Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Greece on the Skids

“Crippling” protests! “Private, public workers to decry austerity measures”! “Workers take to the streets… in a test of the government’s resolve to enforce tough budget cuts.” “Increasing anger among (people) who feel they are made to pay the price of their country’s crisis while tax evasion and corruption go unpunished.” “Social unrest could jeopardize government efforts to reform (the country).” “Rioting over harsh austerity measures.” “Years of living with less.” “Our country came to the brink of the abyss.”

Are these quotes about the U.S.? They could be. They could certainly be about the U.S. in the near future, as all the various financial chickens come home to roost, one by one. But no, these particular quotes are about Greece -- which more than one commentator has already pointed out is the future U.S. writ small. They are going through what we are bound to go through -- and the reaction here is likely to be similar -- although, admittedly, Greeks in general seem to be more volatile than Americans. But remember the urban riots of the 1960s and 1970s? And could even the “tea parties” start getting ugly? (The press claims they already are.)

It looks like Greece is getting bailed out -- but will it be like giving an alcoholic a drink to relieve the D.T.’s, or giving a heroin addict a fix? In other words, has Greece learned its lesson? This is highly doubtful, since -- as I’ve said before -- national character has so much to do with the governments people wind up with, and how they (the people and the governments both) think about money issues. People plagued by “innumeracy” are like the guy who said, “How can I be out of money? I still have checks.” They just don’t “get it” when it comes to money… to income and expenditures… to the most basic principles of resources. They believe, on some level -- not unlike American liberals and their underclass clientele -- that whatever one needs, or wants, should be provided -- by the government or somebody, it hardly matters -- and if it is not provided they are “deprived”, and it’s “unfair” and “discriminatory”. The notion of a day’s work for a day’s pay escapes them entirely -- they are caught in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, when everything was provided. The actual human lot is something they find alien, and alienating. Thus Greece, and much of Africa, and large swaths of this country as well. But unlike our own minorities, it’s not so much a sense of entitlement as a failure to grasp the basic facts of existence -- that we make our living by the sweat of our brow. They would much rather make their living by the sweat of someone else’s brow.

And the funny thing is that this attitude actually works. I mean, it pays off, up to a point -- that point at which the “tax receivers” so overwhelm the tax payers that the system breaks down. Any society can have a few “non-productive eaters” (in Lenin’s terminology)… a few parasites… and a few charity cases who really are helpless and dependent, and in need. No problem. It’s never a matter of the truly needy as much as of those who consider themselves truly needy -- or if not truly needy, then at least deserving. Does some “artiste” who spends most of his time with his head up his butt contemplating his navel really deserve to gorge from the public trough? The NEA seems to think so. We will never be truly rid of these types -- I imagine a few survived even under Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot -- but when they reach critical mass, the society is in trouble. And when an entire country assumes that role, the larger entity of which it is a member -- the EU, in this case -- is in trouble. And once again I ask, didn’t Germany and the rest of the level-headed, sober Nordic types see this coming? Apparently not. Either that or it was a conspiracy to enable them to eventually take over the economies of the weaker and poorly-managed countries. But does Germany really want to run Greece? Probably about as much as we want to run Iraq. But it seems we, and they, have no choice.

So in this sense, Germany and its ilk get what they deserve. They took the drunken uncle… the ne’er-do-well brother-in-law… under their wing, hoping to reform them by good example and by replacing their funny money with the all-hallowed Euro. But guess what, the all-hallowed Euro has become less hallowed by being diluted by the prodigal hands of these impulsive Mediterranean types. It’s not in as much trouble as the dollar, certainly -- even though we are helping out with the bailout process. (Something about the blind leading the blind… ) But they’re definitely seeing what it’s like when you open a joint checking account with a drunk or a drug addict -- it just doesn’t work.

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