Sunday, 26 February 2012

On Greece and more

The financial crisis in Greece is starting to look rather desperate to solve. Thousands of innocent citizens have had to watch their lives tumble down these past few years. I feel so sorry for the ordinary Greeks. It seems there is little they can do but to try to ensure they will elect the right kind of leaders to remedy the past mistakes – and to pray they will cope until then. For many, the only viable option is to emigrate.

View from the Lykavittos Hill toward the Acropolis and Piraeus. The large building by the park is the Parliament House in front of the Syntagma Square where most of the demonstrations are taking place.

The Parthenon on the Acropolis seen from the Philopappos Hill. 

The Erechtheion and the Porch of the Caryatids on the Acropolis.
We visited Athens in late 2009, i.e. some six months before the first protests against cutting public spending and raising taxes took place in front of the Parliament House. What struck our attention was that there were many uncared-for or totally abandoned buildings in downtown Athens and even in the picturesque old town. The hardships were visible already more than two years ago and I can only imagine what has happened since then.

The European Union is currently facing its worst crisis. The idea of a common market and a common currency with fiscal rules defining matters such as limits for government deficit and debt is all very well. But if the rules are continuously violated in most of the member states problems are bound to arise. It seems the EU leaders were too ambitious, too hasty and too optimistic when designing the present Union.

Several euro countries are running deeper and deeper into debt because, for years, they have been using way more than they have earned. Now they are expected to take severe austerity measures to cut down government expenditure, which in the case of Greece that has already hit the bottom may lead to an even greater recession. Still less jobs, still less taxes, still less consumption, farewell revival. Greece is a splendid tourist destination to be heartily recommended to anyone but excellent food, wonderful seaside resorts and unique archaeological sites will not attract enough revenue for the country to recover.

Statue of Triton (a merman) in the Ancient Agora.
In Italy, for example, the public sector has grown so huge that some cutting down of the number of civil servants and especially their generous benefits would be more than welcome. In fact, you wonder why Italy still hasn’t seen the rise of a new political party with a completely different kind of policy fighting the extravagant public spending and the deep-rooted habit of tax avoidance. One would expect this kind of a social reform to be in great demand in some of the Mediterranean countries.

You may have heard the old story about a penniless college student who sent a telegram to his farther reading, “No mon’. No fun. Your son.” The farther instantly replied, “Too bad. So sad. Your dad.”

It must have crossed many minds that the loving father’s approach might be a way to handle a country that has run itself to or beyond bankruptcy: let’s forget about your existing loans but from now on you will need to learn to manage your finances so that you will survive. Let them leave the euro if they will have a better chance to keep their heads above the water using their own currency. Let them return to the table when they are fulfilling the criteria.

For some time now, I’ve believed that market economy, or capitalism, as we now know it is advancing towards its final stages and a new kind of system or culture based on social and ecological responsibility will emerge. I may not see it, my children may not see it but I’m convinced one day there will be an end to this era of greed, selfishness and indifference.

Of course, I don’t have any competence to form an opinion on any of the above being a layman in all the disciplines involved. And having a financer of my own supporting me through the harder times. I’m so lucky he is not a self-seeker. To top it all, we are in such good terms that he lets me sleep under the same blanket.

View from the Acropolis across the Saronic Gulf towards the peninsula of Peloponnese.

The Lykavittos Hill seen from the Acropolis.

View from the Lykavittos Hill towards the mainland.
View from the Philopappos Hill towards the Temple of Olympian Zeus and
the Panathenaic Stadium or the Kallimarmaro.
View from the Acropolis through the pilars of the Propylaia towards Piraeus.
Shiny rock of the Acropolis worn out under millions of steps.

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