To the Editor
The recent talk given by Dr. Christos Giannaras at the Stathakion Cultural Center, Astoria, appears a stream-of-conscience prescription for the serious ailments that have afflicted Greece based on old bromides that simply do not suffice in a modern civilization.
His anticipation of a social explosion, the result of increasing Greek poverty, is both premature and historically unsustainable. The American Great Depression of the 1930′s had at its nadir a quarter of the population destitute; yet, the nation held because the distress was precisely widely-shared, and the ingrained expectation that “happy days” will be here again. Greece’s social net is brittle not because of the economic disparity; it is the built estrangement the populace feels towards the collective scoundrels in the political class that have used, misused, and now abused the system to advance dynastic and personal interests.
The speaker’s theme, The Greek Economic Crisis: An Ethical, or Basically a Political Problem?, cast the answer in the political realm, leaving unmentioned the ethical rot that cumulatively has brought the country to this pass. Ethics, if relevant, he sees, as the issue of discontinuing the Greco-Christian-Orthodox ideology following the military junta’s overthrow in 1974. Truly, one is incredulous, does he really pine for the days of Ellas-Ellinon-Christianon? (Greece for Greek Christians?) Surely, well-attuned observers see such allegiance part of the problem not the solution, for the exclusive dogmas contained therein make Greece’s increasingly-evident minorities live in the periphery of society — just the sort of condition that, in time, can bring about the social explosion that this philosopher is oblivious to contemplate.
As to the notion of a political convergence, a marriage of convenience where the political parties would form an interim broad coalition government, the professor again lacks the vision to detect the obvious: Greece is in distress, in part, to the mismanagement of the previous administration. An election decisively brought the opposition to power, as the wont of democratic norms. A return to stalemate rule will be a disservice to a suffering people. Likewise, and without merit is his call for a new Constitution; it would embroil the country in more strife, just as it is trying to extricate itself from the economic morass.
As to the canard that Greece has lost control of its borders and sovereignty, one must be aware that donors and creditors of sums into the hundreds of billions Euros, can be expected to demand having oversight and periodic overview of the manner the program to recovery is implemented. It is foolhardy to think otherwise, or that the nationalist solution is to withdraw from the European Union and the Eurozone. More, it is dangerous and unkind to believe that Prime Minister Papandreou is an anti-Hellene who should face prosecution, or worse. He is the quintessential democrat and patriot doing his difficult duty to bring Greece into the modern age, while shedding practices that date to Ottoman rule, and even the Middle Ages!
These, and other points I would have liked to make directly to Dr. Giannaras, but reading the extensive reportage in the bilingual National Herald and GreekNews I have been able to get quite a taste of the proceedings. Regretfully, the talk ended in a pessimistic note, and that is too bad, in my assessment. My optimism is anchored in the belief that this Greek crisis is not a tragedy; further, it creates an inherent opportunity to progress and strengthen democratic institutions, even as we rid society of its regressive features: rampant nepotism, endemic corruption, and the anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Israel geopolitical positions that have been reflected and ill-served in the Greek polity.
With the creative assistance of Western nations, continuing the welcome opening to, and future collaboration with, Israel, and, always, the good will of the expatriate Greek community, our native land will again see sunny economic days, in congruence with its incomparable physical beauty!
Professor Asher J. Matathias