Dear friends and colleagues,
It is with pity and concern that I read communications in this forum of panicked Euro supporters who see the imminent demise of their beloved and “oh so precious” currency and a possible exit from the EU as the “sum of all their fears”.
I have recently submitted a post showing that Greece would benefit substantially if it exits both the Euro and the EU. Some of the replies that I received were astonishing. Certain persons stated that it was better to be poor and become even poorer as long as the EU protected us from a Turkish assault!!! I am amazed that there is a single person in Greece that believes that any European will spent a single bullet to protect Greece from a putative invasion that exists only in a heated imagination. I am saying this having served in the Greek army during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and having faced Turks. By the way, not a single European or a single member of NATO moved a finger at that time. In fact, most of Europe was complicit to the Turkish stratagem of engaging in talks in Switzerland while preparing for the August 1974 push. The only negotiating tool we have is our guns. We do not need persons who are about to soil their pants on the simple mention of a Turkish invasion. Maybe they need some good hardening with a three-year term in the army!!
These fears of either an economic meltdown following the withdrawal of the Euro or being “unprotected by the EU” in the case of a Turkish invasion are the politics of subjugation to European overlords. They are eerily reminiscent of the early 15th century, when the Greeks became so afraid of the “imminent arrival of the Pope and the Franks” that they subscribed en mass to the Ottoman state. Mark of Ephesus proclaimed that it was “better to see a Turkish turban in the City than the hat of cardinal”. Guess what? Neither the Franks nor the cardinals were coming, but the Ottomans certainly arrived and we know how this played out. I do not want to remind these persons of the oft-used statement by Benjamin Fraklin that those “who give up freedom for security have neither freedom nor security”.
It does not matter how many times I prove conclusively that “misgovernance” in Greece was not responsible for the current crisis. These individuals (and the public overall) have bought the story hook, line and sinker. I have always stated that Greece was badly governed mainly because the public was removed from the exercise of power. Successive waves of centralization have removed the public from most civil and executive affairs ever since 1936, when most of local government was cashiered. Even recently, thousands more of civic councils were disbanded. One cannot govern Greece effectively from the basements of a few ministries. What most Greeks observe as bureaucratic incapacity of dealing with issues is a matter of organization not a matter of individuals or morals. Even so, Greece was subjected to the same loss of competiveness and de-industrialization as any of the EU peripherals countries, including those with capable administration and low debt levels. In fact, de-industrialization has affected Italy more than Greece (in relative terms) and I have difficulty believing that the Greek political scene was worse than the absolutely bizarre Italian peccadillos and regional tensions.
The post-election tragicomedies have shown how accurate my first “Euro-madness” postings were. The incapability and the fears of the Greek establishment and electorate to face the obvious, such as the return of the drachma, is creating an atmosphere of crisis instead of one of the resolution of the crisis. Does Alexis Tsipras really believe that he can stare down Merkel and the Brussels establishment? Does any Greek politician really believe that the EU is about to open its purse to give tens of billions of euros to Greece so that the government can enable good Keynesian policies and exit the crisis? Who lives in this world of make believe???
The only thing coming out of Brussels and Berlin is more pain and punishment. Even by the EU’s own reckoning, the 2nd bailout enabled by the February 2012 memorandum would leave the country much worse in 2020 than it was in the beginning of the crisis. Now, the best projections have the debt at 2020 being 137% of GDP and unemployment at 17% with growth barely at 2% annually. Even with the best projections, GDP in 2020 is expected to be 8% lower than GDP in 2008. Some rescue.
It is sad to see Greeks moping around, self-flagellating and being unable to part with the Euros in their wallets, however fast these Euros drag them to poverty and destitution. Their fears are all-paralyzing, all-consuming and all defeating. Greece was able to setup a currency (the drachma) after centuries with the Ottoman paras. And this occurred in a country mostly destroyed after ten years of brutal war. Have modern Greeks turned that soft, that fearful, that cowardly, as for us not be able to be free again??? I think that the verdict here is a resounding “Yes”. Greece, as it appears today, does not deserve either wealth or independence. For that, you need to have character and determination. This is possessed by a only few old Greeks in the 90’s today. Sad but true.
Anastassios Retzios, PhD
San Ramon, California