This Is Where We’re Headed

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The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, “What great people!” They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing. Lacking faith in one another, they fall back on themselves and their families. The structure of the Greek economy is collectivist, but the country, in spirit, is the opposite of a collective. Its real structure is every man for himself. Into this system investors had poured hundreds of billions of dollars. And the credit boom had pushed the country over the edge, into total moral collapse.

–Michael Lewis, excerpted from The Wilson Quarterly 2011 

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3 Responses to This Is Where We’re Headed

  1. griek says:

    Don’ t know if it is where you ‘re heading but suspect that this is what makes Greeks funny, smiling, open, smart and a delightful company… on a personal level. It’s the way to survive here. Sure a primal way (don t know if primal is the right word in English). Then you look at popular culture in Greece in the 90s-00s. For 10+ yrs all video-clips of new Greek music bands were shot in black and white, downtown Athens, showing wall graffiti that read ‘is there life after death’ or something else gloomy. Scandinavian metal bands being particularly popular among the young here like nowhere else in Europe. In the sunny, happy country of open, warm people. And then you get to this year’s Oscars and watch the Greek nomination ‘Dogtooth’, the Greek family right there on the spot. Yes you also had the December riots at the time the film was produced and everyone wondering how we got here, at the same time, admitting that yes well-deserved how we got here, everyone is looking to save their own ass only.

    I sometimes wonder if this country is completely hopeless so should I pack and flee asap, at other times I wonder if the crisis has put it years ahead in making us see what will happen to other societies as well, which then makes it pretty interesting to stick around and watch what s going on.

    But what is scary is that despite all the news and headlines, financial crisis has not hit real life here yet. And that’s when you make the tough decisions.

    (Don’ t know how and if the thoughts of a Greek female in her 30s on living currently in Greece might offer any parallel perspective to Americans but here they are.)

  2. brazew says:

    that is an exact description of Brazil. And from where we stand, you (the US) do seem to be getting more and more like us.

  3. TRS-80 says:

    The original article the quote comes from: Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds