. There’s an ad for peach picking, but hardly any Greeks show up for the job. There’s one for strawberry picking (25 euros/day for a five-hour shift) but there’s hardly any interest and such jobs are unavoidably taken by non-Greeks. It’s a mystery how all those unemployed people out there manage to get by. Meanwhile, in yet another mystery, car traffic has reportedly increased over the past few months and so has turnover in the recreation and entertainment sectors. Meanwhile, we hear the market is all dried up".

That hit home with me because I make the same observations when we live in Thessaloniki close to half of the year: traffic jams (many SUVs) all the time; full cafés; retail shopping like there was a boom; etc. At the same time, I observe two extremes. Let me first give the example of my wife's nephew.

Giorgos is 25 years old and just graduated from a technical college in Serres. Giorgos is a compulsive worker. Every free time he spends in his father's earth-moving business (his father is also a compulsive worker who seems to have accumulated a good amount of wealth during the Euro-boom and who has no debt). The type of heavy duty work which Giorgos does makes the picking of strawberries look like recreation. At the same time, Giorgos drives - for a couple of years now - a fancy Mercedes Coupé which was not brandnew when he bought it but which still looks brandnew. Now, regardless of how much his father paid Giorgos per hour, there is no way that he could have saved enough to buy that car. Obviously, in the small village where Giorgos and his family live, that attracts quite a bit of attention.

I attended Giorgos' graduation last month. I was most impressed by the young people I saw and met there. They were not loser types. Instead, they all seemed self-confident and eager to go out and conquer the world.

Another example is Eva, a 30-year old language teacher at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki who, in addition to her university job, has two other jobs: private language lessons and a part-time job in a software company. She tells me that she can financially support herself. Obviously, she has no time during the week to spend in cafés.

Now to the other extreme. One of Giorgos friends, also 25, is a cocky young, spoiled brat of Albanian descent (he flunked the graduation exams). He drives a Mercedes SUV provided by his father. When I asked what his father did for a living, he said 'he is a businessman'. This fellow gave me a lecture about everything that was wrong in Greece. People like he, he said, really did not have high expectations. All he wanted was a good job so that he could buy a house and have a family. 'Is that asking too much?', he asked me. Well, if he worked like Giorgos, he would be able to fulfil his dreams; probably not tomorrow and probably not next year, but some time soon. That thought, however, did not cross his mind and neither did he understand what I tried to explain to him.

This reminded me of a recent article which Marina Souyioultzi published in her blog Greconomy. Note the following excerpt:

"This system of education (the Greek system) has obviously not been developed in a vacuum.  In a recent lecture (in Greek) (, the philosopher Stelios Ramfos explained how the way that Greek children are educated is completely consistent both with our culture of parenting, and with our attitudes towards work and the State in later life.  Essentially, the argument was that the Greeks fail to ever wean ourselves from mothers who tend to express their love in overpowering and often co-dependent ways.  This early childhood experience translates into an obsession with the past (and hence the memorising of facts) in school and the civil service mentality in adulthood of a job for life.  Breast-feeding on the mother becomes milking the state (through tax evasion, a civil service job, a fake pension claim, a state-dependent enterprise and so on).  With this psychological make-up it is very difficult for the Greeks to modernise our (caretaker) State institutions such that they become more appropriate for creative risk-taking.  It is also difficult to escape the vicious cycle of populist leaders, as the Greeks are always seeking father figures assuring us that we will be provided for.  Finally, I would add that the failure of Greek parents to instil boundaries in children's behaviour early on evolves in adulthood into a disregard for the law (tax code, building regulations), for public property (university campuses), for for public property (university campuses), for meritocracy and indeed for common civility.  The lack of boundaries at home is obviously exacerbated by a failure of the school system to teach values of tolerance and respect, thereby perpetuating low levels of trust.  meritocracy and indeed for common civility.  The lack of boundaries at home is obviously exacerbated by a failure of the school system to teach values of tolerance and respect, thereby perpetuating low levels of trust".

Based on my own experience with a Greek wife raising our sons and based on many observations of other Greek families, I could associate with those observations (well, maybe not the part about breast-feeding and its consequences...).

Still, how can all of this work when the country is in deep crisis? One of my Greek friends explained that to me as follows: "The casual observer may see complete misery in very selected areas of Greece but he does not see complete misery all over Greece. This can only mean that 'Greece is still living off the fat and there is a lot of fat left'. Ok, so that makes the overall situation a bit more bearable. But what happens when the rest of that 'fat' is gone? My Greek friends tell me that there is plenty of 'fat' left. They concede that the 'fat' is limited to only a part of the population but that part, according to my neighbors, is quite large".

In a way, this makes sense. Before the crisis hit, I never got the impression that Greeks who were doing reasonably well (not wealthy!) would consider an amount of, say, 100 TEUR as a large amount. Heck, a taxi license allegedly went for 200-300 TEUR. Suppose a family had 200 TEUR and can now get by with, say, 20 TEUR a year, that family can live 'off the fat' for another 10 years. And when you add to that the fact that, since the crisis, over 80 BEUR left the Greek banking system by way of deposit withdrawals, a totally new dimension is added.

So what's the point of all of this? My point is that there may be many, very valid Greek pecularities which explain the current situation but none of them bode well for the future. At some point in the future, the 'fat' will be gone and when that happens, people like Giorgos' friend will have to learn that money and living standard are not blessings which fall from heaven (or come from parents). Instead, they are the result of hard work and clean living. At least in my vision, they are!


  1. There’s one for strawberry picking (25 euros/day for a five-hour shift) but there’s hardly any interest and such jobs are unavoidably taken by non-Greeks.

    Mr. Stangos should have issued a disclaimer about that. Unless he didn't notice the controversy these news(?) caused.

    In April, 33 migrant workers were shot in Manolada after demanding to be paid by the landholders for their work. After the attack there were rumours that the landholders would hire Greeks/ legal migrant workers instead of illegal migrants. Time passed and I didn't hear of that again until the 28th of June.

    On that day a website published the news: Unbelievable, less than ten Greeks showed up to become straberry pickers (link in greek). According to this report, the whole procedure of hiring strawberry pickers was organized by the Hellenic Manpower Employment Organization (OAED). Moreover, the report cited 4 (ND, PASOK, DIMAR) MPs claiming that there were less than ten applicants. Few days after this report there was a letter (4th of July) (link in greek) by an unemployed Greek man who seeked for employment there (after having heard about the job opportunity from the media). According to his letter the local OAED office knew nothing about hiring and there were no related official documents. (Google translate for more details).

    Many people searched OAED's website and found this document, in which it is written that strawberry producers were looking for people to hire. There is no date nor regisration number on this pdf, though. Its metadata timestamp suggests that it was created on Tue 02 Jul 2013 03:16:28. That's 5 days after the news came up.

    I don't know more about this story. I may assume various things or speculate, but I don't think it would be useful. Anyway, whether the landholders were to hire 4400 people or not, working for them given what happened in April would be my last option.

    1. If things are as you describe, then there is really a big problem in Greece. I thought Greece was the country of strong unions and other employees' representations. Wouldn't those unions make sure that landlords try to attract young Greeks for work? More importantly, wouldn't those unions make sure that landlords comply with labor laws and, above all, provide adequate safety?

      If picking peaches is a life-threatening job in Greece, then I don't know what this country has come to!

    2. There is no doubt that the Bangladeshi workers were shot. Amnesty International confirms that, see the first link of my first comment). There has not been a trial yet and unfortunately it usually takes many years for trials to take place.

      A Bulgarian cleaning lady-unionist Konstantina Kouneva (Κωνσταντίνα Κούνεβα) was attacked with sulfuric acid in Dec. 2008. The trial was completed yesterday and the company for which Ms Kouneva worked has to compensate her with 250000 euros.

      Regarding "strong unions" please check this link.

      Greece's population is equal to this of Belgium. In Belgium, I read that 3,109,812 employees belong to unions. On the other hand in Greece only 783,506 employees do. I don't know how accurate these data are, they definetely show a trend, though.

      In general, I would say that in the private sector there are only a few strong unions (e.g. constructions workers, steel workers, dockworkers, sailors). Self-employed have strong unions, too.

    3. Long story short:

      >>There’s an ad for peach picking, but hardly any Greeks show up for the job. There’s one for strawberry picking (25 euros/day for a five-hour shift) but there’s hardly any interest and such jobs are unavoidably taken by non-Greeks. It’s a mystery how all those unemployed people out there manage to get by.<<

      It is not a mystery, it is called unemployment subsidy and contrary to fruit picking, it arrives every month, all year long. Whereas, if you get employed even for 1 week, you get to lose the unemployment subsidy.

      Those that can't get by, leave. More than 120.000 have left Greece already.

      By pure coincidence, according to albanian sources (Center for foreign commerce funded by USAID), more than 180.000 Albanian immigrants have left Greece.

      Greek sources calculate them to more than 200.000. These are mainly the "family" type Albanians.

      Those Albanians who stay, are mostly those with no roots-no ties, who are flexible enough to "come and go" between Greece and Albania, according to when job is easy to find or "migrate" between different parts of Greece for the same purposes.

      Suppose you are a young greek, probably a university graduate. You can a) register yourself in OAED and wait for a job, while seeking yourself and getting unemployment subsidy in the meantime, b) go work for a month to fruit picking and staying without any subsidy for 11 months (and tax benefits that come with the status of unemployed) or c) migrate to foreign countries and put your university diploma to good work.

      Which one would you pick? Those who can be hired by their dad full time, i think pick their dad's job, but there are those without dad with business.

    4. The Manolada incident is real, the employers claimed they were threatened first. The trial is not over, but the workers have right in any case, as shooting even if we assume they were threatened, is excess of defence.

      However, you can't deduce something for the whole, just from a couple of incidents. This is why a science called "statistics" was born. So that 1 event, couldn't be used as "proof" for blanket conclusions.

      If it was so dangerous to work in the fields, we 'd be out of graveyards by now and the immigrants would run for their lives at the sight of field waiting harvest.

      Unions in Greece don't care about farmers. The unions and party support, exist mainly in cities. KKE will send protesters to your field of interest any time. But the province isn't worth the effort and the farmers themselves have a high political influence.

      Moreover, for the past 20 years, the harvest has been a family job (father+children, which may or may not be professional farmers, but help for 1 month to gather the crop) + illegal immigrants. The illegal immigrants take any job, live in shacks for the time of the harvest, get paid and move on to another region where they may find some other crop type that needs harvesting or try to leave Greece for central Europe, with the money they got.

      No union can be made by nomad illegal workers, that one month are in Argos and the next are in Thessaloniki. Because typically, in the greek province, every region has predominant crop types (you can't grow oranges in mountainous regions). So you can't stay in 1 region for this type of work, simply because there is no job after a while.

  2. Greeks don't want to work manually especially if they have studied. They say "I didn't study to... sell tyropitas,.. to work in the fields ,.. to clean hotel rooms, serve the tourists etc. etc. etc."It is a mentality thing and I should know because I'm Greek. My father didn't want me to take any jobs during the summer breaks while I was studying lest it would look like he couldn't support his family. ( That is not how he put it, he would say I should concentrate on my studies!)
    I live in Germany now (have been living here for 25 years) and any work is good work. And I am very happy that my children think it is normal to work to cover their expenses,while studying.

    1. @July 6, 2013 at 6:12 PM

      Have you ever read a Franz Kafka's short story, about a German born immigrant to Russia? You may find it interesting.

      Since you talk about 25 years ago,

      a) Do you remember who was fruit picking back then, where no immigrants existed? Were the citiboys leaving the cities going to the villages or was it something else?

      b) Do you remember the "gastarbeiters"? What kind of jobs did they do and why?

      c) Do you know how many young greeks enter university each year and how many greeks make a "class" (i.e. come of age every year). If yes, maybe you can make a correlation between greeks that study and young people that work as waiters for example. It could be that your relation with your father isn't the only one existing.

      d) Have you ever heard of a proverb "kamia doyleia den einai ntropi" (No work is shame)? Honest, it's greek.

      e) Have you heard of the yearly protests of greek hotel employees, for the fact that employers hire foreign room cleaners? Probably not.

      f) In the first semester of 2010, the employment of the population in the agricultural sector, increased by 6.1%.

      This gave the idea to lease for low fee state land to new farmers and shepards.

      "New farmers???". "University graduates??"

      Of course these shouldn't exist.

      The program is still active, as the previous tenders were successful. They release the land pieces in batches:

      The unfortunate is that the state should have done this BEFORE the crisis, as for someone to start from scratch, requires investment in equipment. The other is that the state doesn't know its land. They 're still trying to verify if it's cultivable or not. Many lots were given as agricultural, while they weren't.

      g) Do you know anyone that says "I studied engineering so that i can sell tiropitas"? In what country? The problem in Greece is that the educational system was disconnected from the demand of the economy. Especially PASOK, made its best to fill the universities with as many as they could, when they abolished the basis of 10. This further stripped the rural population from working hands.

      P.S.: I am Greek too.

  3. And a "longer" version:

    a) Most free professionals, still evade taxes with success. They pay more than before, but nowhere near what they should be paying. These, can afford their children to "do nothing". For instance, the average income that a restaurant owner declares, is 7000 euros. With the "objective criteria", he will have to pay some taxes (while in the last 30 years he was paying none), but not as much as he really earns. So you have still restaurant owners that would say that "Business is tough, but still good". Of course it is still good, when you can still evade taxes.

    b) Part-time jobs are now the majority of the new conrtacts, especially in the cities.In Athens' newspapers there are adds for jobs with 200 euros or uninsured jobs.

    c) Traditionally, in Greece there is a temporary decline of unemployment in May-September, due to tourism. During this period, it is easier for a young greek to find a part time job, in a touristic destination, that will give him right to unemployment subsidy next year.

    d) Contrary to sensationalistic articles, the vast majority of farmers, will prefer the cheaper solution, which is "illegal immigrants that work from dawn to dusk with 15-20 euros a day" (uninsured of course). The ones who complain, are rather the exception, who are willing to pay more for legal workforce.

    e) With a bit of a planning, you can combine an uninsured part-time job (in the shadow economy) with unemployment subsidy.

    f) Most of the youth doesn't live near the fields anymore. Half of Greece's population for example is in Athens. In order for someone to go the nearest field, he would have to make a trip, at his own expenses. This is why greek farmers use illegal immigrants and stash them in shacks.

  4. Klaus: I could write a whole book in reply to the content of your post! However, I shall confine myself to a few comments.

    The first is that in Greece things are not always as they appear. Some are able to acquire the trappings of wealth without actually possessing it: this is particularly relevant for ownership of expensive cars, since Albania is a regional laundering centre for stolen Mercedes, BMWs etc. Without actually accessing the multiple bank accounts of Greek citizens, it is not very easy to estimate actual wealth: this is why the failure of the state to monitor bank transactions (especially considering that until recently most banking was in the state sector) is indicative of state collusion in criminal activity and tax evasion.

    Concerning employment... here, Greece is far from exceptional from a global perspective. Admittedly, it doesn't look much like Germany, the UK, or the USA. The normal developmental pattern of employment as a country proceeds from subsistence economy to more developed is a large rural-urban migration (leading to overcrowded cities), reliance on the public sector for stable but low-pay employment, abandonment of the agricultural sector (with immigrant workers replacing the former nationals), and over-concentration of education on the liberal professions, such as medicine and law. Greece has exhibited all of these characteristics over the last 50 years.

    The problem that confronts Greece is that with this semideveloped polity and economy, it was brought into the EU in 1981. EU membership brought financial privileges that actually fostered the corruption of political parties and the distortion of the economy, such that normal employment trajectories did not make sense unless you were without "meson". Then membership of the eurozone -- far from promoting economic development -- actually permitted even greater wastage of resources and opportunities, such that the limited productive sectors of the economy were reduced and substituted with imports.

    Of course, the blame for much of this lies with the Greek political elite and intelligentsia, especially the conformist and low quality university teaching. However, a very high degree of responsibility also lies with northern Europe for failing to comprehend the dangers, failing to put in place a clear strategy for semi-peripheral EU members, and basically constructing a eurozone that was in the interests of northern Europe and especially Germany. As far as ordinary Greeks are concerned, my opinion is that they are acting rationally. They correctly identity opportunity structures and respond logically to those. The problems of Greece lie within the institutional structures of Greece itself, the feeble-minded mentality of its politicians and academics, and the failure of the European Union to serve all of its members. The fact that ordinary Greeks "went along" with corruption and incompetence and everything else means nothing: what else could they have done? Greece's political history is unstable, and modern stability has seemed a real boon until very recently.

  5. Petros Markaris,is a novelist, far from being conservative. As a matter of fact, he is well known in Greece, because the media are interested in him, being a leftist novelist. It is quite the contrary of Gage, that you mention, who is unknown to Greeks born after 1980, because his version of history was not appropriate to the narration of the left. So, he had to "disappear". His book "Eleni" was transfered in a film. Andreas Papandreou, forbid to shoot it in Greece and the producers had to go to Spain to find a suitable location to recreate a greek village. The film itself, was shown only for a few days in Greece in 1985, before being prohibited, after a series of bomb threats and beatings of viewers by organized groups of comunists.

    This preface, is to show how one writer becomes "prominent" in a left-dominated country, as opposed to one that "has to disappear", because he doesn't tell a story that is in conformity with the history as narrated by the left.

    Still, Markaris, today, before the evidence, admits:

    "Dimitrakos (the dictionary that his fictional character officer Haritos uses), was awared in 1953 with the Athens Academy Award. In this dictionary the words "tax evader" and "tax evasion" don't exist. There is only the word "forompihtis" (a person that puts excessive taxes). Hence, the phenomenon (of tax evasion) is relatively new and in my view has its origins, in the period a bit after the junta, but developed rapidly after our entrance in EU and afterwards."

    "In the post-civil war years, the country was divided in 2 fronts, but still had some principles of education (in the sense of conduct). From a certain point and on, this ceases to exist".

    While, he doesn't openly say "we all know PASOK demolished the country"(after all, PASOK was holy for any greek leftist for at least 15 years and to this day nobody in the left dares to openly say that Papandreou's socialism was the undoing of the greek economy and society), he is clearly implying it. For the greek left, it is easier to blame the Simitis period, because Simitis isn't considered socialist enough to be worthy successor of Papandreou. So Markaris is as politely possible trying to imply that something wrong was done with Papandreou, but hastily runs to shift the majority of blame to Simitis.

    Leaving mothers aside and vineyardphilosophy, as is called in Greece, another great misfortune, is that the intellectuals, for far too long remained silent. Those conservatives, were emarginated soon enough by the media and were promptly disregarded as backwards. Those of the left, were too intoxicated by Andreas Papandreou's socialist dream, to raise their own voice and ask in time "quo vadis, Andrea?".

    The finance minister that resigned in 1983, is unknown to Greeks that weren't old enough to remember him in office. Because nobody ever mentioned his warning, nobody came out to defend him and he was quickly put into political oblivion.

    Ex conservative PM Mitsotakis, who ruled for 3 years and saved Greece from a close call after Papandreou's rampage, was warning in 1994 Papandreou, that his policies, were leading Greece into the arms of the IMF:

    As with Kassandra, the left quickly found a way to forget him. He was soon enough taken by the media and ridiculized as someone who brings bad luck. In Greece he is known as "Dracula" and other names like that.

    Like Papandreou used to say "people have a short memory".


    1. I presume you are the Antonis who posted in Greconomy. I found very interesting your point that post-1980 Greece is different from pre-1980 Greece. Coming from a conservative village, my wife is definitely a child of pre-1980. It seems that in everyday life in Greece, I only run into Greeks whose mindset and mentality were formed and shaped pre-1980. This is why I often feel that there are 2 Greece's: the Greece I get to know in everyday life which is definitely pre-1980 on one hand, and the Greece I read and learn about in the media every day, which seems to be very much post-1980.

    2. Yes, i regularly read Nikos Malkoytzis both in Kathimerini and once every often in twitter and from time to time,so i end up reading your comments too. You engage often is exchange of views with Malkoytzis.

      Greece is a complicated country, with a complicated history. For the latter there is no agreement on what it is. The mainstream history, is dominated by th left. But thanks to the recent events, it may change. What Gage for example calls "paidomazoma" (kidnapping children), for the KKE historians is called protecting children from war, a humanitarian act and for the left historians, is simply a case that should be left outside school books and television. For the sake of national unity. On the other hand, there is no concern about national unity when it comes to showcase in great detail the military junta as well as, the terrible fate and undemocratic treatment that comunists had to endure after the war. Like if the comunists had won, it would have been better for the losing side. Romans were saying "vae victis" for a reason and they were the usual victors, so imagine that.

      I use the paidomazoma as a simple example, because you are familiar with it. The ending result is that also foreign historians can't produce a bulletproof account of greek history, having to rely on greek sources.

      There isn't one mindset either, just like there isn't one Greece. Be it pre or post 1980.

      In great lines, i would say there is an Athens' Greece, a rich mainland Greece, a poorer mainland Greece (Epirus and Thrace) and the islands.

      But as with all things in Greece, ask different persons, you will get different answers.

      Post 1980, for me, Greece changed for the worse. But ask someone from the left and he may tell you the exact opposite. That finally Greece was liberated by the oppressive right, the socialists gave a chance to everyone, built the health system, made education progressive and so forth.

      The impossibility to understand Greece, was best described by a conservative politician, former prime minister and president of the republic, Constantine Karamanlis: "Greece is an endless mental institution".

      It must come not as a surprise, if you happen to encounter a greek that tells a completely different story.
      To you as an outsider, it may look strange. But for a greek, this is adopting to a reality that you have to accept.


    3. That was one of the most informative descriptions of modern Greek society I have read so far. Thank you. Add to that Nikos Dimou's theses about the Greek psyche and the picture becomes even more encompassing.

      You differ from most Greeks in that you can see both sides of the story. There are always two sides. My best friend in Greece calls himself a Marxist (not a Greek leftist, by the way!). He believes that Marx/Engels' theories explain best the evolution of society. I tend to feel the same way about people like Friedrich von Hayek or Karl Popper. So, you can't have greater extremes. And yet, we never really disagree forcefully. We listen to each other's views, ponder them and discuss them. At the end of each such exercise, I think both of us come away with new perspectives.

      Until I read 'Eleni', I had a simple vision of post-WW2 Greek society: the Nazis had destroyed Greece; the Communists wanted to take over; they were sent away and - everything was fine thereafter. Well, after 'Eleni', it was clear to me that the 1940s were much, much more for Greek society than simple resistance against the Nazis and fighting the Communists. Since then, the 1940s have become a pet of mine. The book which I found most informative was John Woodhouse' "Greece 1941-49".

      An individual who has personal problems but refuses to deal with his past will never solve his problems. Something similar applies to societies, in my opinion. If a society does not attempt to deal objectively with a critical period in its past, that period will haunt society for a very, very long time. Interestingly, except for my above friend, I have not found another Greek so far with whom I could talk about the 1940s. On the other hand, many of the conflict I observe today remind me of the conflicts which Nicolas Gage described in 'Eleni'.

      Explain to me another point, please. The divisions running through Greek society are enormous and yet: outside of Greece, Greeks are probably the most homogenous ethnical block that I can think of. They all stick together to the point of being exclusive to others. Whenever my wife runs into Greeks somewhere, they are 'best friends' within minutes. When I accompany her to a Greek church service, I see one homogenous community. Etc. Etc. Unbelievable for someone who is not Greek!

  6. Klaus, set the good example and go and work in the fields yourself (for 25 euros a day). Then you can lecture us on hard work.

    1. @ Jim Slip,

      I think there is no need to use such "arguments". Always keep in mind, that this is not greek blog. It is to be expected that one can't grasp the reality or know the history or necessarily agricultural works.

      For example, before 1990 (no immigrants), there was never an instance where people from cities would leave and go to villages to gather harvest. The harvest was a family business (they had to work more than now and had less machinery than now), you could find help from a neighbour and possibly organized groups of farmers with nothing to do at the time or generic workers that were in bad period (like construction workers during rainy months) that were making a tour of their region to cover their monthly expenses until their usual work would resume. But they were all rural people, that lived in the countryside, knew the job, etc.

      With the influx of immigrants, their work became easier and cheaper...

      Expecting that suddenly now, somehow, a mass exodus of young Greeks will commence from the cities, to go to gather a crop here, a crop there, living in shacks for minimum wage and that the farmers themselves, would in massive rate prefer the more expensive, inexperienced young city boys, rather than the experienced and cheaper immigrants, is rather irrational and utopic. It didn't happen in the 80s where people were more in contact with countryside, were more rugged, it will happen now, that city boys haven't seen a cow in their life, let alone know how to collect a crop without destroying it with their soft hands?

      And then of course there is the other issue. What will the illegal immigrants do? Already you read in all greek blogs about bands of various nationalities that wonder from a region to another and in the process, plunder food, copper from DEI wires, iron from bridges, etc. If suddenly they remain without any means to survive, what will they do? The Albanians are next door, so they leave. The Afghan-Pakistani-Egyptian-Bangladesh, that are trapped in Greece, although they would like to go to Germany, what will they do?

      For entertaining purposes, these are photos from the facilities in an italian agricultural village in Calabria, where the illegal immigrants had a similar to Manolada incident, although probably shot by local mafia men for racist purposes, revolted, at the end arrested and expulsed. They were gathering oranges.

      First 2 photos are their sleeping quarters.
      Third photo is their "kitchen" where they cook.
      4th photo is the external of their "accomodation".

      I think this solves the question of "why don't young Italians go gather their oranges, despite 39% youth unemployment?" It could be that Italian mothers have something to do with it. But i prefer to go with more rational explanations, mass psychology is complicated. This despite the italian countryside being more densly populated than the greek one and is easier to find italian workforce, in theory.

      Another reasonable question would be: Why do immigrants stay in such places? Because if they were to stay somewhere else, going to the crops by bus, would eat a good portion of their already very low fee. And once the crop is harvested, you must move to another region. For example, olives are gathered in November, maybe early December, depending on maturity times and size of the crop. After that, what will you do? You must move to another region that has some other crop.

    2. I try not to get to the personal level in debates but you do and that is why I respond.

      No, I will not set the good example which you suggest. Why? For the simple reason that I don't have to. BUT: when I had to 45 years ago, I did it. When I left for the US at the age of 18, my parents gave me T/Cs for 100 USD. That was a lot of Austrian Schillings in 1967 (at least relative to my father's income). A couple of months later, I returned my parents the T/Cs, telling them that it was a lot easier for me to earn that money in the US than it was for them to earn it in Austria. From then on, I never asked a single cent from my parents, neither did they give me one.

      My first job was that of a dishwasher in a large restaurant for 1,75 USD/hr. My dishwashing colleague was a Greek, the first Greek I ever met, and we had a lot of fun in the basement. Through a combination of scholarships, loans and work, I managed to get degrees from two of the then most expensive schools in the world (Harvard/INSEAD). Obviously, I always worked 20-40 hrs/week besides school.

      I have met many young Greeks who show similar attitude and effort, and somehow they get by despite the economic depression. Those are the young Greeks whom I admire greatly. I can't say the same thing about those young Greeks whom I see all day long in cafés with a pack of cigarettes and a smartphone on the table. Even if they spent only 5-10 Euros per day, that comes to 150-300 Euros per month. They could use the same time working in the fields making 500 Euros/month (20 days at 25 Euro/day for 5 hours). The difference between sitting in the café and working in the fields comes to 650-800 Euros/month. That is far above the minimum wage of Greece.

    3. So, you started out as a proletariat, and through your hard work and wits you managed to become a successful bank executive.

      Well, congratulations (although you had the privilege of starting your career in the postwar era, namely a period when governments actively pursued full employment policies, as opposed to the current neoliberal nightmare which is called globalisation).

      Here's the thing though. For every one you, there's 100 others who never managed to escape the misery of working-class life, hard work or not.

      So for once I'm gonna come to the defense of Greek society and say that, like you, they don't have to do lousy labor for peanuts at the dreadful jungle that is euphemistically called Greek private sector, and about which you obviously know nothing. Maybe at some point in the future they will. But for the time being they don't, and it is fully understandable why they decline to do so.

    4. Greeks definitely have the right of self-determination. If Greeks determine for themselves that they ought to opt for potentially becoming the Cuba of the European continent, that is their free decision.

    5. Greece is gonna become the Cuba of Europe if we don't go to work for the cheapest of wages in the country with the highest of prices in a private sector where the protection of the law doesn't apply?

      Klaus, you clearly have some rethinking to do when it comes to Greece. This isn't Austria. This is a jungle, and in the jungle the strongest survives.

  7. "That is far above the minimum wage of Greece."

    Just a small correction. That is EXACTLY the minimum wage in Greece, for legal work that is paid day by day.
    To be more precise, for ages< 25, for non specialized worker it is 22,83 euros (pre-tax) for 6h 40min. For >25 years, it is 26,18. If you remove taxes, for 8h work, it comes out about 25 euros net, which is why the farmers in question gave it. They couldn't give any lower.

    It is more than the minimum wage you mention, because you compare it to a long contract minimum wage.

  8. Ι managed to find pictures from the "accomodations" of the infamous Manolada case.

    Modified greenhouses:

    This is probably the "kitchen". The previous photo shows gas bottles, so that's what they must use. You can see a large pot on the right in this one.

    One thing is certain. You are lucky greek mothers can't put their hands on you, for wanting to send their boys there.

  9. And here, George Papandreou, after many hardships and tiring lectures about how he saved Greece, started his vacations at Serifos, guest of an architect, where he is enjoying a private beach and celebrated his 61st birthday.

    May he live a long life, Greece may need him again. Let us hope that 2 months in the Aegean will be enough to restore his energies. It is good to see him smile again.

  10. This is also interesting:

    "In March 27 2012, the minister for agricultural development, divulged the data from a survey, conducted on behalf of ELGO-Demetra organization in Athens and Thessaloniki, from which, from an estimated (by extrapolation) 1.500.000 individuals, the 68,2% has thought to return to the province and 47,6% would choose farming as primary occupation."

    "Out of those, over 70% have higher academic education".

    "70,3% would leave the city for the same or even less income with in exchange for a more humane life, with better life quality, less stress and more real human relations".

    Being full time farmer, permanently established somewhere and having a family is different than ambulant crop harvester.

    And the problem is, you need land and you need money, to acquire equipment and knowledge.

  11. @ Klaus Kastner

    This will be a long reply that will take multiple instances to complete. I have no way to predict how many.I try to squeeze formatting, but it will still be very long.

    It is my firm belief, that it is close to impossible for north europeans to understand mediterranean europeans.
    All Greeks know both sides of the story.But at the end, you have to decide on your own, what of the 2 sides you will keep as your story.If you were greek i wouldn't bother to warn you that there is another story.
    The main problem is exactly that national(internal) history of a country, is at the end, primarily, a job of the locals to write.But history, is historically,written by the winners, be it winners of an ethnic war, a class war or an intellectual war. The defeated, is usually deprived of the power to write his history. For instance, imagine if the Romanovs had succeeded in destroying the October rebels or if Hitler had not attacked Russia and instead had found a way to find a settlement with Britain and USA. For starters, the holocaust would have a biefy denial bibliography. Once you have such bibliography, historical dispute can go on forever. Which is why, very wisely, the jewish comunities are always vigilant to denialists. One history book servers as reference to another and then to another.Time passes, people forget. You can end up in this situation:
    In my early youth years i was more charmed by Trotsky, but a combination of classical studies and evolution theory, quickly made me dismiss promices for perfect societies, as utopic. Humans are imperfect, so their societies will be imperfect too. And people aren't ants, they have different personalities, they seek different goals in life, so you can't homogeneize them without dictatorship. At the end, both national socialism and the socialism as existed in the communist block, were in odds with human nature. One wanted to have the perfect race, the other wanted to create the perfect class. They both failed.

    Woodhouse, i have not read. But i have read references to him, by leftist historians. You, as a foreigner, do well to read what you can. But, be aware, that greek history, as well as balkan history, is very complicated. If you could read greek, you could find a "Gage" in the communist side that could make you cry. And don't underestimate the greek leftist historiography. The greek left always had some formidable minds. Woodhouse, is entitled to his story. But he was involved too. And it is not difficult to show him biased, even if one pretends that Woodhouse never set foot in Greece. For instance, Woodhouse leaves open the question, as to who shot first in the December protest. It is verified by later confessions of greek right wingers, that it was the police and there is no photographic evidence or journalistic evidence (be it greek or foreign), that any protester was armed. Also, just like Woodhouse has an opinion of greek communists, you can imagine that greek communists have their opinion of Woodhouse. Do not think that if you encounter a well prepared greek communist, which can access his own library and is prepared to treat you without gloves, he will shiver if you quote Woodhouse.

    Similarly, it has been ages since i had read "Eleni", but outside his personal history, the historical accuracy of the general events isn't impossible to attack for a greek leftist. Myself, i vaguely remember 2 mistakes that are not under dispute, as they have political importance. One, Metaxas died of a pharynx infection, that led to septicemia, not tumour.Koryzis, didn't shoot his brains. He shot himself twice in the heart.I remember these 2, because they are not open to interpretation. But once a history book has mistakes, it is open to disputed credibility.

    End of 1st part.

  12. It is very easy to find single episodes and from them draw conclusions for the entire war. Elements still emerge about the period, some very interesting came also from ex communists countries after the fall of communism. The final history, will hopefully be written in the future, when there will be no living survivors.
    History, is the registration of the collective memory of a people. But is usually written, when one side wins or when both sides decide they can arrive to commonly accepted conclusions at least on some parts.

    A central-northern European, will hardly ever manage to understand greek history. Not only because it is too long for him to study (the most complete greek history, which is just the basics, but help understand better, because history is a chain of events, is of 26 volumes, currently sold by the greek branch of National Geographic), but also because he can't relate to a similar story of his own. It is much easier for a Spaniard or Italian to understand greek civil war, than for a north European. The similarities with Italy are actually striking. Italy, arrived very close to have the same communist attempt, but didn't probably by a combination of worse timing and opportunity. The root of the problem in Greece, is that WWII, gave the opportunity to the greek communist leaders, to avoid prison, to gain access to a plethora of armament and last but not least, manpower! The original founding manifesto of EAM, calling Greeks to resistance, for example, wasn't a communist call and didn't ask for communists. It was asking for any Greek, regardless of political affiliation. And in deed, those that joined, weren't just communists. This is why they became known as "the andartes" and not as "the communists". You wanted vengeance from the Germans, you were joining the one giving you the opportunity. But this a) gave the communist leaders, "flock for conversion", b) war binds together fellow combattants, c) the argument of passing from a german occupation to a british one, was a convincing one for many, given past history, d) they took advantage of their initial huge popularity in the non combattant population, which were passive collaborators of the andartes if you want (giving shelter, food, clothing,information about german movements). And the trigger point, was the December shootings. Left historiographers, attribute the fault for the civil war entirely to the british. They actually make a plausible case, but it is up to a personal opinion, as to what would have happened otherwise. They may have ended up like their italian counterpart, but maybe not... To me, though, the means and opportunity for the greek communists to arrive to the point of power they did, was thanks to the german occupation. Otherwise, history showed, that in free elections, the KKE was never able to seriously hope to gain power.
    In Italy, during 1943-1945, it was common opinion of all sides, that there was a civil war between fascists and resistance of mixed factions, of which the communists were the most powerful. After that period, the anti-fascist line became predominant and the term "civil war" was abbandoned for the term "resistance against fascists". The term "civil war", was reintroduced again in 1991, by the prominent historian Claudio Pavone. This again, to show you, that, you, can't understand certain things, because there isn't something familiar that you can relate to. A greek can understand very easily the italian problem and an italian the greek one. A spaniard too, but the italian and greek cases are much more similar.

    End of part 2

  13. I would say you also this. The divisions inside the greek society aren't enormous. They are simply complicated for you to understand, at the same way it is complicated for a Greek to understand the german society for instance. Greece is always in a constant idelogical fight, of groups with very strong opinions, but that can usually coexist with each other, unless there is an unexpected and powerful event that shifts abruptly the balance towards one side. Since you are Austrian, i will make you a Freudian example. A human being, is the result of a mixture of nevrosis. Ask your nearby psychologist "Hans, do i have any nevrosis?" He will reply to you "Klaus, yes you do, a lot of them, as do i, but do not worry". It becomes pathological, when for a violent shock, one of the nevrosis becomes dominant over the others. At that point, Hans will tell you "Klaus, you need treatment". Something similar happens with the greek society. To give you an easy, but repetitive example. "Ancient Greece". What ancient Greece? Every city had its own political system, usually fighting each other, stopping only for the time to fight Persians and then start fghting each other again. Spartans and Athenians had derogatory jokes for each other and in their final war were more brutal with each other than with the Persians. Most of the now vaunted ancient greek figures, at some point were exiled and died in exile, while some of those that fought the Persians, ended their lives as persian generals. This is a recurring theme, but i use the antiquity, because it is the most known to an Austrian.
    Outside Greece, Greeks become homogeneous, exactly because the reasons of their apparent enormous rifts, cease to exist. This is why i tell you that i don't believe in enormous divisions. Such divisions don't disappear. Is there any reason to kill each other when you can kill Persians, who if they kill you first, won't allow you to continue killing your fellow Athenian? No. Is there any reason to fight over the way to rule Greece, when you can no longer rule it? No. So it becomes predominant the need to meet someone with your own language and customs, just like a tourist that arrives somewhere and by instinct asks "do you speak english?", because he tries to find a way of familiar comunication to him and then buys a tourists' guide, so that he can make his life easier and feel that he finds better orientation.

    End of part 4

  14. Nikos Dimou, in my opinion, is a very clever, intelligent person and excellent pubblicist, his most successfully advertized product being himself, but he is not my idea of philosopher. His most famous books are exactly those for the masses, that want something light to read in summer heat. One about cats ("poetry") and one about the infelicity of being greek, which i consider a mixture of his own strong opinions, stereotypes, truths and his non greek education. Dimou is an admirer of Karl Deutsch and as such the most known representative of greek ethnonihillism, that together with a fixation on atheism and weird interpretations of ancient texts are his main traits, which is why i think (i could be mistaken!) he was so much present in the greek media of the 80s. For instance, he was given his own transmission in the PASOK dominated state tv (ask a greek how many non PASOK loyalists had such a fortune). At the same time, he was offered jobs in the Lambrakis publishing organization, that was the biggest PASOK supporting editorial group and became columnist not just in regular newspapers, but also in computer magazine of the same organization, that makes computer hardware reviews. My own explanation is, that he wasn't decapitated from the PASOK media era, because his ethnonihillism, was in line with the one the left was pursuing and still is. His biggest regret, as he says, is leaving Germany. But i understand why you like him. He has a german view of Greece. Dimou is like a man who loves Margaret, but somehow was married to Anne, so he is agonizing to make Anne become Margaret. While Anne would benefit to take some ideas from Margaret, she will never become Margaret. Because she is Anne. To me, his famous quotes, in any other country, would be material for an evening show, in Greece they become philosophy. I am more traditional in this aspect, i appreciate humblness and reasoning in a philosopher, not taglines or aphorisms. Given your age you may know Austrian born Billy Wilder. One of his quotes is: "Austrians are brilliant. They managed to convince the rest of the world, that Hitler was German and Beethoven Austrian". Fortunately, Wilder didn't regard this as philosophical product.

    End of part 5

  15. I could propose you some quick examples as to what an Austrian Dimou would write and i assure you they would sell very much, but i think you got the idea. I also don't believe there is "a greek psyche" (if there was, for starters Greeks would be very monotonous, including in their political preferences), persons are different individuals and certainly Dimou, being an ethnonihillist and a german trapped in Greece (but after all, would he have become famous in Germany?), is logically the less adeguate person to express the identity or pryche that makes his so miserable. It would be like an atheist writing the Pope's Easter speech. Staying in Greece is the definition of masochism. Not that i disagree with everything, but i take it for what it is, from who he is and i have my own opinion of what is philosophy and what not and what i consider a serious scientific approach and what not. Since i haven't convinced you though (because each man likes most to read, what agrees with his own perception). But to give you a more tangible example, since i am sure you have an unwaivering faith on him, please ask your wife to translate you this.
    Then read Plato's Symposium (if you haven't already) and ask yourself. If someone would ask me to tell the essense of platonic love, would i say it is about flesh love and homosexuality? Or more something along these lines?
    Explaining your conclusions is a tedious procedure, but which i prefer, although not so easy to sell the the broader audience as would a tagline "Austrians don't need another Mozart. They believe they have enough on their Mozartkugels". For instance, this lady would never get a tv show in Greece. As she says, she wouldn't have managed to become a professor either, had she stayed in Greece. She too agrees with Dimou in some points, she disagrees with others. The difference, is, she uses a scientific approach. She makes for a much more dull reading, not suitable for the masses, but although a historian, she follows not only chronological order and detail, but also the main philosophical requirement of analytical thought and exhaustive reasoning. Unfortunately this is a translation from greek, not done by herself. But it is the best i can do.

    End part 6

  16. It is a very long reply, but i don't like tagline-replies. Taglines are for football fans and selling beer on television. This is also why you will not see her interviewed in foreign televisions. She gives long, complicated replies, people want stories that are easy to perceive, in 30 seconds, as Dimou says.
    Each country has its own history, own location, own climate. All these affect mentality, customs, way of doing things. Understanding them like a native does, is futile or 1st generation immigrants would become one with the locals after a few years. They usually never do so, even in the US, which is immigrant-made country. The hispanics, greeks, italians, have their distinct communities even after several generations. As with people, trying to coexist is the issue, not necessarily understand. Your blog, has rarely a plethora of greek commentators. Not because they ignore its existence. But because it is tiring having to explain to you. The same would apply if a Greek wed to an english woman, was to make a blog "Observing Britain". After a while, no British would care comment his blog. Germany for example, if tries to enforce german mentality to every country in Europe, will only cause the dissolution of the union, sooner or later. Maybe not now, but in the next crisis, but it will.
    Some things are just the way they are and the world is pretty because it has variety. The most happy permanent residents of Greece, are those that don't try to change Greece to fit in their mentality, which is the first instinct of any immigrant that goes to a country. Which also happen to be mediterraneans. The more to the north you go, the less happy they are, although for some leftists, Greece is like paradise, because they don't have such a strong left in their country and they feel like boys in a toy shop. There are some famous exceptions, but they are exactly people that have did their best to embrace the greek culture, lived as Greeks, talked like Greeks, read to exhaustion greek books, which are essential to understanding a culture. The style, the expressions, the meaning and use of the words themselves in a foreign literature, is very telling about its culture. It is not the same to read the translation.
    Fermor is probably the British that came most to understanding the incomprehensible complexity of greek society in a way a Greek does and almost becoming in a sense greek and being comfortable with it. More so than Lord Byron. His house in Kardamyli was littered with books.
    Since you like war stories from first hand witnesses, he also speaks in this greekamerican "documentary" (as with all stories, it is part of history, but not all history. As in example, there is no german representative, but it is an occasion to see the late Fermor).

    I will now bid you farewell though and hope to avoid temptation in the future.


    End part 7 and final

  17. A historic-sociological appendix.

    The Greeks of left and right, are usually united in one issue: They are tired of external political interference and of having to somehow prove that their view of their own history, starts on an egalitarian basis with the others. For instance, if a Greek historian writes something on greek history, he will automatically have to prove that his view, unless disputed by facts, has the same credibility as one written by an American. The opposite of course would never occur.

    Mundane example: If a Greek for decades, were to say to an American that the US supported the greek junta, he would be laughed at, with exceptions of minor, rather marginal american writers. In 1997 Bill Clinton in Athens, effectively apologised for the fact that "the US let down greek democracy". It's a way to put it.

    This is an Alexis Papahelas' book. The cover for me was the novelty, the rest was more or less either known or expected. It is a photo shot in winter of 1965, at a hunting lodge in Evros region. Boar hunting.

    The man on the right, is George Papadopoulos, at the time an "unknown" medium rank greek army officer. In 1967 he would become the dictator of Greece. The man in the middle, is George Stevens, CIA agent and the man on the left a greek-american, acting as liaison.
    To the common greek, Papadopoulos became known only 2 years later. Not that the coup wasn't made by Papadopoulos, but adds to the detail that combined with american accounts on his relations with USA,creates a more logical picture of the situation.

    Similarly, greek Cypriots were for years swearing that the British weren't playing "fair" in Cyprus. Trying to discuss with a British, was between ridicule and contempt. A greek Cypriot had to wait some decades, in order to be able to convince a British that maybe, just maybe, he wasn't just inventing everything.

    Why explain all this, you may ask. Such past experience has made Greeks very suspicious and these are only few examples. The most, let us call them, paranoid, elements on both right and left wing parties, are very susceptible today to various conspiracy theories that involve the troika and Germany.

    But are all anti-troika elements simply paranoid? No. Many people are just non believers anymore. For instance, let us examine the narration that was presented by the 2 factions currently in the greek politicis, as far as the troika program is concerned.

    The troika program, supporting politicians and technocrats, made some predictions. The opposite side, made predictions too. The one side has failed all. When professor Yannis Varoufakis or professor Lapavitsas or Katsanevas, appears on tv and say that the program doesn't work, will fail and his predictions come true, while those of the opposite side fail one after the other and on top of that admit failures in their planning and methodology, who do you start believing? The goverment has no effective defense, has no "propaganda" against this. Which is a mistake, but it isn't an easy task either.

    You have Samaras, with whatever credibility left, after his initial stance against the 1st troika program, promicing you a "success story". And you have Yannis Varoufakis, arguing that the more faithfully you apply the program, the more trapped you become. After 3 years, who has more credibility?

    I am in favour of finishing this part of the troika program, i am against further program, but i understand how one doesn't believe in it. I consider it useful only in the part that asks some needed reforms, even if at the cost of some further economical damage.

    But, at the end, there is a logic in everything. Even the most paranoid greek, has a logic in his paranoia, if you are familiar enough with it, as to understand it.


    1. Thank you for your extensive elaboration. It certainly adds to my understanding of Greece (even though, as you say, I will never really understand Greece).

      Whether you are aware of it or not, you have really made a very strong case why Greece and the more rational, Northern-dominated EU are not a fit. I once had a Greek teacher from Crete who had lived in several European countries. Her judgement was that in all of Europe, there are no greater differences than between the Greek mindset and the German mindset.

      Perhaps someone should have said, 40 years ago, both to Greece and to the EU: "Look, no offense but the two of you don't really fit one another. You are going to tear each other apart. Why don't you look for an alternative arrangement?"

    2. It all depends on what each expects of the european union to be... If you see european union from an economic point of view, yes, i would agree. I would also agree that the Greek will never become German and the German will never become Greek. But the Italian, Spaniard, Portuguese will never become German either. Southerners mingle very well together.

      If, on the other hand, you talk of the EU, as in the preamble of the european constitution, that is another Europe.

      In an economic level, there is the question for Greece: Can or will Greece, follow an economic model which is compatible with the euro? I can't give you the answer.

      In a cultural level, there is another question? What is the concept of Europe today? Is it a german Europe? A nothern european europe? Or is there space for others too?

      And making the assumption that Greece leaves the euro or even the EU and follows a whatever plan of blissful isolation, turn to Russia or whatever else. The question remains: Will the rest of southerners, be prepared to live happily in a specific european concept, with specific rules or will the British, that, once more, alone they stand, prove to be the perfidious, but foxy Albion and Margaret Thatcher's prophecy on the end of EU and the position of Germany, will come true?

      I don't have any answer that i can justify with a good argument. History, has shown, that all empires rise and fall. The length of their lives, usually depend on their homogeneous content, but above all, on the perspicacity of their leaders, in recognizing problems, dangers and conflicts and solving them quickly, as well as in their ability to avoid the sweet, yet mortal embrace of complacency. Something that Greece is paying now, despite not being an empire, but the embrace of socialism was equally sweet too, to a sufficiently high percentage of the population.

      If it was a "northern european union" only, the answer would be much easier. But, there are other countries in the EU and in the euro, as well as aspiring members, that are closer to the greek rather than the german mindset.

      Greece in a way or another, is accustomed to having a turbulent history. In a sense, Greeks are in peace with tragedy.



  18. If you allow me a humorous parenthesis for the differences in mindsets.

    It was mid 90s. I was to visit some Austrian friends in Salzburg. I flew to Munich. My german is worse than your greek, i am sure. So i had to rely on english, with my greek accent of course. After i almost lost my luggage in the airport and found it in the relevant office, I wanted to take a train to ost banhof. I see an automatic ticket machine, but i was never very good with them. I always need clear analytic instructions and i couldn't find them in english.

    I ask a german gentleman who was sitting reading newspaper if he spoke english. He replied "a little".He didn't know how the machine was working either, so he raised his newspaper again and continued reading.

    I ask a second gentleman if he was speaking english and his reply was "a little". While he showed more interest to me and to the machine, he admitted ignorance too, but consulted me to find a normal ticket booth.I did. A very professionally smiling lady, with full cheeks, sold me the ticket, not just to ost banhof, but if i recall correctly, a ticket that was valid all the way to Austria.At the ost banhof, i was again lost,at the end i find my way to the railway and to my good fortune, i hear greek. It was a greek worker on the phone. As soon as i told him that i am greek and risking to lose my train,he took me to the correct departure point. The "DB" train, arrived. I thought "this can't be german train". Graffitti, poor cleaning conditions (did my compatriot miss a huge spot?) and a cockroach inside."Am i in Greece?"

    Skipping my pleasant austrian part, the return voyage was curious. The ticket bought in Austria for the exact distance, was much cheaper.The train was much better.

    Nowdays, in troika times, i joke with it and say "Greek in Germany, no wonder it was strange".

    But the point is not this. If you ask a Greek that speaks little english, "do you speak english"? He will reply without hesitation: "yes!". He will simply call another, who will still be badly speaking, but they will unite forces and at the end will find a solution. He may send you the wrong way, but he will send you somewhere!

    The same will happen to Italy, to an even greater extent. The Italian won't waiver even if he doesn't speak a word of english. He will call 2 more and will start gesturing, until the point that you have sufficiently understood.

    My humourous explanation, with many reserves though for the german case, as i have minimal experience with them in Germany, is:

    a) The German thinks: "I should warn you that my level of english is low. This will make our communication problematic. Possibly impossible. If you are unable to understand me, logic says, you will find another and you should!".

    b) The Greek and Italian think: "The important isn't my level of english, but whether or not i will send you somewhere else. So, in a way or another, my english is not important, you shouldn't worry about it, you don't need to know about it and so the truth about my language skill is irrelevant".

    Actually, with an Italian, there is also a good chance, he has studied in classical lyceum, in that case, it means 5 years of ancient greek, if the greek counterpart has similar background, they can write in greek and latin.

    For a German to understand a Greek and a Greek to understand a German, there should be a special, compulsory psychotherapy class. With dialogues like: "I do this because i feel... Why do you do it that way?". Can entire nations be submitted to compulsory, massive psychotherapy? Not that i know.

    Otherwise, it would be like having your wife, trying to turn you into a greek, or you to austrianize your wife. It is not impossible. But it is improbable. And marriages based on one trying to change the other, rather than accepting who he is, don't last long.


  19. @ Klaus Kastner,

    One last note that i would like to add. Do not despair, if you can't comprehend Greeks. I am not sure i understand them either and my, let us call it, theory, is the result of decades of introspection, observing, searching for historic analogies, comparison with some other countries that i know well enough and the realization that Greece was really never a geographically limited entity, but more an idea, a common language and culture that in the centuries has infused various populations and on their turn, they contributed to the concept of hellenism. Hellenism today, has no geographically defined "fatherland".

    The greek "psyche" is elusive,exactly because it isn't formed just by the geographical territory of modern Greece. In addition to the more known coastal Greeks of Minor Asia,

    Observe the small 6 century BC map here:

    In Italy:

    In Egypt:

    In Russia:

    Greeks in Jugoslavia:

    In Albania:

    In France

    Each of them is part of what forms "greek psyche",regardless of whether a greek is aware of it or not. This is why it is very difficult to understand it. We understand better, past experiences, past knowledge of ourselves. In a sense, the Greeks have a similarity with Jews.

    The modern Greek prays to the christian Virgin Mary, but has written songs for the pagan figure of Charon, since middle ages.

    In 1453, the Greeks of Constantinople had different reactions to the problem at hand. Some fought, some prayed, some were asking from the Venetians money to repair the city walls, some wanted to submit to the Pope in exchange for military help, others thought preferable defeat rather than betraying their fate.

    There is always a chess game between ideological approaches between greek factions and within the same faction.

    The greek communists, were united in their years of fight against the germans and the right wing. In their years of freedom, they split in internal factions. The most humourous example is "KKE-ML" (Marxist Leninist) and "ML-KKE" (which is also Marxist Leninist, but they inverted word positioning in the title, because they simply disagree on the interpretation of what is the definition of "Marxist-Leninist").

    Political parties, mass media, intellectuals, unaware voters, they all partecipate in a perpetual, invisible, chess game for the soul of Greece. But just like the numerous neurosis in the psyche of a human being, can't forever win, neither can they. They can only temporarily win a battle in the endless war.

    In a way, you, with your blog, are also a part of this invisible chess game, playing on the same side as mine.


  20. Ah, in case you wonder, despite my passionate belief that my side (right wing), was in the right side of the civil war and despite my firm belief that Gage's story should be taught to all greek children at school, my best greek friend is a communist. Not a fanatic communist, but he does have his moments of fanatism. Or is it i, that i have my moments of fanatism for him?

    Eventually, there will be a compromise for the narration of the civil war. But in the meantime, the war for the future continues.