Friday, 9 January 2015

When we want your opinion we'll give it to you

"Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair." That is one of my favourite one-liners from American comic George Burns to which these days would have to be added "or commenting on websites and writing blogs". To the latter indictment I plead guilty as charged.

However, if you are in Greece you might also wish to add "or being German" because as Greece heads towards parliamentary elections on January 25 there has been no shortage of advice coming from Germany on the potential impact of how Greeks might choose to vote.

What seems to give everyone a fit of the vapours is the possibility that the left-wing Syriza party would gain control. Party leader Alexis Tsipras, who I have seen described by the BBC as a "firebrand"...oo-er, has pledged to "condemn the failed memoranda of austerity", which some feel will lead to Greece defaulting on its debts and then leaving the Euro - the dreaded "Grexit".

No fan of austerity: Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras.
Picture used under Creative Commons licence.

German politicians and media organisations have all been quick to suggest to Greece that it's time to shut up, pay up and keep on paying up and that the best way to go about this would be to elect politicians of much the same political hue as we already have.

One very understandable reason there is so much interest in Germany in what goes on in Greece is that German bank exposure to Greek debt comes in at a whopping 23.5 billion Euros. That would give anyone cause to think, but does it give them the right to tell/suggest/politely hint to Greeks how they should run their country? I suppose in the global economy in which money swoops and swishes around the world, the powerful and rich feel that, yes, they can tell the poor and ailing how they should mend their ways.

Until recently the prospect of Grexit, such an ugly word, has been viewed with dismay, but now many leading German politicians, not least Chancellor Angela Merkel, have said that Greece leaving the Euro would be manageable and the prospect of "contagion" spreading to other troubled economies, namely Portugal and Ireland, was reduced because those countries are considered to be "rehabilitated". So it's off the naughty step for the Portuguese and the Irish and a case of "go your own way" for Greece...maybe.

There has been talk of the use of fear in this current Greek election campaign, much of it along the lines of "You think things have been bad, well, vote in Syriza and you'll be squealing to have the old guard back in power". Opinion polls place Syriza in a comfortable lead and it's plain to see that waving a big stick around in the face of Greek voters is having little effect. Unemployment is around 25 per cent and many Greeks have taken pay cuts while at the same time being faced with tax increases. I suspect that quite a lot of Greek people doubt that anything could be worse than what they are going through now.

Blogger or not, I wouldn't pretend to know what Greece ought to do for the best. Like the joke about the lost motorist who stops in the countryside to ask a yokel for directions and is told "You don't want to start from here" Greece could do with being somewhere completely different before embarking on its journey to economic and political stability. Distrust of politicians of all kinds is rife in this country which seems to have really sapped hope among voters. And it would be an optimistic person who claimed that all Greek taxpayers were ready to do their bit and pay every last cent that they owe.

Be that as it may, I am a great believer in allowing people to cock things up for themselves. So the country which gave us the words politics and democracy, not to mention drama and chaos, should be allowed to make its own choices. For the time being, Mrs Merkel and her colleagues will have to resume their seats and wait to see how this latest moment in Greek history pans out.

* What do you think? See if the Greeks can muddle through or make them toe the line? There could be a drink in it for you if you come up with a startlingly brilliant idea, but you'll have to come  here to collect it, he added hastily.

All that quasi-serious stuff above could do with a bit of light relief so how about this from Fleetwood Mac, which I was inspired to choose from a line in the posting.


  1. Living in the US, a place that loves to put people and other countries into debt, I'm afraid I have no solutions. Will we ever learn the evils of debt? I doubt it.

    1. I'm fairly sure it's not just the US that does this. It seems to be one way big countries like to get little countries to do their bidding.

      Happy New Year to you, by the way!


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