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Tag Archives: PSI

This is a world steeped in lies. Lies permeate every aspect of human life, from the moment they become self-aware (what a lovely child!) to the moment of their death. Even then, if they could, they would still hear lies uttered above their coffin (he was such a good man…).

There are lies and then there are lies. Some are spoken out of courtesy, some out of selfishness. And some, the worst kind, are used with malicious intent. These lies are like pests thriving on the soil prepared by the other, more “innocent” kinds.

Small, white lies are the ones that cannot be realistically avoided, at least if we care to live as harmoniously as possible in the company of others. Selfish lies stem out of our inability to admit the truth, especially to ourselves, and are very hard to avoid. Even though they harm us and everyone around us much more than we realize.

Those selfish lies are the ones which better condition us, so that we can accept the big lies, the ones that become an art and a profession in their own right.

The greatest liars of all, without doubt, are the politicians. They do not simply lie the most, but also speak the worst and most dangerous lies. Lies that start wars, that convince the people to vote for them, even against their own interests. Lies which grant them power.

The grandest liar of all time was the one whose most important contribution to modern civilization was the use of misinformation on a massive scale: propaganda. Adolf Hitler managed to lead an entire people, well-known for being level-headed and practical, into believing the most outrageous things.

He persuaded the Germans that they were racially superior to the rest of humanity, that the ones responsible for Germany’s inevitable deterioration after their defeat in WWI were in fact the Jews and that the destiny of the German people was to dominate the world.

All this with the help of the full resources of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, at the head of which was the infamous Joseph Goebbels. Today, this role is played by the mass media.

The media achieve this goal not only by what is said by anchormen and written by journalists, but also what is implied and by what is never mentioned at all. Gradually, methodically they can convince people about almost anything. If it were not for the effect of the media, the masks of the politicians would crumble in an instant.

Let us take Greece in particular. I am often asked by foreign friends (and thinking Greeks wonder themselves) how it is possible for our politicians to lie so outrageously to our faces and yet manage to still be taken seriously? It is all a trick of the media. For years they’ve been going back and forth between the two major parties, gauging public opinion in order to strike at the most unpopular of the two at any given time.

The less unpopular party is given a reprieve, while the scandals of the other (usually the ruling one) were given plenty of air time, without ever leading to real investigations. Eventually the older scandals would be overshadowed by the new, and the previous party would slowly be promoted by denouncing the corruption of their opponents.

Even before the media reigned, however, the Greek people seemed eager to trust in a “saviour”. Thus, the “socialist” PASOK party won the 1981 elections by a great margin, using “EU and NATO are the same syndicate” as its central slogan. And also “out with the bases of death” referring to the US military bases in Greek territory.

31 years later, our politicians speak of the possibility of Greece outside of the EU as a terrible eventuality and leaving NATO was never even remotely considered. Any reduction of the number of US military bases in Greece came solely as a result of the need of the Pentagon to cut its costs.

Whether leaving these international organizations would actually benefit Greece is beside the point here. The point is that these claims were proven false, but this did not stop PASOK from being reelected in 1985. In other words, Greeks swallowed the lie without thinking. And that was not the end of it. Lies form a chain, one link at a time, with each lie supporting the next one in line. And we bound ourselves tightly with this chain until any hope of escape seemed impossible.

This chain of lies led us to the execution of one of the greatest international cons of all time. Greece, with the “kind” help of Goldman-Sachs, managed to fool the entire European Union into accepting us into the Euro zone in 2001.

This gargantuan lie could have been turned to the benefit of Greece; it could have become a white lie.  If our governments truly strove to restructure our economy gradually and put European funds and subsidies to good use by promoting growth. If they truly had the better interests of our country in mind.

Any such illusions had been dispelled two years earlier, when the Greek Stock Exchange bubble burst violently, marking the end of the false prosperity of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The total lack of state control as to the actual assets of companies entering the market, combined with the shameless advertizing of the Greek Stock Exchange by government officials, including the Prime Minister himself, led to a catastrophic free fall.

Market analysts looking at the big picture would tell you that the financial disaster was not so serious, however this event initiated a great redistribution of wealth in Greece, which continues to this day. Those Greeks who didn’t lose their life savings in the Stock Exchange certainly know someone who did.

The chain of lies continued with the Olympic Games of 2004 in Athens. Besides the obvious fact that the modern Games have become an impressive show for the benefit of multinational corporations and TV consumption, the Greek government used them as an excuse to indulge in an orgy of overspending. It is painfully obvious today that the billions of Euros which went into the Olympic Games of 2004 (and into various bank accounts) were money we could not afford to spend.

Most of the public infrastructure which was marketed as the legacy of the Olympic Games for the Greek people (such as freeways and the Athens Metro) was planned years before our bid for the Olympics was accepted. The lucrative delays were cut short so that everything would be ready in the nick of time and at several times the normal cost.

The two major parties alternated in the government, but their promises were never kept. Perhaps the low-point in these 30 years of history was the infamous slogan “Lefta iparhoun” (there are enough money) of our former Prime Minister, George Papandreou, together with his firm declaration that we did not need the help of the IMF.

By blindly accepting their lies at face value for an entire generation, we have nurtured our politicians’ arrogance to the point that some have openly admitted the obvious: that their promises before the elections should not be taken seriously. And despite everything, we keep on voting for them, ensuring that the chain of lies which binds us will eventually strangle us and keep our children bound for ever.

The shadow play has become so obvious that not even the pretenses are kept anymore. Lies which would be forgotten in the span of a full 4-year government term are now exposed within months, weeks or even days!

The new leader of PASOK, Evangelos Venizelos declared on June 2011 that the electric utility bills could not possibly be used as a means of tax collection, because electricity is a “social good”. A mere three months later, it ceased being so.

The leader of the “opposition” (now that’s a lie if I’ve ever heard one!) a few weeks before forcing all the members of Parliament of his party to approve the new memorandum agreement, had accused it of being “catastrophic”. One of his party’s newest acquisitions from the extreme right party of LAOS, Adonis Georgiadis, just one day before the CDS were triggered claimed that this would not happen “if the PSI was successful”. Which it was. Or so they tell us.

The lies of our politicians have now a minimal “half-life”, like unstable nuclear isotopes which vanish within minutes and are forgotten. But the damage that they cause remains. And there is very little time left to undo it. Perhaps none at all.

A Greek woman during an interview to BBC a few months ago described the Greek debt crisis using a very simple, yet extremely lucid metaphor. She likened our politicians to an abusive husband, who cheated on his wife and abandoned her with a huge debt to her name.

I partly agree. Our “husband” has not abandoned us, but keeps on lying to us incessantly, he abuses us and forces us on his creditors to pay his debts. And he keeps us “in line” by persuading us that only he can keep the banks from taking our house and that we are also to blame for not keeping our home’s finances in order.

Indeed, we are to blame because we kept believing him for 30 years and didn’t kick him out of our home, as we should have done. We are even more to blame now, because even though we’ve finally realized the truth, we are still too afraid and ashamed to kick him out. Much like an abused woman.

How can we blame women like that for being weak and not taking control of their lives, while we as a nation react in pretty much the same manner?

Isn’t it time to put an end to the lies?

Intermission #7

Cover versions which are equal to or even better than the original version of a song are rare. Especially so for translated songs. Greek composer and singer Dionysis Savvopoulos translated and covered Bob Dylan’s “Wicked Messenger” in his album “Vromiko psomi” (Dirty bread) in 1972 under the title “Angelos Exangelos”.  In my opinion, his translation added a lot to the original and the arrangement is also remarkable. This is an attempt at re-translation of his lyrics:

A messenger, a crier, he came from afar,

leaning on a crutch so battered,

he did not know how to speak at all,

for his tongue it could not speak, but only flatter.

 _

The news that he brought us, they were all a lie,

yet sounded pleasing to our ears,

for his every falsehood sounded like a truth

and so freed our souls from all our fears.

 _

He made his bed behind the agora,

and spent his time jesting in the tavern,

he wandered jovially in barbeshops and baths,

and idly gazed at fish inside the cistern.

 _

The winter passed, and summer came

and then again came another winter,

until one night, what came over him,

he started yelling in a wild temper.

 _

The soles of my feet, I feel their burns,

in this wilderness where night alternates with night,

the news I brought may have pleased your ears,

but are a far cry from being right.

 _

We knew at once what he was saying,

and numbly bid him go away.

If ye have no good news to give

then don’t give any.


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And on the tenth day after the Greek Parliament voted for the new memorandum, the second “bailout” plan for Greece was approved by the Eurogroup. And today by the Bundestag. And there was much rejoicing.

Hold on a second. Why all this joy and relief by the foreign and domestic press alike? Why are those who voted for the new memorandum –the prerequisite for the new bailout plan- patting themselves on the back? Because they claim that bankruptcy was averted? Do we have any idea what they approved? Do those who approved the plan know the “specifics”?

I seriously doubt it. Just a few short weeks ago, both former and active Ministers and MPs admitted that they had in fact NOT read the first memorandum, even though they approved it! Now we know for a fact that this new agreement was a badly translated rendition of an already shady original.

Full of omissions and vague wordings, especially concerning the definition of “mandatory law” which governs the enforcement of the agreement’s terms, this loan agreement is practically begging to be abused.

Because, in essence, the memorandum is exactly that: a loan agreement.

Let us suppose now that the Greek MPs were common people who wished to sign a mortgage agreement in order to pay off their debts. Would anyone in their right mind sign a paper with empty spaces where numbers were supposed to be and with vague phrasings, easily twisted by greedy bankers looking to steal their home?

If they were just a tiny bit practical, wouldn’t they ask questions?  Wouldn’t they read the agreement more thoroughly?

And yet 199 of 300 MPs agreed to mortgage our home on these uncertain and unrealistic terms, conceding the right to any of our creditors to make claims against Greece before the courts of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Ignorance, negligence, and the intention to deceive the Greek people are evident from the statements of all those who approved the new memorandum. One of them stands out above the rest, however, and comes from the very architect of political unaccountability in Greece.

Evangelos Venizelos, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, stated, “…we are pleased to inform the Greek people that we have just lifted 100 billion Euros off their back, more than 50% of our GNP.”

The grand deception lies in the lifting of the “100 billion”. Quite simply, 63 billion of this total is in Greek hands, mostly owned by banks of Greece and Cyprus. These banks will require “direct hair implantation” by the Greek state right after the PSI haircut, if they are to avoid collapse.

The cost of bank bailout is estimated at 30-40 billion Euros, which will be drawn, unsurprisingly from the 130 billion which we just borrowed. The largest part of the remaining 100 billion will be used to pay off our previous loans and interests.

Mr. Venizelos further stated that “our country has been granted a new opportunity, one which we must grasp, primarily on the level of financial and social psychology.” This was probably the only speck of truth in his entire statement, if “primarily” is replaced with “solely”, since there is no other benefit to be found.

The only purpose of this agreement is to reassure the Greek people, give time to our EU partners to prepare for the all but inevitable formal declaration of bankruptcy of Greece and, of course, add even more debt on our backs.

Theoretically, the goal of our debt reaching 120% of our GNP by 2020 is achievable. About as achievable as the development of FTL propulsion technology by Greece by the same date, given the monumental inadequacy of our current administration.

And that’s because all estimates claiming that such a thing is possible, blissfully disregard the fact that the recession in Greece is not slowing, but increasing at the rate of an avalanche. 60000 businesses are expected to shut down in 2012, according to a National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce report. Unemployment is skyrocketing, with an estimated 1 million unemployed people in Greece and growing, and the internal market is grinding to a halt.

The GNP of Greece is state-dependent to an excessive degree, a sad but undeniable fact. As public funding and expenditure is limited, the GNP will inevitably shrink. The Greek public sector must be restructured and businesses must find ways to support themselves without the help of the state, but such a change would take time. The repercussions of an abrupt change cannot be ignored for the sake of ill-conceived bailout plans.

Unfortunately, estimates putting the Greek debt close to 160% of its GNP by 2020 (or even higher) are probably much more realistic.

The greatest problem of Greece, however, is neither the new memorandum, nor the troika, nor Angela Merkel and her ilk. The greatest problem of this country is us Greeks. As long as we continue to support or tolerate our corrupt political system, no amount of rescuing, either honest or guided by ulterior motives, is going to save us.

An excellent example of this corruption is the recent ruling of the Greek Council of State, claiming that the first memorandum was not in violation of our Constitution. Among other outrageous claims, the Greek Council of State deemed that the agreement was not in fact an international treaty.

So an agreement, originally drafted in English, between the Greek state, 14 other countries, the KfW development bank, and two international organizations is NOT an international treaty.

I did not include the IMF along with the other two organizations (ECB and EC), as it has not signed the initial agreement and furthermore has recently expressed doubts about the new one. Members of the IMF are expressing concerns about OUR rights. Not our government, but members of an international organization are opposing a revision of the Greek Constitution.

A revision which, after all, benefits them.

The image of a starving dog comes to mind. One that looks so pathetic, that even the dog catcher is reluctant to euthanize it. Even if that is exactly what he does for a living.

And that’s because Greece is not seen as a “mutt”, it is not (usually considered) a third-world country. It is not even Argentina which, even when it was very prosperous, was still part of Latin America, seen as “lesser” part of the world by unscrupulous “civilized” Westerners. And thus considered “fair game” for the rich and powerful.

Deep inside, every international banker, economist, politician knows that Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, the birthplace of art, democracy and science. Even Mrs. Merkel’s name (Angela Dorothea), is Greek. But neither she, nor anyone else can truly respect us, when we do not respect ourselves.

When we do nothing to stop these power-mongering puppets we call politicians from driving our country to ruin.

Our EU partners and international creditors can only pity us, just a bit, before putting us out of our misery. Or into it.

Intermission #5