The Old Greek Chumocracy comes to an end

“Our democracies are increasingly captured by a ruling class that seeks to perpetuate its privileges.” Steve Hilton, the former advisor of David Cameron writes in his new book and as an insider and ex-chum of the British elite  knows very well what he writes about.

The chumocracy  doesn’t happen only in the ‘best families’ (see Britain),  it was the main ingredient of the Greek Society and the main reason of the existing unprecedented Media war against the new government (Syriza). What actually they want to say  is  ”Heeeeelp us , we are losing our privileges!”.  The two political parties – Pasok and New Democracy were exchanging power for years and years. The MPs had their own friendly Media executives, journalists authors… All of them were attending the same parties, dinners and other social events in the small circle of Athens and through this socializing one chum was helping the other chum to go up the ladder  of success in their particular field.

The Greek journalist and Authors -in general the Greek  intelligentsia whose theoretical job was to challenge those with political power  they remained silent all those years as formidable members “my big fat Greek fan party”.

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The Greek powerful elite followed exactly the three strategies that  Steve Hilton writes about in order to remain in power.

1. First they convince us that what is good for them is good for us all.

2. Anything that challenges their position will be fatal for the prospects of the country.

3. They persuade us that the real enemies are those at the bottom of the pile.

Concerning the latter, one of the  Greek authoress and part of the chumocracy – also assistant professor in the University of Athens (a post very difficult to get in if you don’t have a good connection)- had attacked on the social media one  of the youngest of the bottom pile who refused to pay the bus ticket  and she referred him as “sponger”. She tried to twist and repel her own bullying but it was too late. The bottom of the pile was too angry.

The more the shoutings and swearing on the Greek Social Media from the old group of chumocracy against the government  the more is the reassurance of the dismantling the old establishment  of journalists, foreign correspondents, media communicators, authors…

At the end of the day, this is a step forward for the Greek society.

 

 

 

 

 

Things are happening for a reason

“Things are happening for a reason”  my auntie Eftalia was saying to soothe us when we were under pain or discomfort due to life’s unlucky circumstances. Until she died and she took her secret with her. We never found out what was this bloody reason for our occasional incidences of suffering throughout the years.

This age of austerity brings to my mind the famous auntie’s phrase, there must be a reason for all this suffering and I think, I have unlocked the secret code for the reason of the austerity.

 

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If there weren’t austerity how some anonymous would be able to buy Picasso’s “messy” painting to show off in their private drawing rooms and take immense satisfaction not so much from the view of the picture but from their glimpse in the surprised and envious faces of their visitors, in other words to satisfy his/her “Vanity Unlimited”?

If there weren’t austerity how  London would be able to be a no-no city for the middle class families-let alone the lower middle class- with an average salary?

If there weren’t austerity how could be able the global élite to exist – born rich, bankers, hi-tech internet wizard kids et al. – meet up all together at the exclusive resorts of Switzerland   and discuss about the hazards of the increasing gap between rich and poor either people or countries?

If there weren’t austerity how could be able the bankers to go from strength to strength and support the super power Merkel’s party? It’s what the Greeks say “κράτα με να σε κρατώ ν’ ανεβούμε στο βουνό – holding me tight to climb up to the mountain”.

If there weren’t austerity how then a leftist party would be able to come into power  in the most strangled by the austerity country, Greece? If there weren’t austerity maybe the Left wouldn’t never have the opportunity to reconsider its role and value  in the society and how to serve the needs of the real people. The Left has been haunted by its past, they weren’t able to see through and serve the needs of the ordinary people. It’s in the human soul the need to excel and make something better and yes, we (human beings) are not all the same and for that reason we have to give  a sort of platform to stand to those who are less fortunate in terms of intelligence, resources and cunningness.   It’s a big breakthrough what it’s happening at the moment for the role of the Left and Socialist in the society despite the huge attempt to strangle every effort of the Syriza’s leaders. The party leaders are a kind of traitors for the insiders – the well off, the cowards, the suspicious and scared Greeks – and the outsiders (the well off leaders of Europe).

The Greek Finance Minister with all his faults and weakness  with his comment “I cannot sign something that it will be disastrous for the Greeks” in the latest negotiation with the Eurogroup adds  a moral value in the human relationships and signals the importance of the innate human moral compass.

I cannot agree more with what Antonio Munoz Molina said “I have spent a great deal of my life being part of minorities. Some of the people I admire the most in the world have had the courage to defend, against wind and tide, minority viewpoints in those frightening times when any disagreement with universal conformity is identified as treason.”

 

 

The Economic Man

Who cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?  Katrine Marcal’s rhetorical question and her book title give her the opportunity to challenge and illuminate the economics in relation to feminism and by extension to the weaker group of people and societies.

She writes that Adam Smith told us the story  of why free markets were the best way to create an efficient economy. The self-interest of one and all ensures that the whole comes together.  It’s not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their interest. You can trust self-interest. Self Interest is inexhaustible, this is  the ‘Invisible hand’ which looks after all.

With this notion the economic man was born into the new age. Just like Robinson Crusoe, economic man was a modern entrepreneur who freed himself from old, irrational oppressions. He determined his life and let others determine theirs. He was highly capable. Work has no intrinsic value, but if you’re going to get anywhere, you have to do it. He makes goals, fights to achieve them, ticks them off and moves on.  The world’s resources are limited. And he admires those who succeed.
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Emotion, altruism, thoughtfulness, solidarity are not part of his character. For economic man there’s no childhood, no dependencies and no society that affects him. Rational, selfish and divorced from his environment. Alone on an island or alone in society, it doesn’t matter. There is no society, only mass of individuals.

 Since Adam Smith’s time, the theory about economic man has hinged on someone else standing for care, thoughtfulness and dependency. Economic man stands for reason and freedom precisely because someone else stands for the opposite. The world can be said to be driven by self-interest because there’s another world that is driven by something else. And these two worlds must be kept apart. The masculinity by itself. The feminine by itself.

If you want to be part of the story of economics you have to be like economic man. You have to accept this version of masculinity. At the same time, what we call economics is always built on another story. Everything that is excluded so the economic man can be who he is.  Somebody has to be emotion , so he can be reason. Somebody has to be body, so he doesn’t have to be. Somebody has to be dependent, so he can be independent. Somebody has to be tender, so he can conquer the world. Somebody has to be self-sacrificing, so he can be selfish.

Somebody has to prepare that steak so Adam Smith can say their labour doesn’t matter.

But Adam Smith only succeeded in answering half of the fundamental question of economics and it was quite convenient  answer for the economic man of our days . He didn’t get his dinner only because the tradesmen served their own self-interest but because his mother made sure it was on the table every evening.  Today the economic is not built only with “invisible hand” but also it is built with “invisible heart”.-

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The economic man show emotions!

From Russia with love

There is a boom of the Russian art exhibitions in London lately and this phenomenon is poured out in the name of loan between the two countries, Russia and Britain. Russian artefacts are imported to Britain  and Greek artefacts  are exported to Russia! People in decision-making positions argue that art is a powerful tool of diplomacy and certainly this is what the Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor argued when he lent one of the Greek sculpture of Parthenon – the headless statue of a Greek god Ilissos  to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in order to honour its opening. At least the Russians lend their own and veritable Russian artefacts, without treats and tricks and changing the meanings of what belongs to whom.

Anyway this is not the subject of this post but  the exhibition which is taking place at the Gallery Saatchi  in London with title “The legacy of WWII in Russian Art” and marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the world war II and it’s an attempt to allow viewers to get a perception of Soviet art as well as stimulate a dialogue between the Russian and British experience of war.

 

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An exhibition well put which gives a short perception what was happening in the art spectrum during the Soviet period. The prominent art style during that period is the socialistic realism part of realistic art which allegedly its purpose was furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism. Some others  believe that artistic life of that period was  not suppressed by the ideology and the proof is the great number of landscapes, portraits and genre paintings which pursued technical purposes and thus were free from any ideology.

The viewers of this particular exhibition can see that both cases can be true.

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The Yalta conference 1945.IMG_2243_2

Stalin approving a USSR model of the pavillion, Paris 1937.

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Art can be a tool of  diplomacy and smooth out in some ways the differences between Russia and Britain and generally the west. But Russians – as Andrei Nekrasov thinks as well as this was my  perception of the people in Kazakhstan- feel their national identity most strongly when they come under pressure from the outside (see Crimea, sanctions etc). “The new Russian ideology presents European values as part of a hypocritical propaganda the west uses to rationalise its pursuits of geopolitical and economic interests. Westerners should not compromise on their values. But they should also be aware that neither economic sanctions nor military help for Ukraine are the right antidote to Russia’s new ideology. Instead they are potential trigger that could turn a suspicious Russia into an outright enemy”  says Andrey Nekrasov, film and television director.

Meanwhile we shall see how Alexis Tsipras’ diplomatic skills will work with Putin on 9 April. He will be the first European leader to travel to Moscow since the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. Therefore he can play a double role as European leader  and supporter of the people who feel crushed-creating a bridge between Europeans and Russians – something like that will help to elevate his position  among the European leaders. So far, he has proved himself as a good communicator and now it’s an opportunity to prove himself as a proud member of the European Union!

Athens is back on stage and has a fascinating story to tell

Odeum of Herodes Atticus

Odeum of Herodes Atticus

Athens is back on stage – in the frontlines of the  international newspapers -and I was back to Athens for some days to watch with my own eyes the whole performance . There was a new government and for first time in the Greek history a left party in power! And from that point, Athens’s fascinating story began.

The main characters are real bold and attractive and they are with the side of common people.They are young -Alexis Tsipras, the Prime minister is only 40 years old – handsome and eloquent – the Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, a man with real  bravura, speaks eloquently English and Greek and he is  expertised in Game Theory of Economics.

imgres-1Alexis and Yanis went out and about in Europe as formidable actors starting their campaign by telling their story, the Greek story in a different and attractive way – not any more the old humiliated story of the capitalistic Europe about the corrupt little Greek cheaters. They were using heartfelt titles for their movement “government of national  rescue” symbols and fashion, no ties, scarfs with a mischievous brand history in order to convey easily their message to everyone in the planet.  All the international community of economists, economic analysts, journalist common people, even my uncle Raymond in his isolated farm somewhere in Wales, were fascinated by them and they want to listen and support them.

What they were saying was to remove Greece from “Palliative Care” and stop paying the big fat “doctors” and “Institutions” for this care. Let Greece and Greek people get real medicines and be responsible by themselves for their recovery. Meanwhile,  the co-stars came up on the stage and the whole performance became a bit sloppy, not any more storytelling but some murmurs about numbers and graphs…

And as Simon Kuper wrote :

If you want to be heard, you need a story. If you don’t want to be heard, don’t tell a story. Be boring. Banks and Brussels both do that brilliantly. Put out long legal documents about “collateralised debt obligations” and people will switch off. Brussels jargon about “additionality” and “subsidiarity” achieves the same effect. Once nobody is listening, the actors can do what they like.”  

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Journalists from Netherlands interview Greek people in Monastiraki, Athens

 

 

Greece Repatriates Democracy in Europe

In Greece there is an air of hope and I think at the moment the hope is more than the fear.  The new elected government of Alexis Tsipras, leader of the leftist party Syriza  which according to my opinion is not so radical as the mass media wants to portray it, has already started to give signs of hope not only to Greeks but to all Europeans who are contemplating about the notion of Democracy in Europe. The French PM Francois Holland made the first step to attract the solidarity of the leaders to support free speech, one of the most important tool of Democracy and Alexis Tsipras has awakened  the Europeans about another very important issue of Democracy which was deliberately forgotten.  

Alexis’s  Tsipras  “left” hand,  the highly eloquent and more flamboyant personality,  the finance minister Yianis Varoufakis made the first step of repatriating Democracy in Europe. He stopped negotiating with Troika – a team of bank administrators of IMF, ECB and EU Commission- and made clear that he was rather seeking direct talks with the individual governments and IMF than negotiating with Troika. This first step of negotiation is the most significant for the European Union as a democratic Institution.. 

 The supervision of the UNELECTED Troika-IMF, ECB and EU Commission- of the Greek government implementations was deeply humiliated not only for Greece but for all the European countries.  It destroyed Europe’s integrity and respect for sovereignty  much needed in Europe at the moment.  

But as  Paul Krugman has often pointed out, ‘economics is not a morality play… in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished’.  The debt has to be paid  and as Thomas Fazi at The Trokia saved banks and creditors-not Greece writes “unfortunately economics is never just about economics: whether we like it or not, morality and culture shapes people’s attitudes to economic issues, and nowhere is this clearer than with the issue of debt (private or public). It would be fair to say that the common man’s prevailing stand on the issue is that debts incurred have to be repaid”.

But at the moment, someone doesn’t need to be leftist or member of Syriza to see that Greece’s debt cannot be fully paid  (roughly $270 billions) without driving Greece and its population into  extinction.

Therefore European Union has to bring to the surface the forgotten core values of this Union, which except economics , is Democracy, Unity and Solidarity. Tsipras and Varoufakis’ struggle is in progress towards achieving this target.. 

P.S : After so much humiliation and despair for my country, I really feel proud of its leaders  for showing to Europe the right direction without being cheap.

  

 

 

 

 

Happy Here and Now!

Today’s zeitgeist dictates that everything should be interpreted in economic terms in order to make sense in our times, even the term happiness! Walt Whitman, the American poet, tumblr_n80a60dyn91qdsu1vo1_1280 wrote “happiness, not in another place but in this place … not for another hour, but this hour”. This quotation is going hand in hand with  the economist Maynard Keynes’s belief that it needs  immediate actions whatever concerns the economics:

“In the long run we are all dead”.

This year, except the never-ending economic crisis other awful things happened in Europe and around the world – Ukrainian, Syria… and religious terrorism. But again, we’ve  noticed people react and  show an unprecedented courage and resilience when there is the right leadership to support them. The obscure and weak French president Hollande had shown amazing leadership skills by inviting all the leaders in Paris to march along with 3.7 millions of people in the name of free speech.  The movement of “Je suis Charlie” has more connotations other than in the name of free of speech that had  been analysed extensively on the media.  In this occasion, I fully agree and support what Woody Allen said :

“Life becomes so painful at times that there’s a need to slip a barrier of comedy between you and it”.

Returning to the issue of economic crisis which has swept away the last trace of happiness from the Greeks and the rest southern Europeans, there is a glimpse of good news.  There is a big movement “pro Greece’ in Europe and  in the circles of intellectuals and economists who have studied  history in depth and they are in position to compare  the past with the present. Gillian Tett(Columnist of the year 2014) referred to the conference she had attended last summer, where the economist Benjamin Friedman gave a  brief history on debt forgiveness without mentioning at all the word Greece, but obviously all the attendants knew very well what he meant. He said :

“Germany was one of the greatest beneficiaries throughout the last century: on multiple occasions (1924,1929,1932,1953). There is no economic ground for Germany to be the only European country in modern times to be granted official debt relief on a massive scale and certainly no moral ground either. In Europe, the mood is so punitive that is akin to the 19th century retributive philosophy that created debtors prisons. Default is deemed immoral.” (A debt to history? by Gillian Tett, FT weekend magazine 17/1/15)

She added that officials from Europe’s periphery nations were even more indignant.To them, Germany faced a moral duty to help places as Greece, given the aid that it had previously enjoyed as Friedman mentioned above.

Therefore, there is a bit of good news for this year since the crucial election in Greece looms and things and changes can happen.The support exists, what Greece needs is a good leadership to make the most of this support. Francois Hollande showed the way : When there is a good cause everybody follows. The Greeks and the new government after the elections on January 25th,  have to show to the world that they can tackle the corruption and the rest will fall into place.

When there is hope there is happiness! Happy New Year to all!