[ilds] "the almost comic inability of self-analysis”

Richard Pine rpinecorfu at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 16 01:12:42 PDT 2010

Thanks Charles. It's actually a monthly column that I write. It's the first time I've quoted LD. I'm waiting to use the 'incorrigible thieves and liars' for the book I'm writing about Corfu.

----- Original Message ----
From: Charles Sligh <Charles-Sligh at utc.edu>
To: "ilds at lists.uvic.ca" <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Sent: Wed, June 16, 2010 4:10:59 AM
Subject: [ilds] "the almost comic inability of self-analysis”

I think that Durrellians will be interested to read Richard Pine's 
dispatch from a stormy and struggling Greece.

Well done, Richard.



Greeks rail against being urged to become more 'European'
The Irish Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2010


LETTER FROM GREECE: Austerity measures have raised the hackles of almost 
every sector to be hit by change


> This is what Greek prime minister George Papandreou seems to be saying 
> to his fellow countrymen, as he tries to drag Greece back into Europe. 
> To save the country from bankruptcy, to renew world faith in Greece 
> and Greekness, Greekness itself must change. The characteristics that 
> produced the present crisis – graft, lack of transparency, lax work 
> practices, tax evasion – must be eradicated.
> Of course Greece can modernise, become more efficient and exterminate 
> (or at least minimise) bribery and corruption. But this is not enough 
> for the Brussels mandarins. The impossibility of leaving the euro zone 
> and reintroducing the drachma means that Greece is tied to a Europe 
> that is increasingly disturbed because its longed-for unity is 
> threatened: it contains elements that do not, and cannot, conform to 
> the idea of “Europe”.
> In Spain, Portugal and Hungary, the local crisis is being described as 
> “serious, but far less so than the Greek situation”. Yet no one is 
> asking the Spanish to be less Spanish, the Portuguese to be less 
> Portuguese, the Hungarians to be less Hungarian.
> How do you change a national culture? Why are these characteristics so 
> deeply embedded in the Greek character? From 1453 until the 1830s – 
> and in some cases even up to 1913 – Turkish rule over the Greek 
> mainland and Aegean islands meant that, as in Ireland, people 
> developed a mindset that was “agin the government”. Such resistance to 
> authority persists.
> So does the problem of leadership.
> After 180 years, and several civil schisms, we are seeing yet another 
> rejection of a western system of government imposed by the great 
> powers in the 1830s, which has always caused a crisis of leadership. 
> Who should lead, and in which direction?
> Alessandros Papadiamandis (1851-1911), the father of modern Greek 
> fiction, wrote in 1892 of politicians “deceiving the common people 
> with campaign promises, bribes and divisive techniques, all leading to 
> strife and corruption at a time when the nation was passing through 
> one of its most crucial phases”. Nothing new, then.
> But it goes deeper than that. Today’s commentators are not unlike the 
> 19th-century travellers who found the Greeks (and the Irish) 
> insufficiently western: incomprehensible, impenetrable, impervious to 
> “reason”.
> In 1864, a Briton observed: “A Greek will never confess any fact which 
> appears to tell against his country. Indeed, the general disregard of 
> accuracy by that nation is one of their most lamentable 
> characteristics, but it is no proof of the degeneracy of the race. The 
> ancient Greeks had the same failing.”
> Eighty years later, Lawrence Durrell also made the connection to the 
> ancient Greeks: The Odyssey is “a portrait of a nation which rings as 
> clear to-day as when it was written. The loquacity, the shy cunning, 
> the mendacity, the generosity, the cowardice and bravery, the almost 
> comic inability of self-analysis”.
> Austerity measures have raised the hackles of almost every vested 
> interest. Taxi drivers have held strikes. Why? Because they now have 
> to keep accounts, issue receipts and pay taxes. Port workers are 
> striking because in a measure to increase tourism, cruise ships are no 
> longer limited to hiring Greek deck hands. PAME, the 
> communist-affiliated trade union, opposes the advent of the 
> International Monetary Fund. Teachers and civil servants oppose 
> cutbacks affecting them. Transport workers oppose the privatisation of 
> the railway service.
> Everyone agrees, in principle, that the measures are necessary if 
> Greece is to surmount the current crisis, but no one accepts that they 
> should apply to them.
> When the austerity measures were first announced, a “social explosion” 
> was forecast, and this has indeed taken place, if violent street 
> protests are to be taken as a sign. Given the Greeks’ natural 
> inclination towards demonstrative behaviour, that was only to be expected.
> Peaceful protests have been used by anti-state anarchists to provoke 
> violence. But even more disturbing is the malaise in the minds of 
> every Greek man and woman, a “social implosion”, as Greeks reflect 
> inwardly.
> They have two parallel strands of contemplation: one is the physical 
> fact that austerity measures leave them with a higher cost of living, 
> and less in their pockets to meet it. The second strand is that 
> Papandreou is asking them to change the habits of a lifetime: not 
> merely to become honest, hard-working citizens, but to become a 
> different type of people – more “European”, more western.
> Europe is divided east and west: the west cannot tolerate the 
> indirectness, the obliqueness, of the eastern mind. And Greece is, 
> definitively, the meeting-place of east and west, which is why it 
> creates so much angst among those who are committed to the success of 
> the European project.
> It isn’t so much the cost of living, as the cost of loving. The price 
> of being Greek is the real cost of loving – and embodying – one’s country.
> © 2010 The Irish Times

Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

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