There are many versions of the legend of the Gordian Knot that, in ancient times, tied the yoke of a bullock-cart to a post of the Phrygian palace, but the one I like the most is the one in which Alexander the Great simply cuts it with his sword, solving an intractable problem with just one stroke. Something like that was being attempted by the Greek PM Tsipras.
What we Don’t Realize About Greece
Greece has only two things, sheep and olives. Maybe you can throw in some grapes too, a plant they know how to make full use of – fruit, leaves and all.
With Mutton, Feta Cheese and Olive Oil they not only gave the first civilization to Europe but also a military empire that was the mightiest in the known world, with a navy the like of which did not exist anywhere, even in the then unknown world. The contribution of Greeks to science, philosophy, literature, art and architecture, politics, sports, and other disciplines by which we identify a civilization is immeasurable and incomparable. Purists may cavil that a lot of what Greek civilization is, also owes a great deal to Turkey, and that Alexander the Great was a Macedonian. But these distinctions are those of petty-minded nitpickers who say similar things about the Great Indian civilization, refusing to acknowledge the growth of a Hindu culture out of a subcontinent that did not then have the name “India.” As if this bit of history was of much more importance than the civilization that emerged from this land.
It is the misfortune of Greece that it abuts Barbarian Europe, a continent that owes almost all of its culture to Greek origins. The Greek economic systems were very simple, almost socialistic (by which I do not mean that they were communists) and the concept of Democracy invariably originated in the Greek Republics, perhaps independent of similar movements in India during the fifth millennium BC. Not having an abundance of natural resources, the Greeks had devised economic systems by which there was a more equitable distribution of whatever wealth there was to share.
It is their contact with Europe that heralded the decline of the Classical Greek civilization, and eventually it became submerged within the Northern European culture of barbarism, greed and plunder. For the chilled Northern Europeans the Greek coastline provided heavenly sun and warmth and an escape from their bitter and cold winters. The tourist traffic in the wake of this contact created a new Greek economy that was totally based upon tourism. Sloth and laziness crept into the Greeks who forgot their Feta Cheese, Olives, and Ouzo, and began to import huge amounts of goods from Europe. So much so that today the Greeks are the largest consumers of Scotch whisky. Merger with EU was the last nail in the Greek coffin.
Courage of the PM
It has taken a great deal of courage for Greek PM Tsipras to put his political career on line and demand a ‘NO’ vote from the people in the referendum on an EU bailout. The almost two-thirds support for the ‘NO’ vote should be welcomed by all right thinking people. Somewhere the ancient Greek civilization still has some life and is not as dead as perhaps Pharaonic Egypt. The Greeks do not want any more debt and they do not mind leaving a union that has been catastrophic for them. Of course, they will have to face a number of hardships, and as someone wrote, they will have to go back to eating gruel. But for the Greeks mutton, feta and olive oil are enough to survive on and if they could fashion the world’s mightiest empire with these resources, they can very well survive an exit from EU.
Turkey and Greece
As for the Turks, having abandoned their Greek roots in favour of an alien desert culture, a merger with the European Union has become an article of faith. The culture that Arabia has imposed upon this country that straddles two continents is a complete antithesis of what its own ancient culture and civilization had created from its own soil. Constantinople may have become Istanbul, but all that the Turkish Sultans could achieve was the conversion of the grand Hagia Sophia from a Christian place of worship into a Mosque where no prayers are said.
The vacuum created by the denial of their opulent Greek past and the parsimony of the present Islamic culture is making the Turks look towards Europe to fill in that vacuum. Greek culture, though, still lives on in Turkey through some of its writers like Orhan Pamuk, and miraculously through its street music and cinema. Turkey too would do better if it did not seek an economic merger with the EU and aligned itself once more with the civilization of its magnificent past.
Lessons from Greece
Greece has shown the way to a new paradigm that does not believe in the impractical and idiotic Western economic model of infinite growth that is bound to bring a lot of grief to the entire globe sooner than later. For how long can this economic model sustain lifestyles that are dependent on printing of currency, euphemistically called ‘quantitative easing’ by the charlatans who pose as economists? The whole edifice is built upon foundations of shifting sands and is bound to come crashing down. The economic depression that will come will be mega times bigger than the one in the nineteen-thirties, simply because world population has peaked to bursting capacity.
It is time the world took a breather and looked at where it’s economists and politicians are taking it to. Greeks have given the lead. The rest should follow soon and the tyranny of the World Bank and IMF should be rejected. To paraphrase Micawber: ‘if I have one pound and I spend 19 shillings and six pence, I am happy; but if I spend 20 shillings and six pence, the result is misery.’ Greeks have decided to be happy. Bhutan without all this constricting aid is the happiest nation on earth. So why can’t the Greeks be happy? After all, they have contributed so disproportionately to the riches of this world. The least we can do is to respect their decision and encourage them in this endeavour to free themselves from economic slavery of the Barbarian West.
News has just come that the new Greek Finance Minister has agreed to a bailout and has accepted the harsh terms that have been imposed. It is unfortunate, but it only postpones the inevitable by a few more years. The next Greek debt crisis will create a domino effect that will be much worse than the one that has been avoided at the moment. The EU as an economic construct was always an artificial structure held together by the debt glue. Once this glue begins to melt the structure is bound to come unstuck.
Europe may have just sidestepped a crash but is inevitably heading towards a much bigger cataclysm. The Gordian Knot will become even more intractable and there will be no Alexander with a sword to cut it open. The other solution of loosening and slipping the knot over the yoke would have become impossible, as the weight of the debt-yoke would have pushed even the Phrygian Palace into the ground.
By Vijaya Dar