Feb 26, 2012

Posted by in Business ethics, Political comment, Social comment, Values | 0 Comments

A Greek tragedy played upon a very large stage

So, what is with these Greek tragics?

They are on the brink of destroying their country. They are on the brink of destroying the European Union. They are on the brink of destroying the global economy. But none of it is their fault!

Not since Hitler portrayed genocide as a recycling enterprise has anyone so distorted an inescapable truth. On any reasonable assessment the Greeks present as a pitiful bunch of frequently anarchist whingers who are so self-centred and wilfully unaccepting of reality that they deserve the fate from which everyone else is so desperately trying to save them.

Such is the intransigence of the Greek community to accept their role in the country’s economic demise that it engenders a strong desire to simply wash one’s hands of them. If that sounds harsh, consider cancer: in many of its manifestations, one has to excise it in order to save the patient. And, by any measure, Greece currently is a canker upon the body corporate.

Except that their fate is inextricably entwined with our own. They sneeze, we get the flu. Cutting-out this growth would be like operating on oneself without anaesthesia, using a bread and butter knife and hindered by a blindfold. One might get rid of the growth but the collateral damage doesn’t bear thinking about.

So, the world is left to confront several very unpalatable scenarios:

  • Is the concept of most nations forming a truly global economy in which member states are, by default, participants in a community which rises and falls by the actions of even the least of its number, a patently flawed premise?
  • Was it better when recalcitrant states that acted in a manner offensive to their neighbours were invaded and put to the sword until they regained, if not a sense of reality, then at least acceptance of the status quo
  • Is a ‘civilised’ community justified in punishing a member who behaves in a barbarous way?

If, as remains a dreadful possibility, this Greek-inspired European crisis does still trigger a global financial crash worse than the Great Depression, untold millions of us who suffer the consequences will have way too much time to think about such things.

Which does raise the fundamental question: are most Greek citizens unfeasibly arrogant, unutterably selfish or just plain stupid?

Anyone who thinks these are unnecessarily harsh options has not adequately considered the potential consequences of this all-too serious farce.

At best, one can sympathise with those Greeks who stand to suffer very harsh financial and social concsequences if their national economy collapses further or even if the medicine they are forced to take actually works. It will be a tragedy of grievous dimension for them.

Even so, one cannot ignore what led to this sad state of affairs: you cannot live beyond your means without a reckoning. To a greater or lesser extent almost every human alive has learned the fundamental lesson: if you have not got the means to pay for something and you cannot commit to a viable repayment scheme to facilitate purchase of it on terms, then you cannot afford it. There is no escaping the ultimate corollary: if you cannot afford it, you should not have it.

Surely this is as obvious as banging any of your appendages with a hammer, hard, and finding it hurts.

You do not even have to go to school to learn this. Life will teach it to you in a bewildering array of ways, and has done so throughout history, because it is a fundamental underpinning of our global civilisation. Trade, in even its most basic form, is essential to developing a civilisation. Without the exchange of meaning inherent in any act of trade or barter, development is stifled and progress is impaired. Civilisation is not and cannot be onanistic: it has to reflect a collective.

So the Greeks surely should, at some stage, give reasonable recognition to the harm they may be about to do to the rest of the world. Yet still they refuse.

They deny they have enjoyed protected workplaces with unrealistic benefits and inflated wages and unaffordable retirement subsidies for decades. They have had a distinctive preference for indulging socialist and communist parties. Perhaps that is the true lesson of this failure of their modern state: magic pudding economics as preached and practised by socialist/communist parties cannot deliver the heroic images of a workers’ paradise they so wilfully portray. This Greek tragedy may well have started innocently enough decades ago but it has proved, ultimately, to be insidiously debilitating. There is, and can be, no soft landing because the sheer extent of the indulgence the Greeks have deluded themselves they were entitled to is a farce. Worse, it is now a tragedy.

None of us would want to go through what so many Greek citizens may have to. Yet, if they do not, most of the rest of us may have to share their pain. Who among us is so altruistic as to sacrifice personal wealth and wellbeing for a nation of deluded indulgents? They may have given us democracy and we should be grateful. But we need to forever reject their version of economics.

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