Greeks love to be the center of attention. It was the main reason they fought so hard to get the 2004 Summer Olympics, which is one of the reasons the country is in such desperate straits right now. The situation there is so fluid that Prime Minister Papandreou has cancelled the referendum he announced just the other day. I understand that Sarko and Merkel hit the ceiling when it was sprung on them. Rumor has it that they heard from the media, which wouldn’t surprise me. Greek politicians are known for being devious and sneaky.
Greek culture centers on food and, more importantly family, which is why two families: the Papandreous and Karamanlis’ have dominated Greek politics since the 1960’s.George Papandreou Sr. was the PM who was overthrown in a military coup in 1967. The conservativeConstantine Karamanlis was first head of government and then head of state after the junta collapsed.Andreas Papandreou was the first socialist PM as well as the father of the Greek welfare state. But revenue collection has never been the strong suit of the Greek government and tax evasion is almost the state religion, which is one of the reasons why the third PM named Papandreou is in deep shit and sinking fast.
The current PM was born in the US to an American mother while his father taught at the University of Minnesota. He’s not as charismatic as his grandfather or father. He’s more of a technocrat whereas his father was essentially the Huey P Long of Greek politics. That’s probably why I felt so much at home in the Gret Stet of Louisiana: the wheels of the Greek economy are greased by nepotism, cronyism and loans from the richer Eurozone countries. The difference is that taxes are collected in Louisiana whereas in Greece they disappear down the proverbial rabbit hole.
I’m not really sure what the Greeks should do: eat the austerity measures imposed by the EU or go intodefault and leave the Eurozone. Whatever happens it won’t be quiet: the Greeks are known for their rowdy political culture with frequent clashes between leftist demonstrators and rightist police and military.
The government is facing a confidence vote tomorrow and ministers are trying to form a national unity government to deal with the crisis. It is unclear whether Papandreou will be Prime Minister for much longer or indeed whether he’ll be the last of the line. If I were him, I would seriously considering letting someone else take the abuse that will be heaped on whoever is PM and whatever they do. My gut tells me that Greece will stay in the Eurozone because an exit would be a huge blow to national pride, which is everything to the Greeks.