Greece Decides

A sigh, but not one entirely of relief.

The much-anticipated return to the polls happened in Greece this past weekend, and the global game of economic chicken is over for the moment.

The result of the nation’s second election in a little over a month was a very narrow victory for one of Greece’s traditional political parties, the conservative and pro-bailout/EURO/austerity New Democracy (ND) party. Assuming ND can successfully form a government, this would seem to indicate that Greece will, for now, stay within the boundaries of a heavy-handed, German-dictated austerity agreement and stay within the Eurozone.

Yesterday’s election gives hope to many, including those working in the world’s financial markets, and rips it cleanly and painfully away from others, like ordinary working Greeks, who can now fully expect to pay for their misplaced faith in international establishments, corporate elites and even their own elected leaders.

One important lesson I hope my beloved Greek brothers and sisters have learned through this recent experience: political leaders, whether democratically elected or not, cannot be trusted to fulfill their campaign promises.  I recognize that I am a virtually complete cynic when it comes to this, but my own considerable experience amply supports this conclusion.

The Greek people, that is to say, the real, hard-working, family-oriented, open-hearted Greek people, who were sold blue-sky and puffy-cloud, joy-everlasting, land-of-milk-and-honey fictions about their participation in the Eurozone have been handed the bill for a banquet they were never invited to attend and, for which, their succeeding generations will be left to slave.

So, for now, the world has escaped the feared tipping over of the first Eurozone domino. I’d say it’s scant cause for celebration.

Not Your Way

My dear brothers and sisters,

For millennia, you have introduced the world to grand aesthetics, philosophy, mathematics, architecture, national heroism and theatrical drama. Through your brave actions in the streets and at the ballot boxes, you continue to demonstrate what direct democracy looks like.

You cannot know the depth of pride with which I hold my Greek heritage. Nor can you know the real pain I have felt lately at your recent suffering. But it was with startled disbelief that I read of the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in this week’s elections.

Seats in your glorious parliament for people who call for “taking the dirt out of the country,” “cleaning up Athens” and planting landmines along the borders to stop illegal immigrants from crossing in? A place in government for black-shirted thugs who violently break up opposition rallies? Votes for those who sit in front of an Hellenic version of the Nazi swastika?

No, my brothers and sisters; it cannot be. Not in the birthplace of democracy.

Please believe that I understand the appeal of dark temptations when things seem at their worst. We have seen troubled times bring out the worst of us, here in America, as well. But this is not the Greek way. This is not our way. Not fascism. Not a dirty echo of Nazism. This is not Greece.
It is time now to show the world what Greek heroes look like.
With support and love,
Your brother

Reality Check

Athens is ablaze.

Many Greeks are consumed with anger over the terms necessary to avail themselves of the financial bailout offered by the deities of the European community and have taken to the streets in protest. The changes, protesters claim,  amount to a significant and unacceptable change in Greek life, in Greek society, in what it means at its core to be Greek.

This is a precarious moment. Failure of the Greek government to deliver on these terms (and get the bailout funds) would result in serious consequences for Greece, and for the rest of Europe. Together with other developments, it may signal the end of European financial union – no more single currency, open trading relationships, free flow of people across historic national boundaries.

Care to watch a complete meltdown of the European community economy? Care to consider for just a moment what that might mean to the rest of the world? War? Complete world economic collapse?

The scale of this issue is, I realize, hard to fathom, even, perhaps, harder to take. So, I understand my fellow Americans wanting ready distraction – professional golf, the “tragic” death of a pop music princess, Oscars, baseball’s spring training, March Madness, etc.

All well and good; I enjoy diversions too. But our media is splashed with every angle possible on Whitney Houston, God rest her soul, and not a sentence for events that could shape our world for the rest of our lifetimes.

Time for a good strong dose of reality.