‘Work to Eat, Steal to Have’

What a beautiful country and what a heartbreaking spectacle of anarchy and self-hatred. A friend forwarded me this note that he received from a relative in Athens. The matter-of-fact closing line is revealing. Athenians have been coping with this malaise for a long, long time:

Every person you ask will have his own take on the riots/events in Greece/Athens, mine is the following:

What Greece faces is a situation were you no longer have a society. You have people who happen to be at the same place and everyone is going for his own with no regard to anything. The “System” is considered unfair & ineffective by almost all.

This attitude comes across in the quote: “work to eat and steal to have”

The situation is the result of the bureaucratic nature of the State, the statist ideology of the Country, and a System/attitude that does not reword work nor allows the most competitive bids to usually win.

Concerning specifics:

Karamanlis is not considered to be making money from graft; however, he is allowing corruption to take place and is not taking steps to change the system.

Foreigners are more involved in the looting because in general they are more active whenever it comes to making a buck.

Left-wingers are much more active in the riots because their ideology in Greece is more permissive to violence & stealing and they have an axe to grind with the “conservative” government.

Conservatives working in the private sector have been livid with this government for a while now for ridiculous delays in government payments (i.e state hospitals delay payments for three years), administrative decisions (ministerial permissions for investments to proceed, court decision etc.) and new taxation.

All the above help make the environment challenging.

Writing in England’s Guardian newspaper, Helena Smith asks, “How much tear gas can a nation take? How many stones can it collect?”

Those of us who live here – who have seen how frayed the fabric of public order can become – now know, in no uncertain terms, that the orgy of violence that has gripped this beautiful land masks a deeper malaise. It is a sickness that starts not so much at the top but at the bottom of Greek society, in the ranks of its troubled youth. For many these are a lost generation, raised in an education system that is undeniably shambolic and hit by whopping levels of unemployment (70 per cent among the 18-25s) in a country where joblessness this month jumped to 7.4 per cent. If they can find work remuneration rarely rises above €700 (this is, after all, the self-styled €700 generation), never mind the number of qualifications it took to get the job. Often polyglot PhD holders will be serving tourists at tables in resorts. One in five Greeks lives beneath the poverty line. Exposed to the ills of Greek society as never before, they have also become increasingly frustrated witnesses of allegations of corruption implicating senior conservative government officials and a series of scandals that have so far cost four ministers their jobs.

And as the Times of London points out, the political culture — on the left and the right — is viewed by many Greeks (with well justified cynicism) as utterly corrupt and self-serving:

The bitter legacy of a civil war 65 years ago has left Greek politics mired in an outdated clash between a far Left instinctively hostile to capitalism and a traditionalist Right that has done little for social inclusiveness. The political establishment, dominated by the rival Papandreou and Karamanlis dynasties, has failed to convince many Greeks that the future lies in Western Europe, rather than in a Byzantine exceptionalism. Too often the politicians have ignored reform to engage in personal vendettas. Alienated youth has been an easy target for demagoguery.

Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Church of Greece, said of the riots: “This tragedy cannot be resolved by burning and destroying the property of people who themselves have problems.” He could have gone much further. The Archbishop could have pointed out that (aside from the looting and hooliganism) much of the violence was ideological. The ideology seeks to destroy private property, economic life, authority, government — all emblems of the anarchist’s hatred. And once the emblems are incinerated, what will the anarchist build in its place? What will the Greek people do then?

Would they listen if the Archbishop spoke more forcefully. That is doubtful. The Greek Church, in the eyes of many, is part of the problem. In the weeks leading up to the current crisis, the papers were filled with yet another sensational Church scandal.

Even as protesters rampaged, a parliamentary committee was taking evidence in a scandal over an illegal government land swap carried out with Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos. Senior ministers are said to have diddled taxpayers out of some €100m while handsomely lining their own pockets. Two have resigned already: George Voulgarakis, the merchant-marine minister, whose wife acted as a notary for the deal, and Theodoros Roussopoulos, the government’s spokesman.

Monks bribing public officials? Engaging in money laundering?

The Archbishop said he knew nothing about this business.

“I am astounded by everything that has been published and I have total faith in the justice system,” said Ieronymos … when questioned about the deal, which allegedly left taxpayers short-changed.

The monastic community comes under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul and, as such, Ieronymos is powerless to take any action. “The Church of Greece has no authority over Mount Athos, just at Mount Athos has no authority over the Church of Greece,” he said.

Meanwhile, Greece burns. Put out the lights on the Age of Reason.

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