Who – or what – is responsible for Greece’s plight?

1. The Greek politicians who accepted loans from German and French banks, which they knew, or should have known, could not be repaid.

2. The German and French bankers who urged the Greeks to accept these loans.

3. History. Four hundred years of Ottoman occupation isolated the Greeks from the rest of Europe and left them, when they gained their independence in 1827, with a residue of Ottoman values. These did not include the virtue of tax-paying. It is amazing that in the nearly two hundred years since then, they have not acquired it.

4. If the question is raised whether individual Greek citizens should be held responsible – at least in part – for the desperate situation they are in, one might reply that it is hard to distinguish individual from collective responsibility, especially since Greece is a democracy. So let us add that the people of Greece can be held collectively responsible for allowing the state not to collect the taxes it was owed.

Then there is another matter.

To quote the Greek-American writer Harry Foundalis:

“Deep down, we Greeks know that if we had not been kept under the Ottoman occupation during the times of Enlightenment, we would not have missed the ideas that developed then. Back then, the free Greeks were either on the mountains (avoiding the Turks, but fighting with bears, wolves, and jackals), or abroad, in Europe.

“The tiny intellectual achievements by Greeks of that time, in fact, came from those few who lived in Europe. But they had hardly any effect on the Greek society, which was struggling to survive the occupation, and had no time and no mind for the intellectual paradigm change that was taking place in Europe.”

It is highly ironical that Turkey has been doing remarkably well economically in the last few years, without having enjoyed the benefits of the Enlightenment. If Greece was still a Turkish colony it would no doubt be booming by now.

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2 responses to “Who – or what – is responsible for Greece’s plight?

  1. Greek politicians, yes. European bankers, yes. But Turkish occupation, no! Several southern European countries never occupied by the Turks share the Greeks’ aversion to paying taxes (as well as their taste for creating bureaucratic sinecures.) In any case, as you say, insolvency doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Turks themselves. The explanation, therefore, must lie elsewhere…

    • Could the explanation lie in the chain of calamaties which prevented the Greeks from developing “normal” postwar institutions: the civil war and the rule by Colonels?