By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
I usually work more than ten hours a day and most of the weekends. I am often happy with what I do and I don’t want to complain, as it is very rare for people to be doing what they really want to do. Still, I criticize myself for not being able to master my life and enjoy it more.
But now I am in deep confusion. Recently some European politicians and parties have been returning to the argument that Greeks are lazy and that Europeans should immediately put a stop to the money they are paying to help us.
Of course I don’t believe those conspiracy theorists who keep telling us that Goldman Sachs and other institutions of the same kind orchestrated a financial attack on Greece in 2009-10, after first launching a preliminary “communication” attack against Greeks, portraying them as lazy, disorganized and corrupt. These conspiracy theorists say this massive “communication” attack served no other purpose than to justify what they afterwards did to Greece. They are even telling the crazy story that banks have used a primitive form of self-destructive “German nationalism”, successfully camouflaging their aim to transform their crisis into an EU debt war, making Greeks and other southern Europeans pay their debts, after previously having the foresight to transform them into sovereign debt.
You have to be very perverse to believe such things. Personally I have enormous respect for most European politicians and also for the people running the Commission. As for the executives of Goldman Sachs and other such institutions, they are of an exemplary honesty and the same applies for the accounts of the Deutsche (?) Bank. As for the International Monetary Fund, I have no comment to make on it. Its international reputation speaks for itself.
So, when I hear respected European politicians and parties explaining to their electorate that we Greeks are lazy, that’s it! Finito la musica, passato la fiesta.
There is of course a small and slightly confusing detail. Why on earth did Eurostat, the statistical agency of the European Union, some time ago publish that data proving that Greeks work much more every week than most Europeans, including Germans, Austrians etc.? Something is very strange here!
But if this is true perhaps it can also explain why the EU, Germany and the IMF have imposed on us these particular “help to Greeks programs”. They wanted to encourage us to relax a little and enjoy our lives, by sending two million Greeks into long-term unemployment or immigration abroad to find a job.
Giving money to Greeks!
I am now also hearing some European politicians and parties saying again that they are giving money to Greeks and should stop it. I am glad to hear this! The money does not help Europe and it corrupts Greece.
But again I have some small confusing problems. Where is the money? If they are giving us so much, why has my income been cut by more than 80% since the beginning of the crisis? Why am I not sure I will end my days with a reasonable pension and health care, rather than becoming a beggar in some park in the capital? Where is the money? Perhaps if I change my way of writing I will see this money, as a friend told me?
Of course there are some vulgar newspapers in Germany that are scandal-oriented and sometimes completely un-German. One of them is Handelsblatt. Recently it published an article explaining that 96% of the “help the Greeks” money went to the international banks and not to the Greeks! These findings are said to be based on some obscure study or other by a German university or research center.
Greeks are lazy, but not all lazy people are Greeks. It seems that some of them are German professors. They don’t have anything better to do to help their country and they spend their time tracking where the “money to help Greeks” is going!
I don’t believe anything of what these Handelsblatt characters have written. But even if I accepted for one moment (no more!), the accuracy of their reporting, then what? 4% of the “money to Greeks” still goes to Greeks. As for the remaining 96%, it is also indirectly helping Greece at least in two ways.
First, it is increasing Greek sovereign debt, thus providing Greeks with a very strong incentive to work more and better (if of course they find a job, which may be the weak point of the idea). It is also strongly motivating for all the country’s public property and infrastructure to be handed over to the creditors for them to manage efficiently. (This is exactly what is included in the last agreement between Tsipras and the creditors discussed now in the “Greek parliament”. We cannot be sure of all its details, because the bill the “Greek governement” has introduced consists of 7.500 pages, translated from English. We are not supermen, like Greek deputies, who will study these 7.500 pages in 14 hours, so we can’t be sure. It seems the bill provides for the transfer of all Greek public property to the Creditors for 99 years.)
Do you see any better way for such an aim (give the Greek public property to foreigners to run it) to be achieved, than increase the sovereign debt? With the sovereign debt you can do what otherwise you would need a war to achieve!
Greece can make fantastic progress, but on one condition: that the country be taken away from the Greeks!
The same is true in another way. This “help the Greeks” money may not help Greece directly, but, through the “reform program” accompanying it, it is helping to bring about exponential increases in the private debt of individuals and enterprises, leaving Greeks with no other possibility than to sell their homes, bank assets and enterprises to foreigners. But this, too, will give a tremendous stimulus to the country’s productivity. Does anybody in the world doubt that foreigners can manage these assets much better than Greeks can?
It is clear that Europeans and IMF are paying money to help Greeks. If the money is not being used to help Greeks, this is because Greeks are stupid, as this very polite person Mr. Wolfgang Schäuble informed the Greek Prime Minister in Davos in February.
As for me, I have arranged for an appointment with my optician. Perhaps he has an explanation for why I don’t see this money!
Stop the money to Greeks!
Whether the money is or is not “to help Greeks”, one thing is certain: it must be stopped, and the sooner the better. That is what some Central European politicians have been explaining to their electorates.
They are of course right. And I think we should once more pay tribute to the brave spirit of Otmar Issing, the leading German authority in currency matters and one of the architects of the euro who in March 2010 had the pluck to write a remarkable and very serious article in the Financial Times Deutschland in which he insisted that Europe, and Germany, should not help Greece! The article had a strong impact at the time it was published and significantly shaped European conceptions of Greek problems.
Of course such deeply penetrating minds are so focused on their own ideas that they sometimes suffer minor memory losses. Mr. Issing clearly forgot to mention in that publication that he was a paid advisor to Goldman Sachs Europe. But such trifling oversights in no way detract from the grandeur of his analysis. On the contrary.
Reflecting on all this, I must confess that I fell into deep confusion and for some weeks could not account for my condition. And then suddenly I woke up one morning and resolved the contradiction. If Greeks are lazy and I am not lazy, if Greeks receive so much money to help them and I have less and less money, it is obvious that there can be only one explanation: I am not Greek! All that remains to be explained is why it took me so long to discover the truth.
A new nightmare: Is Schäuble German?
Calm returned to my mind. I slept well for a number of consecutive nights, but then one night my father (who passed away many years ago) appeared to me in my dream, took one sarcastic look at me and said: “Since you were a little boy I have been telling you and your mother that you are an idiot.”
“What? Dad, what are you saying?”
“You listen to me, my boy. I warned you from the time that you were very young that you should not trust people! How long did it take you to understand what kind of person this Tsipras is?”
“Dad, what are you saying?”
“I am saying that you are wrong to believe you are not Greek. In fact, my poor boy you are Greek. It is the Greek PM that is not Greek!” He paused, relishing my surprise, and then continued: “Unfortunately for you, you are Greek. All my efforts to stop you becoming a Greek were vain. It is your mother’s fault! Have you learned nothing from our history, from our civil war? This nation has experienced one disaster after another, not only now but for as long as we can remember. We had this stupid idea of inventing such notions as ethnos (nation), of logos, of citizen, of freedom, more than 2,600 years ago. Solon even carried out a debt restructuring. Do you believe that all this has done anything for our reputation with banks? When are you going to learn this basic principle of shutting your mouth, and keeping it shut?”
He was in a real panic, fearing what could happen to his son. But only a few minutes after this outburst he was already feeling guilty for his behavior. And he said to me: “Look here, I will share a secret with you. Even Schäuble is not a German!”
“Dad you are really going too far now. This Schäuble is a mild, civilized, very serious and politically proper German nationalist”, who balances the books for Germany, and everyone there trusts him. Don’t you see how he behaves?
What else could he be but a German? How could you say he is not? His ministry building itself proves that he is German. It is the same building where Goering had his office! What an idea, that he is not German!”
He looked at me tenderly. He did not want to offend me any more. He said: “My son I was hoping you would be more careful in the way you analyze people. Read again Günter Grass’s last poem on Greece and Europe: his analogy with the time of Hitler. He knows Germans better than you do”.
“Dad, can you kindly stop speaking in riddles and just explain what you mean?”
My father at last assumed the serious, pedagogic and dialogical style of the good thermodynamics professor he had once been. “Listen here, my son, a German “nationalist” could not hand over the governance of the European Union to Goldman Sachs and the IMF. A German “nationalist” would not sacrifice all the political capital that Germany had accumulated in Europe since the war for the sake of “disciplining” Greeks. A German “nationalist” would not permit the Americans to torpedo the agreement his own Foreign Minister had achieved in Kiev and then impose sanctions on Russia. A German “nationalist” would not defend the Iraq war against his Chancellor. You are a physicist my son. You should begin from the facts, not from your ideas about who is who or what someone says he is. It is actions that count. Look at what a person does. The same applies, by the way, for Tsipras. He claims to be a leftist, if not a communist. But could a leftist or a communist behave the way he has behaved?”
“Dad, all this smells of conspiracy theory. You don’t believe, I hope, that some mysterious “Empire of Finance” is ruling the world and imposing change through the co-optation of
“My son”, was his response. “Lord Kelvin used to say “speak not of what you cannot count.” But he did not say “do not think”!
At this point I woke up and phoned my psychoanalyst.