A friend who plans to spend Christmas and New Year's in Greece files this report on that beleaguered and financially challenged nation, the ancient homeland of Periclean democracy, Sophoclean tragedy, Ariostophelian comedy, the Parthenon (left) and Doric architecture (the model of the neo-classical facades that the great capitalist financiers favored), Plato, Aristotle, Achilles, Odysseus, Penelope, Orestes, Electra, Oedipus, Antigone, Teiresias, and the goddess Athena. -- DL
There are at least two ways of looking at the presidential election in Greece on June 17. The most obvious is that the election of New Democracy's Antonis Samaras (30% of the vote) was a complete disaster in that it basically extends the policies that led to the current crisis, and this despite the fact that Samaras's platform was indistinguishable from the Pasok platform (13% of the vote) until it became obvious that the Syriza antibailout platform (27% of the vote) was too popular to simply dismiss. This in turn led to references from New Democracy about "amendments" to the current bailout program, which has done so little for Greece, the rest of Europe, and the world. However, to my knowledge, no specific amendments have been proposed. . . .
Syriza and its candidate, Alexis Tsipras, have a more sanguine view, one exemplified by the parties in Athens on Sunday night when Syriza learned it had come in a fairly close second -- and articulated by Tsipras a few days later in an interview with Reuters (during which, incidentally, he made no reference whatever to the chortling heard from the G7 summit when those august heads of state learned that Samaras had won the election. That chortling was echoed, no doubt, by the EU finance ministers in Luxembourg last Friday). Tsipras and his party believe that the bailout program is doomed and that the new government doesn't have a chance of staying in power. Syriza is ready to take over and reject the bailout, and Tsipras expects this to happen soon rather than later. Anyone who thinks he's being overly optimistic would do well to study the map of Greece in the Wikipedia entry for the June 17th election in Greece, remembering always that capital Athens is more like New York than Washington and that no Greek feels any further from what is happening to his or her country than any other Greek. It's a result of living on 6,000 islands.
Yes, it will take Greece a long time to recover, but — longer than it took to recover from the Venetian and Turkish occupations? From the savage civil war after World War II? I doubt it. These are tough people who know in their hearts that it's better to be a truly sovereign state than to be bullied and slandered by Angela Merkel, not to mention the European Central Bank and the IMF. That map of Greece in mind, it can only be a matter of time before Greece defaults on its debt, drops the euro, and starts printing and coining drachmas. Samaras might conceivably keep his job is if he were moving in that direction. But his backers (I almost wrote "his bankers") wouldn't like that, he wouldn't like that, and besides, Tsipras is already there.