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Greek Tragedy


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By:  Nick Howard  |  Date: November 2011  |  Contact the Author

Part 1 | Part 2
The Greek Islands are stunning. Picturesque villages back dropped by the deep blue waters of the Aegean and Ionian Seas. The weather is usually fantastic, wine somewhat of a world secret and, of course, the food - absolutely fantastic!

Here we have the trappings of paradise. Perhaps, it’s no wonder the Greeks laid claim to everything from democracy, the Hippocratic Oath and indoor plumbing. If one considers philosophers such as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, the world intelligences revolved around Greece. But, it’s perhaps the people. Those Greeks, who enjoy life, eat well and are never short of an animated debate - which I left for last.

The current world events focusing on Greece can be simplified in this brief oratory. There are many successful Greeks. It’s just that almost all of them don’t live in Greece! They moved on long ago because the opportunities were greater. Canada, for one, has been blessed by a few printers who make a difference. The Grecian system of public finance has left the country a backwater of ineptitude and removed any risk-for-reward infrastructure that is predominant in places like Germany and North America.

Having been accepted into the Eurozone and relinquishing the Drachma, Greeks are finally realizing they were sucking the country dry with socialized welfare. The working population has grown so used to standard 2-month vacations, short work days and unaffordable government pensions; I’m surprised it took this long for France and Germany to figure out what a mistake they made. What will eventually happen is anyone’s guess as the world banking system as well as large insurers (who bought the Greek bonds) will take a big hit. That pain will impact everyone even the Chinese who do a lot of the treasury buying.

Demonstrators in the plaza in front of the Greek parliament.  Similar demonstrations took place in other major cities, protesting the new austerity measures proposed by the government. 

Prime Minister George Papandreou and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in June 2011

The solution is clear and perhaps Greek Prime Minister Papandreou will resign. This is but another headline that will eventually allow Greece to take the bail-out money and continue hacking away at what has existed for as long as I can remember.

I’m half Greek. My mother came from Greece. Listening to her deploring the rest of Europe about the shabby treatment of the Greeks, I can see it's going to be a lot of work to get Greece re-aligned with the rest of Europe. There is such a mindset in this society that a catastrophe is the only way out.

My last trip to the country was somewhat sobering. My wife Liana and I loved the food. But, the Parthenon, which sits on the Acropolis, will never be restored, the streets are bad, pollution worse and even relatives in both Corfu and Athens were in a bit of a fog. The men particularly. My female cousins seemed to be the only ones actually working. Two run small clothing shops and the other a small restaurant. The men? Well, not much output really and they’d love to discuss “nothing” over a Greek coffee, worry beads and a meal . . anytime.

The Greek people are not to blame. It's the autocracy that is the problem. Greeks by nature are kind, thoughtful and generous. Most eke out a living dictated by the rules and mindset of past governments. Italy, Spain, Ireland bear similar problems, too. Greece is just the current poster boy for what bad government policies can do to a nation.

The world’s economies are battered. Do we really know what fixes them? What do the smartest minds really think and do they have a solution? Writing down debt presumes money is free. As Bill Gates recently opined to the G-20, money is not free and presuming we can simply withdraw more when times are tough is silly. The Chinese contingent said as much when a Chinese delegate suggested that rich countries now are borrowing from poor countries (USA-China) and maybe now its time (for the rich) to reconsider lowering [their] living standards.


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