The BBC reports that only a few days after Athens was full-nelsoned into appealing for a €40bn-€45bn rescue package from the EU and the IMF… Greek bond yields are just a wee touch below last week’s whopping 9.15%. “The interest rate is 6.14 percentage points higher than that charged to Germany – seen as the safest investment in Europe,” the website chirps, explaining that even with Greece due a bung, investors are still “nervous”.
“Nervous” is an unusual term to denote that hard-nosed community of the tactically-minded who over the past few months like US drone operators have hovered over the nation’s economy, already a puny 2% of the EU’s, and reduced it to a smoking pair of old boots. But before we cry into our ouzos, they had it coming, the cheeky beggars. “The fundamental causes of this mess lie in Greece itself… Greeks really need to take a hard look at themselves and the way they have behaved”. So wrote Tony Barber in his Financial Times blog of 23 April, spinning the castastrophe as a kind of mid-life crack up. Come on, Iannis, you know it’s true!
Rolled out relentlessly, the view that the failings of successive Greek governments are actually the personal failings of the Greek people, is rife. And if swallowed will doubtlessly smooth the way for the next couple of decades of scrotum-tightening austerity that that country can look forward to under the lorgnettes of a German-led EU, IMF experts, and rating agencies. But if you think about it, to say that the corrupt Greeks are personally responsible for their country’s disaster sounds a lot like the Victorian prejudice that poverty amongst the lower orders was down to loose morals.
A similar narrative of “we are all in this together” and “we get the leaders we deserve” has allowed the Irish government to crash the country into a wall and then present it with the bill. But we should be wiser. One day after the death of the great Alan Sillitoe, author of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, we should remember one of his best lines – “Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not“. When officialdom pronounces over the “Greeks” as irresponsible and reckless we should be as alert to the presumption as when investors are seen as so many shivering calves.