Thursday, November 7, 2013

Greece - The Next Weimar?

This article by Prof. Aristides Hatzis triggered some powerful associations with me. Prof. Hatzis describes all the tensions which presently stress Greek society (particularly the events surrounding Golden Dawn). And then he makes the following comment:

"If you visit Greece you will be mesmerised by the tranquillity of its residents. Most of us are watching these dreadful acts as spectators of a soccer game".

I spend close to half the year in my wife's country of origin and I can fully subsribe to this observation. If it weren't for the news which I read and for the many closed shops, I wouldn't get the faintest idea that Greece is in the midst of an enormous economic crisis.

When I drive to downtown Thessaloniki, I have to make my way through bumper-to-bumper traffic and, if I am lucky, I find parking somewhere in the second row. I see full cafés and shopping streets crowded with people. Cheerful people, I should add. On a Friday evening, the area near the harbor is overcrowded with young people sitting in small groups on the ground. There may be a coffee or a soft drink here or there but no alcohol. Those young people seem to simply enjoy friendship.

When I drive past IKEA or the huge Cosmos Mediterranean shopping mall, I see seemingly endless parking areas full with cars. When we visit my wife's village, I see normal life. My wife's brother and his 3 adult children are all self-employed. They have all seen better times but they are still doing ok. Last weekend, our in-laws took us out to lunch in a village taverna. The place was full to the last seat and the tables were bending over with food and drinks. And - everyone seemed to enjoy life.

The ability of Greek society to live with economic tension is nearly unbelievable to me. One wonders how wonderfully this society would work if it only worked wonderfully.

The following what-if thought crossed my mind. What if one chartered a few jumbo planes and flew a couple of thousand Greek politicians and their cronies to places in the Greek diaspora and what if those planes picked up a couple of thousand successful Greeks from the diaspora and flew them to Greece to take up the positions vacated by the above?

Would that perhaps quickly make a difference?


  1. "Would that perhaps make a difference?"
    I know it was just a joke, but I can't help it, the temptation is too big.
    Of cause it would make a difference, to the Greeks of the diaspora, and a bad one.
    History has shown us that the occupiers always succumb to the habits of the occupied. What do you think happened to the Austrian civil servants and officers who served of the fringes of the KuK empire? They "went native". (Reminds me that I should read Radetzkymarsch again).

  2. Klaus, if I may, I would like to post the following somewhat melodramatic story to counteract your rosy depiction of life in crisis-stricken Greece.

    Bottom line, yes, a lot of Greeks still have money, and for them life goes on as usual. But for a lot of other Greeks, life doesn't go on as usual. The only thing is that the second category don't go to IKEA or to the local restaurant or wherever, but rather stay hidden in the shadows so we don't see them.