Νέμεσις

Could today be nemesis for Greece’s tragedy?

News reports tell us three people were killed in a bank firebombed in a riot today.  And that the demonstration organisers were shocked into calling it off when they heard the news.  Could it be that history will put today down as the day they turned the corner, lost the appetite for destructive protest (those who have it), and buckled down to try and work their way out of their troubles?

If so, let me wish them all the best.  Not that anything I say matters.  More importantly it seems Mrs Merkel is trying hard to help them to help themselves, steering a perilous course between a Σκύλλα and Χάρυβδις of conflicting demands. And they perhaps have the Irish model to follow.

What will it take to move the UK on from hubris?  With all the manifestos still firmly in denial, tomorrow’s election is a lost opportunity.

[edit to add] Showing my ignorance here.  Of course I meant to say Κάθαρσις and strike a much more optimistic note.

Posted on May 5, 2010, in economy, politics. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nice heading. How do you do that in a URL?

    Seems to me there are two ways of looking at Greece’s plight.

    There’s the conventional story, which is what’s being pushed by pretty much everyone outside Greece: that Greece has overborrowed and overspent, and serious financial hardship is inevitable. According to this viewpoint, the Greeks have no choice but to do whatever it takes to pay off their debt, because the alternative – default – is unthinkable, to say nothing of illegal.

    But there’s also the story as seen by ordinary working Greeks: that their government lied to them, and let them get horribly indebted to international bankers who were already obscenely rich, and still are; and that the bankers and politicians who caused the mess are not the ones being asked to pay for it.

    You can, of course, make the principled argument that they live in a democracy and thus get the government they deserve. But what does that say about you and me? Or you can make the pragmatic argument that defaulting would basically cripple their ability to borrow again for the foreseeable future, as well as punishing millions of more-or-less innocent people with interests in Greece’s debt. But from the point of view of an ordinary working Greek – it’s not entirely clear what’s wrong with spreading the pain around a bit more, rather than focusing it all on one nation, and ‘never borrowing again’ probably sounds quite an attractive option right now. Besides (they may reasonably, rhetorically ask), aren’t those who lend money irresponsibly just as culpable as those who borrow it?

    To their credit, the EU isn’t entirely deaf to this argument, which is why it’s bending over backward to help Greece out at the expense of other Euro members. But the IMF is still playing the same old rich-man, poor-man games. I’m not surprised the Greeks are upset.

  2. I think your comment describes Iceland’s plight far more than Greece’s.

    Greece got into debt to sustain an absurd level of privileges to its public sector, and that’s precisely where the most drastic cuts are falling. Rough justice, yes, same as when they tax me as a rich person when I (as a non-property-owner) am in reality a loser not a gainer from our bubble. But it’s by no means such a people-vs-fat-cats divide as you seem to suggest.

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