“We Greeks are known to be fierce nationalists. Many of us believe that we have a culture superior to the cultures of other peoples. We were even declared the most culturally chauvinistic European in a recent Pew Research poll. At the risk of confirming this stereotype, I will blame foreigners for their praise of Greek culture and the superficial interpretation of their ridiculous polls.Yanis Vouroufakis, a professor of economics and former finance minister of Greece, wrote in an article published by UnHerd.
On May 28, 1979, on the occasion of Greece’s accession to the European Economic Community, French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing gave a speech in Athens and said: “Europe without Greece would not be Europe anymore … All of us, with our language and our thinking, are children of Greek civilization … ” He concluded the day, “Europe is rediscovering Europe.”
A century ago, the mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, of Cambridge, said that “the best general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a few footnotes to Plato’s works.” In 1941, Winston Churchill spoke of the Greek resistance against the Italian and German invaders, saying: “From now on we will no longer say that Greeks fight like heroes, but heroes fight like Greeks.”
Anyone indulging in such praise from influential foreigners could be forgiven for having become so proud of their culture. For the Greeks who have heard Giscard say that Greece is Europe and vice versa, answering a poll that they do not believe their culture is superior would be to question the superiority of European civilization. In fact, from the point of view of the Greeks, it is the same as asking a French, German, Spanish or Dutch person to answer yes or no to the stupid question: “Is European civilization better or worse than other civilizations?”. In this sense, modern Greeks are as chauvinist as Europeans who celebrate European civilization as if the horrors of colonialism did not exist.
But ask the Greeks what they think of modern Greek culture and you will get a completely different answer. Certainly, we also have the ultra-nationalists who believe that Darwinism applies to all humans except the Greeks, who say they have strange divine genes. But the vast majority of my compatriots do not have a good opinion of our contemporary culture, nor of our behavior or our way of life. The past 10 years, and especially since the country went bankrupt, have made us feel dizzy, insecure and almost hate ourselves.
Yes, we still appreciate the successes of the Greeks who left the country in search of a better life. Yes, we celebrate sporting victories and appreciate the beauty of the terrain and the sea. Yes, we are still proud of such unique concepts as love. But at the same time we fear that these natural and spiritual qualities have been severely diminished in recent decades, partly because we have neglected and decimated them (through our brutal investments in tourism, for example), and partly because the European Union has helped us lose. road.
When Giscard delivered his speech in 1979, a year before Northern Europe officially welcomed us into the European Union, most Greeks rejoiced. Unfortunately, however, I soon realized that the price we would pay for this privilege would be the general loss of dignity. He often asks me why Europe would welcome us into the common market and then into the eurozone. The correct answer seemed strange today: because at that time, in 1979, when Giscard was talking about Greek civilization, the Greek state had one of the lowest public debts in Europe, and Greek citizens had almost no debt. Yes, we were poor, but we were content with our modest means and lived a very economic life. That’s why we’ve been accepted into the EU: low debt and high homeownership are a combination that makes Western bankers rub their hands together.
Even in 1999, before they were welcomed into the eurozone, almost no Greeks had mortgages or credit cards. But to enter the eurozone, we had to abandon trade barriers, and then, completely abandon capital controls. This was immediately followed by a tsunami of imports, money, and loans from Northern Europe into Greece. Keen to enjoy the materialistic superficiality of modernity, we did not resist. By the time we liquidated, the factories had closed (turned into warehouses for imported refrigerators and washing machines that were once made in the country); Our bank accounts went from positive to negative; Dignity and charitable spirit turn to dust.
The implosion of the global debt bubble was only a matter of time, and the Europeans and Americans who once praised us and told us we were the pillars of Western civilization turned their backs on us. They pretended not to remember that they insisted on borrowing so much money from them to buy their cars and their washing machines and to design haute couture – and they didn’t hesitate to do us in every way, in words I can’t reproduce here.
Even worse, we Greeks whisper the same traits under our breath. When we talk to each other, we are very critical of ourselves, often to the point of hatred. For example, almost all Greeks agree with David Holden of The Times, who wrote in 1972 that Greece is “rich in talent, poor in resources, sophisticated in taste and undeveloped in capabilities.” And so, partly out of a desire not to disappoint those who praise Greek civilization, partly out of anger at ourselves and at Europe that abandoned us and then treated us like a flock that has lost its market value, we now answer some foolish opinion polls. false pride Sure, we know it’s wrong, but again, false pride is the last resort for those who fail in real life.”