A Greek Tragedy

17 June 2011

A Greek Tragedy

You can say a great deal about the Greek people, but not that they are stupid. They invented democracy, and in science and philosophy we are still living on the inheritance of Greek wisdom. But now, in our times, Greece has become everyone’s whipping boy.

By Emile Roemer

Emile RoemerFor years now Greek politicians have been taking people for a ride and making a real mess of things. With creative accountancy, they talked their way into the Eurozone. In this they were aided mightily by major banks, such as Goldman Sachs, who were handsomely rewarded for their assistance in the swindle.

Now that the Greek debts have risen to such an extent, there appears to be no route out other than via debt rescheduling. And just as is the case in our own day-to-day lives, you don’t give someone who is already deep in the red an extra credit card. I have been pleased to see that ever more parties within the Dutch Parliament are beginning to understand that giving increasing amounts of money to the Greeks offers no solution for the enormous mountain of debt which they have accumulated, but I’m still hoping that the penny will drop at some point with the big parties of centre-left and centre-right.

The Greek tragedy has many victims, with the hardest hit as things stand being the Greeks who work hard for little reward. Many people will know from their holidays a Greek family who run a pension or small hotel, but think too of the Greek worker who lives on the proceeds of his or her job, as bus driver, metal-worker or postie. They work round the clock for a pretty average existence. Of course you can accuse these people of having allowed a pack of corrupt politicians to remain in the saddle for years and years, but that doesn’t make the blows they are now taking any easier to bear.

As is proper to any good Greek drama, this tragedy features a bunch of baddies. On the one side there’s the Greek politicians, but on the other there are most certainly also the bankers who made money from fiddling the books, for years extracting a high rate of interest on risky loans to Greece. And now these same banks expect the taxpayer to fork out to safeguard their interests. Of course, we should not do any such thing. It’s high time that the banks themselves made a contribution to this Greek tragedy.

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