I’m getting sick of the way everyone’s always ragging on Greece. I just read this comment in “Greece Vs. The Rest” in The New Yorker:
Greeks are fond of pointing out that they invented democracy; they invented tragedy, too, and that is what their situation increasingly looks like, whoever wins the election. The problem is that in recent years they haven’t invented much of anything else.
The author clearly thinks he’s being witty, but it is an insensitive and erroneous remark. We don’t go around mocking other countries that are experiencing crises. Why is it okay to denigrate Greece? Is it because, yes, “Greeks are fond of pointing out that they invented democracy,” and therefore come off as braggers? Or are other countries purely jealous of how much Greece has influenced the world?
Greece in fact is innovating. Greece is part of the Global Monitoring for Environmental and Security Initiative. Three years ago, Nanophos SA received first prize for Innovation and Sustainability in the International Exhibition “100% Detail.” Lavrion Technological and Cultural Park is linking culture and technology research. Furthermore, many well-known international companies—such as Coca-Cola, Ericsson, and Motorola—conduct their research and development in Greece.
Sorry, Greece did not invent the ipod. Let’s remember that much of modern Greece was under oppression. During World War I, many Greeks were killed, and Greek refugees fled Turkey for Greece, which led to its own economic stresses. During World War II, Nazis occupied Greece, sending Greek citizens to concentration camps. From 1946 to 1949, Greece had a civil war, when it rose up against Communism. And now, even in the years leading up to the economic crisis, the media has lampooned Greece, scaring off tourists and investors. It’s hard to be creative and inventive when you’re fighting for your life.
What I do agree with is the author’s statement:
An unsustainable burden is being loaded on those sectors of the population who were already paying.
Just like here in the US, where the rich are able to write everything off so as not to pay taxes, there are many people in Greece who are not paying taxes. Those who do pay their taxes are being overtaxed. These are the people who are poorer, who are older, who are retired, who are more generous to those in need, who do what is right, who are loyal to their country.
This is why we saw a 77-year-old man shoot himself in the head in Syntagma Square—the Times Square of Athens—back in April. As the Guardian reported, he shouted, “I’m leaving because I don’t want to pass on my debts.”
It saddens me that the media is not more compassionate towards Greece. Yes, there are many things that need to change there, but the blame cannot be placed solely on Greece. The country has suffered many hardships. There are real people living in Greece who are, yes, experiencing tragedy. Maybe we need to cling to our heritage to remind us of what we can accomplish and give us some hope for our future. Maybe instead of lambasting Greece, the foreign media should believe in Greece. Because you know what? Greece has overcome many trials and tribulations, and will rise again.