Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Greek madness

I'm doing some of this by memory, so if I have some historical facts wrong, then I apologize. However, I'm reading and watching Greece have a major mental breakdown and all I want to do is grab them by the collective throat and shake some sense into them.

From my understanding of the situation, the previous Greek government lied for years just how bad their books were. That includes both their own people and the rest of the EU. Now, with the economic crisis still rattling around, they're deeply fucked. And there are no other words for it other than "deeply fucked." I'm not an economist by any means, but when your economy is in such bad shape that A. You're at risk of possibly destroying an economic union and B. You're making Iceland look good, then you are in a world of trouble.

So yes, that means pain. Yes, salaries being lowered, pensions being screwed with, retirement being delays, taxes increased....all that stuff is going to suck mightily. I have sympathy for the people who are going to suffer a lot over the next few years.

However, I have yet to read of a single, solitary better idea. Defaulting would wreck Greece and harm millions of other people in the EU and around the world. No, the Greeks instead appear to be pissed off and want to take it out on...somebody. However, I'm not sensing any self-recrimination. That perhaps, just perhaps, they brought this onto themselves.

I couldn't help but notice that and remember something from almost 15 years ago. Back then, I was teaching in South Korea. As it happens, I left in August '97 and a few months after that the Korean economy went right down the crapper. Too much speculation, too much corruption, the big companies in Korea thinking they could get away with murder for too long and then it all catching up with them at once. And because of that, Korea had to go to the IMF looking for help.

And yes, there was plenty of rage and wanting of blood. Koreans have riot and protest season, for God's sake. But there was also deep shame that they had to go outside and get help. I recall reading an extraordinary story about some Koreans going to banks and donating gold jewelry and money to help the government get its books straightened out. And they emerged from their crisis a strong country again.

I'm not sensing any shame coming out of Greece that they're in this situation. I'm not sensing any remorse over what's happened. They seem to expect things to go on as always and not suffer any consequences to their country's actions over the past decade or more. Oh, and to blame the Germans. Which is fine and all, there's a long and justified history of blaming Germany for a lot of things that have gone wrong in Europe. However, you might want to try and look in the mirror. Last I saw, the Germans didn't put a gun to people's heads in Greece and told them to borrow insane amounts of money.

And I'm sorry to be all grown-up, but that's not how it works in the real world. If you do stupid things, if you live beyond your means, if your throw money away like it was cheap candy, there's going to be a reckoning.

I'm not saying I want to see the country beat themselves with sticks. However, I think I would like them to grow up, acknowledge their in deep trouble and instead of burning shit down or murdering innocent people, try and fix the problem. A little remorse and a lot of commitment to fix things would be nice. In other words, if Greece tried being a little more Korean right now, I think everybody would be much happier.

Last Five
All from "Heaven is Whenever" by The Hold Steady


nadinebc said...

It is a mess. When I read about those three bankers dying today I wondered how many more would be killed before this is over.

Bruce said...

Blaming everyone else and refusing to take collective responsibility for problems is a bit of a Newfoundland thing a well.

A recent example - Bob Wakeham's recent column in the Telegram, where he admonished the provincial government for paying down the provincial debt, arguing that he 'should get his money now'. No one took him to task....

Or the Fisherman's Union's suggestion that the government subsidize crab prices - as if the public purse was a bottomless well.