In a class of Macroeconomy. Introducing terminology. Explaining models. Trying to keep track of combinations of letters that organise concepts into units of meaning small enough to fit into crowded formulae where they contend with coefficients, brackets and signs.
Of course, at some point the expression financial crisis came up. It was bound to. And ironically enough, this old hellenic word is nowadays vested with semantic overflow featuring the new-Greeks…
Some comments are half ironic and some a bit more than that…
“But what do they expect when they retire at the age of 55?!”
“Eh, what do the Greeks have…? Olive oil? Tobacco? Eh, they can mix drinks, they have the sun, but that’s about it”
True my fellow Europeans and compatriots.
Believing that the Greeks could actually face their ridiculously high debt with quinquagenarian pensioners living the vida loca, fancy umbrella drinks stirred for tourists, thirty-five degrees in the shade, olive oil and tobacco is probably as naive as believing that sometime in the fifteenth century a little boy actually saved the city of Brussels from a fire by a miraculous pee-pee.
There is a coefficient of ignorance and lack of knowledge in any human interaction. Let’s face it. Even in united Europe, the average Swede and Greek live most their lives in non tangent realities.
Pride does not blind me into not seeing the ridicule in Greece’s situation. However, one must tread very carefully when people’s lives are at stake. As so many other Greeks, I have many reasons to be mad.
I am mad at the mentality that has led to all the wrong people doing all the wrong things and playing with the future of generations.
I am mad at votes wasted on politicians serving their own rights and interests.
I am mad at the fact that the public sector has been the playground of nepotism.
I am furious at those who are ready to sacrifice the gift of democracy to some unacceptable neofascist ideology.
I am deeply disappointed with the spiritual leaders who do not use their position to set some things straight once and for all.
I hate how the media act as distorters of truth and poor entertainers, rather than as informers and educators.
The sad truth is that many people cannot afford feeding their children properly, or heating their homes in the winter. Of course, these people never lived in any kind of luxury.
Despite everything that has gone wrong, I know for a fact that the average Greek bread-winner never retired at the age of fifty-five. Nevertheless, public servants could retire after thirty years of service (25 + 30 = 55).
In the eighties and nineties, while growing up, I knew the kind of people who raised their families in seventy square meters and commuted to work in crowded buses. The people who spent their holidays in their villages and towns of origin.
I knew a lady who worked in a cookie factory assembly line and many more who were the work force of the booming textile industry. Their long working hours were tacitly acknowledged by tags stating “Made in Greece“. The same tags that now say made in Bangladesh, India, or People’s Republic of China.
My uncle who passed away some years ago, spent his young years on heavy manual work and then worked his sitting bones off driving a taxi in Thessaloniki. And yes, he paid taxes. And no, he never spent holidays in Thailand.
I guess that people confused the notion of wealth with identity and real progress. Plastic money and loans came to replace the down-to-earth values of land and property. Sadly enough, one for all and all for one was not in fashion. But later on we all found out that when one falls, many others will too.
What I personally find really ironic is that the politicians who prioritised quid pro quo deals in sectors such as defense and telecoms with foreign governments serving the interests of their own industries did not see how the deficit in education and health care would back-fire on them.
Greece may not be entirely saved by olive oil, but in a way, the good old olive tree will play a part in the process of recovery. The earth that nourishes us will return as an unquestionably stable value, and so will the sun and the sea. It is no coincidence that 15% of all goods transported by sea are carried by Greek ships. After all, Greeks have a longer tradition as seafarers than as bar-tenders.
Maybe, in some years time, when the country has looked its problems right in the face and hopefully healed its wounds, Greece can become that place where olive oil flows abundantly and the sun shines for everyone.
A small spot on the world map, but a blessed place for healing and recollection. A country with no heavy industry, but with industrious people.