Thursday, July 02, 2015

Almost a year ago I was sitting having a drink in Kifisia (an affluent suburb of Athens) with an ex-student. We chatted about 'the old days' and - naturally - the state of his country. I told him I was astonished to see so little evidence of the crisis - I nodded to the bars full of people, the shops buzzing ... - & he explained that Kifisia was not typical in many ways.

The conversation then turned to something I'd noticed at restaurants - a little drink or nibble offered before you'd even ordered. Was this just for tourists or a more general ritual? He explained that it was a way of establishing a 'rapport': I give you this as a gesture & you will do something for me. Not a calculated investment but a way of entering into a happy relation.

My ignorance of Economics has, of course, been well established. But I keep turning over this anecdote against the background of the Greek debt crisis, of insults being thrown at the nation ("lazy", "backsliders", "unrealistic"), of many of the population being interviewed who are fully aware of the ghastly situation & yet still prepared to say "no".

Forget Economics for a moment. Are we not witnessing an expression of an utterly different way of thinking - one that simply does not accord with the neo-liberal logics of the balance sheet, credit/debit, plus/minus? That Varoufakis & his supporters should not be bluntly categorised as loony left extremists but, in fact, representatives of a much older & nobler way of thinking? A way of thinking, indeed, we - in the West - can no longer 'afford' (in all sense of that word).

It seems nigh on impossible that Greece will not have to surrender & comply with the financial terms on offer. I suspect that Varoufakis & Tsipras will be ejected from office (or will resign beforehand) which - as certain commentators have suggested - is the implicit goal of Merkel's intransigence. (You see you can't do business with people like that.) Probably it will be the better outcome - at least in terms of Greeks keeping a roof over their heads, feeding their children & having some kind of social stability. However, I think we will look back on these weeks as a last noble & courageous attempt to think otherwise against the unstoppable, irrational (in their dogmatic unquestioned rationality) logics of the neo-liberal agenda.

Once upon a time Greek heroes fought monsters & threw javelins. In 2015 the battles are conducted more insidiously with spreadsheets on office tables. I know which version of a Golden Age I prefer.

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